I first found out about Zero Waste Week when my girlfriend told me I owed her sixty quid for the two dinners she had booked us in for at 1000 Trades. That’s how all good relationships work, isn’t it? With her charging me to fulfil her inner eco warrior needs on the two nights the diary said we’re free. I’m fine with it; I really like 1000 Trades and it’s for a great cause. We’re conscious about waste in our home. We recycle cardboard, tins, restaurant reviews, and socks. We never buy processed foods and try to ensure it never gets wasted. Stale bread gets blitzed up with garlic and stored in the freezer to top pasta dishes; chicken carcasses and vegetable offcuts boiled down and stored for soup bases. Without ever realising it, we’re already giving this Zero Waste lark our best efforts.
We do a Thursday evening dinner that is nice, if unspectacular, followed by a cocktail zero waste three course menu at 18/81 which has two superb drinks sandwiching a zombie which is merely good in comparison. Friday sees us back at 1000 Trades for the meal with Ox & Origin which is brilliant from start to finish.
It is not a meal for the faint hearted. This is a tour of the discarded bits of animal holding hands with company that can be plucked from a tree or hedgerow. A starter of pork jowl is subsidised with a little cheek meat. Both need love and hours of cooking to turn a working muscle into something special. The jowl is the star, all wobbly fat and layers of sweet meat, offset by lightly pickled plums and a burnt onion puree. It is brilliant.
A veal Chou Farci sees cabbage leaves stuffed with various organs of child cow. The dominant flavour is that of liver mixed with fattier cuts, a little pig’s brain used as an unctuous filler. A veal heart ragu is a little funky in flavour for my taste though I give it a go. The use of the calf meat is an important one; veal is no longer as controversial as it once was, though the lean nature of the meat means often a high proportion of the meat and all organs, bar the valued sweetbreads, are discarded. Beetroot both as salty crisps and wedges roasted in beef fat (I think) pins the plate down in earthy territory. A sauce made with elderberries and oxidised wine lifts it all whilst providing the acidity to cut through the dish.
Dessert shows serious technical skill. A buxom pannacotta has the teeter of a drunk lady in heels, made with the spent grounds from 200 Degrees coffee. With this is a sorbet of milk waste from the same coffee shop, and a bread tuile containing a cherry mousse. It is balanced and by far the evening’s most approachable dish. We demolish both plates in record time. It is at this point that Tommy from The Edgbaston turns up and quickly knocks out a zero waste cocktail using single estate rum, discarded bits of watermelon and some other stuff (I was eating; my ears were closed). I happen to love that man almost as much as his drinks. It’s delicious. More so when they refuse payment for it.
The above three courses were pre-paid to the sum of £25 each, and I drink a good amount of the beaujolais-style natural red that they sell too cheaply for £14 a carafe. It all made for a rather good night and we head back home to rave about it to anybody in ear shot. Zero waste is an important issue that needs to be addressed; whether it be food or usables, we bin far too much because of the entitled lives we lead. Good on everybody who pitched in across the city to show that we do care. For Ox & Origin it was also the chance to show themselves as a major talent. Rumour has it they are looking at a restaurant in Moseley. Let’s hope there is some truth in that.
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