I had been badgered for months by Mike Green of Tapwater.org to meet the owners of Eden Catering. I was hesitant: I couldn’t see how I could help them or them me. You’ll just get on, Mike persisted. They’re passionate in what they do. They keep bees and produce their own honey. That clinched it; that is a step beyond the call of duty.
As soon as I entered the premises, I felt I understood their business completely. In a previous life I had set up a production kitchen to service my small upmarket sandwich cafe chain and an events business. In this immaculate version on the ground floor, the vans outside all ready to go, and the offices to the side and above, and with everyone communicating with easy access to one another, I was completely at home.
Hugh Walker and Nick Mead are dedicated to producing as much of their food as possible in house (because it’s better quality, cheaper and carbon neutral), including homemade granola for their customers’ breakfast and their own chutney. Similarly they filter and chill tapwater in their kitchen, and dispense it, sparkling and still, into bottles which are then delivered to their customers along with the food orders. The filter machines and Eden logo’d insulated bottles are all supplied by tapwaterorg.
Many businesses purport to have the good intentions of being zero to landfill, carbon neutral etc, mainly driven by a PR perspective, but the bosses at Eden insist that it makes economic sense too. For example they make their own oatcakes for the cheeseboards, because they are better and cheaper. Occasionally though, their efforts have backfired. They were recently nominated for a Catey Award because of their dedication to sustainability. At the last minute they were disqualified because it was discovered that the kitchen vegetable peelings were going to Vauxhall City Farm, and therefore potentially into the food chain (in spite of the “Farm” being for educational purposes only), which is against the law. This raises an interesting question about whether food from catering kitchens deemed fit for human consumption, might yet be unfit for animals! The beneficiary of this veto was Roots and Shoots, a neighbouring educational urban garden, who now take the peelings for their compost.
Making everything they possibly can on the premises obviously saves transport costs, but also gives the staff a pride in what they produce, and therefore engenders a happy team spirit. And clearly the quality keeps bringing customers back. Eden now feed around 3 to 4 thousand customers a week, mainly Monday to Friday in the City of London. Catering for weddings has been a new project this year, and as I know well, is a completely different kind of activity. We joked about how it is (understandably) the client’s special day, with all the potential accompanying stress. Their quality and attention to detail obviously pays dividends as there has been much more demand for this than anticipated.
The website shows a very wide choice of products and services. But it does underplay the knowledge and enthusiasm the two men have for the best of British products. On the last day of a recent summer holiday in Scotland, Hugh went on a stiff run to visit one of their suppliers, a small cheesemaker on the Isle of Mull. When he arrived the depot was unmanned, but pieces of this special cheddar were laid out alongside an honesty box. That is the kind of special quality product you get with their service.
As I left, Nick proudly showed me the bees happily and freely flying about on this sunny late Autumn day. A second hive will be added in the Spring. In the meantime, you can guess what the queen bee’s name was, living in the garden of Eden. Yes, Eve of course.
199 Hercules Road
London SE1 7LD
Tel: 020 7803 1212
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