The launch of the herb and vegetable garden on the terraces of the two year old Upper Eastside Boutique Business Hotel in Woodstock on Thursday demonstrated that one does not need a massive garden to work on one’s carbon footprint, and to grow wonderful herbs and vegetables. The hotel has created the first organic rooftop urban hotel garden in the country.
The 183-room hotel and conference centre is large, and all its space is dedicated to the building and parking, with little space for a garden. An approach by House & Leisure to do an article about inner city living introduced the hotel to Ben Getz of Urban Harvest, who brought in an initial 21 plant boxes, soil, and a selection of herbs and vegetables. The project was so successful that the urban hotel garden has doubled in size, to 92 square metre, with 42 different varieties of herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers. Natural ‘pesticides’ such as lavender have been planted to keep pests away. The next project is to create a green wall, in affixing plant pots to a prominent hotel wall.
Caroline Coates, Upper Eastside Hotel’s Marketing Manager, proudly showed us the urban hotel garden, spread over three sections of the first floor terrace, and told us what pride and joy it has become of Executive Chef Simon Kemp and his kitchen staff, who come to harvest rocket, spinach, basil, carrots, fennel, coriander, oregano, thyme, spring onions, rosemary, and many more. But the housekeeping staff, the waiters, and even the hotel guests have taken an interest in the urban hotel garden, all being committed to the success of the project, and feeling that it is ‘a nice thing to do’. Given that the staff spend so much time inside the hotel, the garden is a green lung for them. Ultimately, it helps the hotel to reduce its carbon footprint, said Upper Eastside Hotel GM Francois Steyn.
Ben and his team at Urban Harvest brought in the reclaimed timber boxes, made from off-cuts from a mill, which have not been treated with chemicals, to not affect the plants growing in them. Chef Simon has overall responsibility for the garden, and is proud to bring his herbs and vegetables into his dishes at the hotel’s Liberty’s Restaurant, harvesting weekly. We experienced the produce in the wonderful canapés that were served, to give the guests a taste of dishes for Liberty’s new winter menu, including a white tomato and basil espresso, beef tataki, goat’s cheese bruschetta (below), fennel and Ouzo mussels, Szechuan crispy duck spring rolls, coppa and basil beignets, mushroom bombs, and Gorgonzola ostrich fillet. The rooftop garden reflects Chef Simon’s commitment to sourcing local ingredients and to serve the hotel’s guests fresh, healthy food. After just two months, 80% of the kitchen’s fresh herb requirement is provided from the herb garden harvest for the hotel’s daily catering for 250 covers at Liberty’s and 1000 meals for the conference centre. This means that the higher cost of organic herbs and vegetables is not passed on to the hotel’s clients. The balance of the requirements is sourced less than 50 km from the hotel. Food wastage has been reduced through the project, and no packaging needs to be recycled or thrown away.
The organic rooftop urban garden at the Upper Eastside Hotel is a commendable project, and is a challenge to every other hotel and restaurant to create its own herb garden, no matter how little space they have!
Upper Eastside Hotel, 31 Brickfield Road, Woodstock. Tel (021) 404-0570. www.uppereastsidehotel.co.za Twitter:@UESHotelCape
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage