The two restaurants in the Opus family have been recognised as the most sustainable in the West Midlands.
After examining both the environment and society philosophies of Opus at Cornwall Street and Cafe Opus at Ikon, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA)awarded them a three star rating - putting them among the highest-rated restaurants in the United Kingdom.
Opus’ management were commended on their focused approach to seasonal and ethical ingredients, a deep knowledge of all their suppliers and their commitment to working closely with the local community. Their refusal to send waste products to landfill was another initiative that impressed the SRA assessors.
Mark Linehan, managing director of the SRA, said: “All our consumer research tells us that people want their dining experience to leave them with a good taste in the mouth, and not just because the food tastes good. Opus at Cornwall Street and Café Opus at Ikon join a growing group of restaurants that understand diners’ desire to know where their food comes from and how the business is run, and are leading the way for other Birmingham restaurants.”
Ann Tonks, director of Opus at Cornwall Street and Café Opus, said: “We believe in running our restaurants the right way. So to receive recognition that we are the most sustainable restaurants in the West Midlands is a great reward for all of the team who have worked so hard to get us to this point.
“I believe one of the things that makes us different is that we have a demonstrable commitment to the community. But we cannot thrive in isolation, our definition of success has to embrace the wider community.”
As well as helping to create the Colmore Business District Food Festival, the Opus family is one of the founder members of the Culinary Alliance of Birmingham and their patronage of Ikon Gallery and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is another way in which they place themselves at the heart of the community.
The pair are ‘totally committed to serving the best food it can’ and Ann says this means she and her team forge the closest possible ties with suppliers. Each year Opus invites a selection of its suppliers to host a specialist dinner where their food is served across four courses with accompanying wines. The supplier also has the chance to educate the diners about the sourcing of their dish and the treatment of the food on their plates.
“Traceability is really important, but it is about more than that and there isn’t one livestock farm that supplies us that we haven’t visited and got to know really well. These people have become our friends.”
One such producer with which Opus has this close working relationship is Paddock Farm. The Stratford-upon-Avon farm supplies Opus with their hand-reared Tamworth pork, the truest indigenous breed in Britain, where the pigs live wholesome, stress-free lives in fields and pastures.
Being just 40 miles away from the restaurant allows Paddock Farm owner Nick Francis to be in constant communication with Opus at Cornwall Street’s chef director, David Colcombe, who share the same desire to produce sustainable dishes.
“Four years ago I was new to farming and began with a clear vision of what I wanted to produce and who my customers would be: tasty, high quality pork, fit for the best restaurants in Britain,” Nick said. “Approaching the business from a foodie perspective, rather than a farmer’s has been the key to our early success.
“I worked on the premise that happy pigs are tasty pigs, so I started from scratch with a farming system that was just right for the product I wanted to achieve and as it turns out, it's very sustainable.
“I talked to a lot of chefs before I began and still maintain that dialogue. Understanding what they want to serve has been a big part of getting Paddock Farm pork served with many Michelin stars right across the country.”
As well as ensuring the produce is sustainable, Colcombe, Tonks and fellow director Irene Allan have also sat down and drawn up a plan to minimise the restaurants’ environmental impact. Their initiatives now mean they send no waste to landfill and, following the installation of LED lights, have reduced electricity consumption by a staggering 80%. All paper used in the restaurant is recycled, at a cost, less than one mile away by the council - with the fee ensuring that it is not exported to China leaving a huge carbon footprint.
Simon Weston, managing director of Smurfit Kappa Recycling, said: "We pass on our congratulations to Opus for achieving this recognition for the sustainability of its operations. Every year almost 40,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard is collected from residents and businesses like Opus through Birmingham City Council’s collection services and Smurfit Kappa Recycling’s bring banks. This locally-sourced material is vital to minimising the environmental impact and carbon emissions associated with material transport and is a key source used in the production of 500-700 tonnes of packaging paper every day at the paper mill in Nechells.”
To book a table at Opus at Cornwall Street’s beef dinner, hosted by Aberdeenshire farmer Willie Ritch on 25th October, please call 0121 200 2323.