I went to an Org-e on Wednesday. It was in broad daylight at 8.30 am in a bright and buzzing location in Covent Garden. I was greeted and treated immediately to a steaming cappuccino, a berr-e bana smoothie and some carrot and ginger cake. Mmmm…
This was the launch of Org-e, London’s first all-organic, Soil Association certified takeaway and eatery. Org-e stands for ‘Organic Excellence’. The idea is to serve up healthy, organic, delicious food – fast - and at reasonable prices (salads and sandwiches are around £3.50).
The driving force behind Org-e (and yes, it is pronounced ‘orgy’) is director Sanjay Sridher.
‘I’ve been eating organic for years at home,’ he says. ‘But it’s always been difficult to find somewhere organic for lunch, especially as I don’t really like sandwiches or cold food.’
So he decided to set up his own place. He got television chef and healthy eating guru Daniel Green on board to design the menu. Fats and sugars have been kept to a minimum and there’s a wide selection of salads and veggie choices. There’s hot food too, such as ‘Spic-e chicken curry’ and ‘Veg-e lasagne’.
‘I want to offer more than just sandwiches,’ says Sanjay. But to avoid alienating the sandwich lovers there are ciabattas and even that old bread-and-butter classic, the egg and tuna mayo, as well as the mouth-watering ‘Scottish smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and spinach’. The organic salmon is a lovely pastel colour – the way nature intended before people started turning the flesh a chemical orange.
Climate friendly food
Fully organic eateries are a pretty rare breed. Only two other restaurants in London have Soil Association certification: the Duke of Cambridge Pub and the Ritz (for certain dishes). Gaining certification is an achievement in itself. But what really raises Org-e’s eco rating is its emphasis on using seasonally produced UK ingredients wherever possible. And if anything is sourced from further a-field, it’s certainly not flown in.
‘Places like this should have a sign saying ‘Climate Friendly Guaranteed,’ said Peter Melchett, Policy Director of the Soil Association who gave a speech at the launch.
‘We know that organic food generally has higher levels of minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids than non-organic food. But now the whole planet is threatened by climate change, one of the most important things we can do is to eat climate friendly food that’s seasonal, local and organic. It’s the food of the future and it’s the new political agenda.’
As regards décor, Org-e is not only ahead of the game – it’s setting a new standard.
‘We wanted to take organic food to a higher level.’ says Sanjay. ‘At the heart of this is my passion for the environment. Everything you see in the store is a testament to that.’
From their electricity suppliers (Ecotricity) to their cleaning products to the reclaimed timber floorboards (from an old gym), the Org-e interior is in tune with its ethos of a low environmental impact. The tables, chairs and display fridge are second hand, the lampshades are made from recycled plastic bags and the majority of their packaging is made from bio-compostable cornstarch. Painted all over the walls (in eco friendly paint of course) are quotes and bites of eco-information that spread the ethical word.
‘No-one else is doing this in such a holistic way,’ says Sanjay.
So here is living, edible proof that food to takeaway can be organic, healthy and ‘climate friendly’. If all goes to plan, it’ll be the first of many.
‘We want to have Org-e’s all over the world’ says Executive Chef, Daniel Green.
You may well find yourself in the middle of an Org-e sooner than you might imagine.
The first Org-e is located at 22 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7DD.
For more information visit www.org-e.com
This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007
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