The Good Restaurant

It was six years ago that I opened Acorn.  At the time I had little idea of what I wanted to achieve apart from create a good restaurant.  The problem, in hindsight is that I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.  I had a feeling I knew what it would look like:  It would be vegetarian, because I was raised to be and that was the food I knew.  It would have lots of stickers in the window telling people that the guide books that mattered had agreed, this was, in fact, a good restaurant.  Perhaps if I was lucky I would publish a cookbook and have magazine articles written about me?  Now I am sat in the front of restaurant waiting for the team to arrive, the window in front of me is full of stickers from all the guides who matter, the shelf to my left proudly displays my cook book and I have a pile of press clippings that I need to scan to have posted on our website. 

Something is niggling at me though, I have achieved a lot, in a few small ways I would concede that Acorn has done a little to change the way vegan food is understood, I’m just not 100% convinced it is a good restaurant.  Most days we turn out very tasty, perfectly cooked food, plate after plate, without much drama.  Sometimes things go wrong, chefs don’t turn up, ovens break down and still, with a little luck, we turn out good food.  We have spent a small fortune refurbishing the restaurant and updating the décor and fittings.  From the tired old café we inherited the building is now a nice place to be.  

And yet…

I look out the same sticker filled window and see a pile of bin bags waiting to be collected, about half of it destined for landfill.  I look at our produce delivery coming through the door and, although I know we use the best suppliers around, who source the best local and ethical produce they can, I feel a little sad that I have never seen any of the crops in the earth.  The power bill arrives and it’s a) eye wateringly big and b) from a big company that has no concern for renewable energy.   I know that this is normal for restaurants and, depressingly, we are one of the better ones but I can feel my shoulders slump nonetheless.  Having a good restaurant isn’t just about making clever, tasty food that people talk about, it’s about being good in all ways.  I am now more determined than ever to create a good restaurant, one that is good for you, good for others and good for the planet.    

Helen Wilshire