James Koch, a Bristol based restauranteur, has enhanced Bristol’s exciting vegan scene by opening Suncraft. A forward thinking, 100% plant based gluten free restaurant situated on Gloucester Road. They specialise in sustainable world food, speedy street food and cold pressed juices. Sunshine yellow T-shirted staff greet you as you enter the cool urban interior. ‘Eat. Grow. Shine’ is the by line printed on their chests.
Suncraft makes you feel good before you even sit down! And, get this… the table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots! Seeing is believing! That’s before you spot a farm in the kitchen…
Partnering with innovative urban farmers, V-Farm, they have created an in-house hydroponics farm next to the kitchen for growing ingredients. These include flamboyant flavours from Shiso and Egyptian mint to edible flowers and Japanese mustard leaves.
Holding around 140 plants, the V-Farm 5207 growing unit is a self-regulating hydroponic system. No pesticides are used, thus creating an optimum environment for quality, fast-growing leaves. The fantastic selling point is that the ‘farm’ is situated right next to Suncraft’s kitchen and as such, right next to the point of consumption. Saving on water use and carbon footprint, it also gives staff a connection with the leaves and herbs they use on a daily basis.
“The chefs love it” said James enthusiastically, “they are learning how to look after plants in a system like this that is different to growing outside. They walk a metre from the kitchen to harvest fresh leaves for each dish. Picking leaves on-site and then immediately serving it up, it’s so quick and efficient. They are excited to be a part of a new technology within the kitchen and to see where it might take the restaurant.
Currently we are growing lots of Egyptian mint, shiso, basil and some Korean mint. It all grows really well. We use the mint in our cold press juices, in our chocolate deserts and salads.
It’s key to our philosophy of fresh and sustainability that we grow our crop as local as possible. V-Farm allows this to happen, one metre from the kitchen! We have noticed improved quality and intensity of flavour. All the crops are picked and used straight away when the chef needs them.”
In fact, ethics are at the heart of Suncraft which is why it was so important to have the zero food miles and sustainability that the V-Farm systems offer.
The team translate their ethical mind set throughout, using very little plastic. They conscientiously opt for vegware and reusable glass containers. They add an optional 20p to dine-in customers’ bills in return for unlimited filtered still or sparkling water by Belu; who in turn pass on donations to WaterAid which transform lives worldwide with clean water.
Orders are taken at the counter over the upbeat cacophony of saxophone-heavy jazz and the rumble of a blender in the open kitchen as the next batch of an extremely green juice gets blitzed!
There are no printed menus, just changing menu boards on the rustic bare brick wall. The hot main courses are based around healthy, Asian inspired bowls. To whet your appetite how about, Swiss chard and black masala dumplings in coconut sauce with spiced parsnip mash, poppadoms and crispy baby gem (£6.50) or perhaps a bowl of tender stem broccoli and rice salad, golden beetroot, mixed leaves, edamame, radishes, dill, mint and chestnut and miso dressing (£7).
On the question of return on investment, James says, “We have been open since the end of September. In terms of the produce grown in the system, the saving has not paid for the system yet. However, there is a marked improvement in taste, colour, texture from the freshness of harvesting when the chef needs it. Then there are the intangible benefits; growing crops on show in the restaurant adds value to the customer experience. It has stimulated conversations with customers and the press about the importance of local food and sustainability. This provides us with instant significant value. Certainly we are very glad we decided to work with V-Farm. The purchase of the system is a very exciting step for Suncraft and its culinary experience.”