Simple, seasonal and sustainable are the watchwords of Lee Coad’s Margate mini empire, a winning combination of 26-cover restaurant Angela’s and its seafood bar little sister, Dory’s. Both are inextricably linked with their immediate environment, with locally sourced ingredients – from plump oysters plucked from their beds just down the road in Whitstable to seaweed teas harvested from Margate main sands – gracing the chalkboard menus and sold over the counter at Dory’s.
But it’s also the wider environment with which Lee and his team are, understandably, concerned. Between crafting counters from recycled plastic bags and partnering with local community projects to compost leftovers, they’re taking innovative steps to ensure their businesses are environmentally sound, low-waste, and low-impact.
As we continue to rethink our own impact on the world around us, whether that’s through our dedication to sustainably sourced ingredients or our ongoing commitment to using infinitely recyclable metal packaging, we were curious to find out more. We sat down with Lee to discuss shopping seasonally, being inspired by the community, and embracing imperfection in the pursuit of green goals.
Quality, sustainable ingredients form the backbone of the partnership between Angela’s and Dory’s. What would you advise home cooks to look out for when trying to shop sustainably?
Shop seasonally. At both restaurants we try to source ingredients and products without plastic, and understanding the seasons is the easiest way to stay plastic-free and get quality ingredients at the same time. Try to shop as much as possible at small independent stores. Not only does it help feed into a community, but they’re much more likely to have local, quality ingredients, and will be much more likely to understand a desire to shop plastic-free too.
Environmentally friendly business practice is something that’s under a lot of scrutiny right now, and your team seem to be leading the charge. How do you work to lessen your impact day to day?
We’re not perfect, and I think understanding that is the first part of becoming better, but I think that the key is education. Firstly, educating yourself and making yourself aware of all the possibilities that are out there to solve a problem; educating the people within the business, letting them understand why we are trying to achieve a more balanced business and why it is important that we do; and finally, educating our suppliers and partners, never demanding anything, but always trying to work with them to find a solution. It’s important to realise that a lot of what we ask is new to people and doesn’t necessarily make business sense for them, so we have to work together to find a solution that works for both of us.
The Thanet coast is a beautiful part of the world – how have your immediate environment and the people who share it inspired and shaped your business?
When we source ingredients, we always start as close to home as possible, and that has always extended across all parts of our business. It’s easy to say that the coastline inspires us – as it does – but really, it’s the community we live and work in that is the real inspiration.
From designers and artists to farmers and winemakers, there are so many people who are trying to minimise their impact on the environment, and when you work in a small community like this, it encourages the sharing of ideas and allows you to make changes that have a real impact at a local level. In the words E.F Schumacher, “small is beautiful”.
When you were looking to decorate Dory’s, what led you to choose Farrow & Ball?
When I designed Dory’s, it was also with the idea of minimising our footprint. We can’t separate the design of the building from the principles we hold dear, so the furniture is wooden or second-hand, our countertops are made from recycled plastic bags, and the paintwork had to be in keeping too. Farrow & Ball was always at the forefront of my mind as I wanted a water based paint to make sure it is as pollutant-free as possible, but it was the minimal VOCs that really confirmed it for me.
As well as the environmental side, I also wanted to make Dory’s feel like it had been there for many years, not a shiny new opening. I’m not concerned about making it a perfect finish – it was more about accepting that the imperfections are what makes a building come to life. Farrow & Ball gives it a feeling of history and belonging, and the greater depth in the colours, especially the School House White, allows it to feel like there’s a story to tell not just in the building but within the business. That way the finished look feels very honest and therefore much more in keeping with our intentions as a restaurant.