Closing a popular and successful chicken restaurant and replacing it with a small-plate eaterie that gives vegetables star billing and serves meat on the side may seem a little crazy. But that is what the team behind Chicken Shed and now Root has just done at Cargo in Bristol’s Harbourside.
Root is from the people at Eat Drink Bristol Fashion, whose ethos has always been to put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Root places vegetables at centre of the menu, and switches convention by making smaller meat dishes the side options.
With high profile backing from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, transforming the concept is designed to help raise awareness of the environmental benefits of eating more veg and encourage diners to consider the numerous health benefits which are attributed to eating less meat.
“For many years it’s been an ambition to open a restaurant that puts vegetables front and centre on the menu and it is exciting to be able to do so as part of Eat Drink Bristol Fashion family,” said Co-director Amelia Twine.
“In short, vegetables are an amazing food source and there are so many wonderful dishes that we’ll be able to offer. We still love meat and we’ll still serve it, but by giving veg star billing and making meat the supporting cast, we hope to make people think a bit more about the food they’re eating, how it got on their plate and what impact it has on health.”
The U-turn which switches the emphasis from meat to veg stems from issues faced in ensuring Chicken Shed remained a truly sustainable operation in serving high grade organic fried chicken.
Josh Eggleton, founder of Eat Drink Bristol Fashion, added: “We opened Chicken Shed last September with a goal to become the first chicken shop in the country to serve high quality organic chicken across the whole menu.
“In keeping with the ethos of Eat Drink Bristol Fashion we felt it was possible to serve “guilt free” organic chicken. Chicken that was sustainable, of the highest welfare and sold at a fair price.
“While we feel we achieved that, the reality is that we faced a number of challenges which meant either our values or our whole business would be compromised in the long term.
“As organic chickens live longer, the pieces are larger with thicker skin which ironically does not make for the best fried chicken. In latter weeks we experimented by serving organic crowns and free range pieces which improved our product in taste but countered the initial concept of an organic, guilt free chicken shop.
“We went back to the drawing board and came up with Root, which better aligns with our sustainable aims and company values.”
Rob Howell, formerly of The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna and Ondine in Edinburgh will be assuming the Head Chef role while Meg Oakley, also of The Pony & Trap will join experienced General Manager Domhnaill Barnes to run the Front of House operation.
Root is located at Wapping Wharf, on the top deck of Cargo’s shipping containers.