A selection of food from INK Café.

A selection of food from INK Café.

Sustainable catering company FoodSpace has found its first permanent home in INK Café in Dún Laoghaire.

FoodSpace operates catering facilities in offices and colleges around the country, with sustainability as the company’s core focus. Chefs come up with menus depending on what is available to them within a 50-mile radius, making sure to waste as little as possible. The result has been a wildly successful catering system that creates responsible and delicious food.

INK, which opened in the seaside town of Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, is FoodSpace’s first permanent space. Created in partnership with Lexicon, the town’s state-of-the-art library and cultural hub, INK is aiming to bring the unique ethos of FoodSpace to the wider public. To find out more about INK, we spoke to FoodSpace’s executive chef Conor Spacey.

Tell us more about the ethos at INK.

“The whole plan is to work towards an entirely zero-waste kitchen. We’ve practised a lot in FoodSpace, so we know how to aim for zero-waste, but this is our first public restaurant. We want INK to be a relaxed, neighbourhood style café that is accessible and affordable for everyone. Our café menu will change monthly, while our Friday and Saturday supper club menus will change daily, depending on what food we can get from our suppliers.”

What steps are you taking to work towards a zero-waste establishment?

“We really do use up everything. We dehydrate the peelings of our vegetables to make seasonings and salts, we make our own vinegar and we even use up leftover milk from the coffee bar to make cheese. We also try to avoid ordering anything that comes in cardboard, but if we have to, we use the card for our menus. Zero-waste makes us look at everything differently, like today we’re using our coffee grinds in a brine for our beef to make a pastrami-style sandwich filling. We really are aiming for zero waste, but we always wonder is it truly achievable? We always have to come up with new initiatives and new ways to use things up to make sure that we are working towards zero waste.”

Tell us more about the food at INK.

“Everything on the menu involves every part of the food being used up. For instance, on our supper club menu, we have a dish with carrot three ways so that the whole vegetable is used. I always say that I can’t throw anything out, so what will I do with them? Now that we’re looking towards winter, we’ll start to pickle and ferment some produce throughout the season. About 85% of what we use is Irish, as we obviously can’t get Irish spices and tea. However, we try to use the minimum amount possible of imported goods so that we keep our footprint down. This means that we have to work really seasonally, which is why we’ll start pickling soon, as not too much grows here during winter. I’m inspired by older food practices and bringing them back. What did they do three generations ago to get the most out of their food. That’s what we’re doing now, using every single piece of the food and adding value to it. I want to use INK as a platform to show the public that you can make true sustainability mainstream."

The interior at INK café in Dún Laoghaire.

The interior at INK café in Dún Laoghaire.

INK is now open in Dún Laoghaire for breakfast and lunch Monday-Thursday, with a bespoke supper club menu available every Friday and Saturday evening. Head to INK’s Instagram page for updates.