Eco dining on a Covent Garden rooftop

An eco-conscious rooftop restaurant serving north Italian-inspired cuisine opens to the public this week at a private members’ club in the heart of Covent Garden.

Rucola, which has an open terrace and an all-weather pergola, is on the fifth floor of The Yards development in The Conduit, a gathering of “radical realist change-makers” launched in Brooklyn six years ago.

Founder Paul van Zyl, the former secretary of South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is a human rights lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who also founded the Maiyet Collective, a luxury fashion brand that works with traditional artisans.

Rucola, which is open to non-members on Thursday and Friday from 5.30pm and Saturday from noon, serves a veg-centric menu of northern Italian classic dishes, using only “thoughtfully sourced” ingredients.

Ruth Davison, The Conduit’s global head of sustainability, says the aim is to present “a demonstration model of what is really possible in high-end hospitality with absolutely zero compromise on sustainability. It’s a myth to think that sustainability has to be uninteresting or unpleasant.” 

One challenge faced by Rucola’s chefs is the imperative to steer clear of beef – a disproportionate carbon emitter – on the barbecue that will be set up on the rooftop terrace this summer.

It would be tricky for us to say we’re a net carbon-neutral, plant-forward organisation and then serve a very burger-heavy barbecue,” Ruth says. “Instead, there will be fish, lobster and other plant-forward dishes.” 

And it’s not just the menu at Rucola that is socially conscious. The tiles on the walls have been handmade by women artisans in South Africa whose skills were dying out, while the plants scattered around are from Glass House, a social enterprise that provides horticultural training to women in prison.

Rucola, at 6 Langley Street, WC2H, opens on Friday 15 March.

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