One of the biggest selling points of the Mulberry Tree in Boughton Monchelsea, Kent, is that it sources all of its ingredients locally and through the Produced in Kent Association, which champions and develops the county's identity of local products.
Everything on the menu - from the flour to the meat, fish and dairy products - comes from local farmers, meaning the restaurant is not only using the freshest ingredients but also reducing its carbon footprint. "We have switched to First Choice coffee so that even our coffee, although not local, is Rainforest Alliance," proprietor Karen Williams says.
Mentor Roy Ackerman applauds Williams's efforts. "The way Karen has gone about using local suppliers is fantastic. She takes the local delivery issue as far as is humanly possible and at my last visit to the Mulberry Tree a supply of apples and pears was actually delivered by bicycle. You can't get much more local than that!"
Head chef Alan Irwin does what he can to reduce food waste and has implemented innovative techniques such as turning left-over wine into vinegar. He has a central food wastage bin to control what is thrown out and buys in whole carcasses of meat, using the whole animal to minimise wastage.
Recycling is of utmost importance to Williams and she has hired a local company that collects cardboard boxes free of charge. "I am discussing with them the possibility of having glass recycling bins in our back yard as we have so much space here for them and I am very keen to do whatever we can to preserve and protect the environment."
As the Mulberry Tree is located on three acres of land and not on mains drainage, it has a state-of-the-art biological septic tank that returns water to a stream that runs alongside the property.
From its inception, the restaurant has used low-energy light bulbs and all staff are trained to turn lights on only immediately before service. "We have lights in the public and staff toilets that are activated by movement so that they are not left on unnecessarily," Williams explains.
"As a new property, we had to conform to all rules and regulations regarding insulation and are double-glazed throughout. During the winter months we have very little heat wastage and only use the heating when absolutely necessary."
Ackerman concludes: "The Mulberry Tree is typical of many small businesses that try to be sustainable and are very aware of the environment that they are in. Karen has done everything possible, in my opinion, to be environmentally friendly."
Hermitage Lane, Boughton Monchelsea, Kent ME17 4DA
The Mulberry Tree has won praise in its first review in the national papers.
Daily Telegraph food critic Jasper Gerard was delighted to discover the restaurant in an area not generally known for its cuisine, even if it was a little hard to find in the Kent countryside. He described his meal there as a "bargain lunch with great rural ingredients and even greater potential".
Proprietor Karen Williams says: "The article has brought us so much new business. We had visitors on Sunday from Essex and Surrey as a result of the review and had our busiest Sunday lunch with so many new customers."
In separate news, head chef Alan Irwin held two cookery demonstrations at the recent Eurofair event in Canterbury, where he showcased two of his dishes. The restaurant produced an information pack including sample menus and the ingredients and method for the dishes he prepared. "They proved so popular, we actually ran out of them," Williams says.
Irwin has also arranged two visits with a local scouts group and will help them work towards a cookery badge. The scouts will be given a tour of the kitchen, kitchen garden and pigs, and will discuss menu preparation and food hygiene.