Scott and Maria Hunter are on a mission to prove gastropubs can help save the planet. Their latest “pro-planet” boozer offers a daily-changing menu which is 50 per cent plant-based, a raft of locally-sourced beers and a selection of “sustainable spirits” made by small-batch producers in the UK.
As well as using 100 per cent sustainable electricity and cleaning with 100 per cent biodegradable chemicals, the menu will be fully carbon neutral: meaning diners can enjoy an array of exquisite dishes guilt-free.
Speaking to the Standard following a hugely successful soft launch last Monday, the couple said it was time for the pub industry to stand up and make a difference on climate change.
“We became parents for the first time five years ago and that changed the way we viewed things quite substantially,” Maria said. “We thought: will our boys look us in the eyes and ask what we did to save the planet?”
With over a decade of experience in the pub industry, the couple have developed a knack for bringing dilapidated boozers back to life.
They took over the Princess of Shoreditch in 2008, doubling sales in just a year before acquiring the Pig & Butcher in Islington in 2012 the following year and the Smokehouse restaurants.
Running the Princess of Shoreditch was a “hands-on” experience that saw the couple live a hectic life – but the birth of their first son Magnus changed everything.
“Our son was quite poorly when he was born and was on life support – we nearly lost him,” Scott said.
“By this point we had been working solidly for ten years, but one thing we never did was stop.”
Seeking a slower pace of life and some family time, the couple sold all of their businesses in 2018 and moved to Copenhagen, where Maria had already worked in a variety of Michelin-star restaurants.
The Danish capital, which was voted the most sustainable city in the world in a Time Out poll last September, would ultimately prove to be the inspiration for The Pig’s Head.
“Moving to Copenhagen had a massive effect on us,” Scott said. “The infrastructure in Scandinavia – in Denmark especially – is sustainable, while it isn’t in the UK.
“Copenhagen is amazing. It is a different world.”
After returning to London, the couple set about putting their dream of an eco-friendly pub into action. At the core of their ambition to keep emissions low was a desire to seek out sustainable suppliers, said Scott.
“We had to hunt these companies down. We looked at ever supplier and kept asking: ‘why do you have to drive a diesel van? Why does this come in plastic?’
“But what will hopefully change is that every firm will work like this.
“Eventually we won’t be just a ‘pro-planet’ pub, we will just be a pub because everyone else will be ‘pro-planet’ too.”
While the couple place great faith in their plant-based dishes, meat-eaters are still well catered for at The Pig’s Head. However, animals will be bought whole and sourced from UK farmers, with everything butchered on site.
With an equal spread of meat and plant-based dishes on the menu, the couple hope to entice customers on the fence about going vegan.
“People need to eat less meat, but we’re trying to show there is a different way to live without trying to ram it down their throats”, Maria said. “We want to offer alternatives and encourage a slow change in eating habits that way.”
Wine will include six wines by the keg (poured by the glass or carafe), as well as 21 varieties of English red, white, sparkling and rose, from estates like Tillingham, Oxney and Wales’ Ancre Hill.
Diners will also notice the pub’s distinctly rustic appearance upon walking into the venue. Every chair, cabinet and coaster in The Pig’s Head has been lovingly plucked from thrift shops, vintage shops and antique fairs in the past two years: making it feel just like home.
As COP26 puts sustainability at the top of the news agenda, Scott and Maria are calling on senior figures in the pub industry to put climate-friendly policies at the heart of their strategy going forward.
“I firmly believe that in five years’ time, people who are at the top of their game in any industry in the world will be sustainable,” Scott says.
“People want to spend their money on companies who are doing the right thing.”
The Pig’s Head will open on November 8 at 87 Rectory Grove, Clapham Old Town, SW4. For more information, visit thepigshead.com