The ethos on the website for As One gives strong commitments about sustainability and local sourcing, so Dee Laffan caught up with owner Mark Cashen to see if it lives up to its own hype. 

I hate using the word trend when it comes to sustainability, and perhaps, for good reason, it is the wrong word. However, there is no doubt that the move towards a more sustainable approach to producing, cooking and consuming food and drink in this country is gaining rapturous momentum. About time. 

The first zero-waste restaurant in the world 'title' was given to Silo in Brighton, created by chef Douglas McMaster – who is actually about to relocate the whole project to a much bigger space in Hackney Wick in East London, opening in September – and the innovative ways he implemented in the restaurant to achieve this far surpass the ordinary imagination. In fact, Doug has written a book on it, SILO: The Zero Waste Blueprint, which is a highly recommended read. 

Not surprisingly, Mark Cashen owner of As One is a big fan of Silo and their ethos and has been inspired to try to implement similar tactics in his new café and restaurant located on City Quay. "I've ordered the Silo book and can't wait to read it, it will be my go-to guide for everything in As One," Mark said.

"Our Sustainability approach is really important for us. It's not just about compostable everything, even though we are – even our stickers, which was a massive coup to source, as they're impossible to get – and we have a compostable bin on the pillar outside the café as an initiative to try and get our customers to be conscious of how they’re disposing of their leftovers and coffee cups. We’re aiming to have as little food waste as possible in the kitchen, but it is a challenge. The team are doing a lot of different techniques and things to use up ingredients and leftovers."

Gut health

"The whole ethos was really founded on people’s wellbeing. The decision around the food and ingredients all stemmed from me. A couple of years ago, when I had any gut issues or I was feeling sluggish, I started making tweaks to my diet to see what made me feel better or worse. I would take dairy out for a while and then add it back in and see if I noticed a difference. In fact, I went a bit totalitarian and took out loads of things and introduced them all back in individually and slowly.

When I was eating out, I noticed that there weren’t many places catering to those sorts of lifestyle choices. I was cooking a lot myself and I did the 8-week professional course in Cooks Academy so that I was able to make more informed choices and cook better too. I was making really good meals and I felt great, but when I was eating out, my issues were creeping back again. That’s where the idea around the ethos initially came from."

Food with soul 

"I have always wanted to open up my own place and then once I had thought of the ethos, I knew I had to do it and to see if what worked for me, works for other people. We cater for everyone, of course, but also, we are dedicated to the health side of lifestyles, in particular, gut health, and those that might be following special dietary requirements. We just want people to come in and understand that regardless of what they’re into or even if they’re not into any of it, the food is really wholesome and everything from presentation to taste, is the best quality.

It's really important for us to use fresh ingredients to create a dish with great flavours and presentation is also a big factor, but most importantly how it interacts with our bodies. Our suppliers are key to our implementation of this and where we source our food from is essential. 

It’s been deadly meeting all of the suppliers and getting to know them. We have about 13 different suppliers at the moment, from mushrooms from Leslie Codd, Wild Atlantic Foods, John Stones beef, Hussey’s fruit and vegetables, and Le Levain sourdough bread. It is a lot of work to have so many, but we think it’s worth it."

 

I'm in a wide open space 

"The space plays a big roll in our ethos but I have designed the layout and aesthetics to have great possibilities in the future. We have a minimal approach as we believe everybody can easily suffer from overstimulation and our space is to escape from that. 

Talks are going to be really important in this space. A lot of the reason I did set this up like this and want people to get to know what we’re about is through education. It was hard for me to get my head around eating this way initially and changing my own habits for my wellbeing, I had to educate myself, so we want to pass that on.
Our website is going to be big on that, we're working with a gut health expert who is going to help us tailor it so that we keep the information on the menu minimal, but people can have access to everything they need to know through the website. We want to see how people take to it and get feedback so we can improve all the time."  

A dream team 

"We have 12 people working with us at the moment and almost half of them are in the kitchen. Our head chef Laszlo Kamondi has an excellent steer of how to reflect the ethos in our menu and the implementation of all of the sustainable approaches in the kitchen too. 

It’s really important to him to have a good working environment so we were keen to help him as much as possible to make sure they have everything they need in terms of equipment and numbers of team members from the outset. We want them to come into work happy."

Bone Broth with rare sliced beef

Bone Broth with rare sliced beef

Future plans 

"I’ve designed everything in a way that it will take time to build up, but that the products are things that people will be interested in and will keep coming back for. The Grab ‘n’ Go is going to be designed more towards work environment, meals tailored to high energy/pick-me-up meals to help with afternoon slumps, etc. We are selling Irish Kombucha at the moment, but eventually, we want to have our own also.

There is a lot involved in our dishes and our team spend a lot of time prepping and cooking to ensure we are getting as much nutritional value into every bite. The broth, for example, does take a long time but it’s worth it. It does mean longer hours initially as we’re making as much as possible on site here and we are getting systems in place now… people just don’t realise how much is involved.

I hope people really enjoy As One and can see our passion for what we do and what we want to achieve with it. But as long as I’m doing something different and going my own path, I’m happy because I know exactly what I want to achieve, even though I am no 100% where it will lead us yet."

Have you been to As One yet? If so let us know in comments below.