FoodSpace has made the leap onto the high street with Ink at Dun Laoghaire’s LexIcon. Grainne Carberry talks to Hotel & Catering Review about maintaining the company’s ethos around sustainability at the new restaurant

The ethos at FoodSpace is very simple. Stay loyal to local and don’t waste food. Sounds easy but with increasingly tight budgets in restaurants across the country, adhering to an admirable ethos isn’t as straightforward as it should be.

Ink is the brainchild of FoodSpace, a division of facilities management company Apleona Ireland. Since bursting onto the scene three years ago, the company has raised the sustainability bar while managing to create exciting, innovative dishes. Grainne Carberry is Director of Catering Services at FoodSpace. ‘Keeping it local’ is, she says, what sets the company apart. “With Ink, we’ve tried to source everything within an 80km radius. That idea of staying loyal to local is something we’ve maintained across all our sites. It’s about bringing it back to the community and giving back to the local guys which doesn’t just make sense for us, it also makes sense for the client. Pharma companies for example want to integrate into the local community and feel like they’re making a positive difference to the locality. So everyone’s a winner,” said Grainne.

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FoodSpace has 18 sites across the country. Grainne and Conor were initially taken on by Apleona to set up restaurants for Abbott Ireland’s five sites. This successful venture led to the creation of FoodSpace, a brand that works alongside the Apleona business. “We call it TFM – total facilities management. It’s a complete solution and that’s Apleona’s main aim, to have complete solutions for large companies. From the outset, we decided we needed to approach contract catering from a different perspective. The commercial catering industry has a notoriously bad reputation for poor quality, sub-standard food. Most of our ideas centred around staying loyal to local and zero wastage, but we also wanted to allow our chefs be creative and not be stuck in mundane jobs.”
Ink is located in the LexIcon library in Dun Laoghaire. Executive chef is Conor Spacey who has worked in various kitchens across Ireland and the UK. With seating for 40 customers, it’s a relatively small space. “It is quite small but we’re filling the seats and turning them every day which is great. We had previously done some FM management for the LexIcon so when they approached us to see if we’d be interested in taking on the restaurant, we jumped at the opportunity. Conor and I had always talked about going out onto the high street so this seemed like the right time to get our story out there about sustainability and zero waste.” The restaurant serves breakfast, brunch and lunch and a supper club runs on Friday and Saturday evenings. Dishes for the supper club are made from the ingredients that have come in that day. “We don’t know what’s going to be on the supper club menu, it depends what comes in. During the day there’s a set menu but it’s all made from produce in season. Eliminating wastage in the kitchen is another huge focus for us. For example, at the moment Conor is using coffee grinds to make a brine so he can make his own pastrami. Leftover milk from cappuccinos is being used to make ricotta cheese.”

No plastic bottles are sold at Ink. “We’ve taken them out of our business as much as possible. We have some sites, like large manufacturers, that have said no, but everywhere else, we sell cans. People have argued that cans are as bad as bottles but we can’t actually recycle the bottles here in Ireland. At least you can recycle the aluminium. We’ve produced a new FoodSpace water bottle that customers can use and reuse and we’re selling them at a discounted price. They’re proving very popular.” Cling film has also been removed from all FoodSpace kitchens. “It has been drilled into us that we have to wrap everything in plastic but we actually don’t. We use Tupperware or food grade boxes for food storage and we’ve seen a substantial decrease in our wastage bill.”
At Ink, plans for the future include developing an outside area and a continued focus on sourcing local produce. “If the right opportunity came up, we’d certainly consider venturing onto the high street again. For the moment, we’re focused on Ink and ensuring it fulfils its potential.”