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With more time to stop and think about what, where and how we eat, it’s no surprise that the last twelve months have seen a huge rise of interest in the area of mindful eating. It’s also an ethos that pervades the dynamic food scene in and around Wan Chai and Admiralty, where a vanguard is leading a conscious approach to food production, service and consumption that’s better for the planet — and the diner.

While the key concepts — think fresh, local produce, better management of food waste and materials, and zero-waste eating — are not necessarily new ideas, there’s an art to adapting them to the local environment and our unique combination of cuisines.

Elephant Grounds, for example, sources much of its fresh produce, such as kale, cucumber and salad greens, from hydroponic farms in Yuen Long. That means dishes like the Yard Bowl — a healthy combination of quinoa, cherry tomatoes, avocado, kale, cucumber, dill yogurt and lemon vinaigrette — can stay tasty while seriously keeping the food miles down. ‘With small farms, we can buy up their produce quickly and keep it fresh. It’s also a long-term initiative for us, in which we help them with their efficiency so they in turn help us with our supply chain,’ says founder Gerald Li. ‘As for packaging, we’ve always had a conscientious approach — we use recyclable paper products where possible and we changed from plastic straws to potato starch straws in early 2019.’

Elephant Grounds is a pioneer of mindful dining in Hong Kong, emphasising local produce and low environmental impact

Under Li, Elephant Grounds has also cut back on paper use by launching its own app, while the coffee that made its name ‘comes with full traceability back to the farm’, Li says. ‘We work with many types of producers like single-family farms to tackle issues like climate change and education.’ Even the roaster is eco-friendly, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by re-circulating heat.

Local produce is also a feature around the corner at homey French-Cantonese fusion restaurant Roots, as is as a focus on food waste. ‘Mindful dining to me is controlling what I can control, such as using a lot of local produce,’ says chef-owner Stephanie Wong. ‘The second part is food waste, as we don’t want to throw anything away. We prepare everything fresh every day, and we’re conscious of sticking to three or four very key ingredients in each dish. But we can also use those ingredients in other dish applications that diners may not notice, which minimises food waste.’

Stephanie Wong serves up French-Cantonese fusion at Roots with a focus on low waste

One example is Wong’s fabulous take on shrimp toast, which has become a firm favourite. ‘We don’t only use the shrimp tails — we roast the heads for a bouillabaisse sauce with tagliatelle and Spanish carabinero prawns. We use everything from head to tail and we do two stocks — one for our dinner menu and the second for our staff meal.’ Wong also points out the importance of focusing on seemingly small things that can make a major difference, like pickling vegetables and storing them in sterilised containers that once contained other produce.

The fine dining scene is also getting on board. Holding one Michelin star and boasting jaw-dropping views, Restaurant Petrus at Island Shangri-La is home to some of the city’s finest gastronomy — but, with Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky at the helm, always with a conscience. Nose-to-tail — or leaf-to-root, if you prefer — eating is being embraced by chefs keen to make the most of every ingredient, be they meat, fish or indeed vegetables. It’s a philosophy Opocensky embraces.

‘Mindful dining for me means to be aware of what you eat and what impact that has on the environment. I think in today’s world we cannot ignore the facts of what we do to our planet,’ he says, noting the impact of meat production on the environment. ‘In our menu, we always try to make the vegetable the highlight, leaving protein as the side dish, like in our seasonal beetroot tortellini.’

The cuisine at fine-dining favourite Petrus can look elaborate, but Chef Uwe Opocensky makes sure there’s a mindful ethos at its heart

Other key elements, part of Shangri-La Hotels’ broader mission, are to minimise food waste and source locally and organically. ‘I try to use as many foraged and local herbs and vegetables from organic farms as possible,’ Opocensky adds. ‘As for waste, we try to reduce whatever we produce and measure our portion sizes carefully.’

Of course, no discussion of mindful eating and particularly waste can exclude MANA!, home to globally inspired plant-based cuisine. One of Asia’s pioneers in mindful dining, the casual diner promises zero waste in its supply chain by turning all packaging, food scraps and leftovers into compost, tonnes of which are given to Hong Kong’s organic farming community. Founder Bobsy Gaia is a long-time ‘ecopreneur’ with a vision to see his ‘fast slow food’ evolve with, as he puts it, ‘more and more people waking up to the urgent need to switch to a plant-based diet to sustain both themselves and our planet’.

MANA! was created from the outset to emphasise sustainability throughout its menu and operations, and remains a firm favourite of mindful diners

With its famous wholemeal flatbreads covered in a choice of more than 40 toppings, plant-based burgers, salads and more, Bobsy’s simple but inspired menu offers delicious choices for the community, as well as a reminder that mindful dining can inspire change — and doesn’t need to cost the earth, in any sense.