Nestled in the Herefordshire countryside, on the Netherwood Estate, is Pensons, a Michelin-starred eco restaurant on a mission.

In this interview, we talk with Managing Director, Peta Darnley, and Head Chef, Chris Simpson about what it takes to run a sustainable business. From working with farmers and fishermen who use eco practices, to composting food waste, they talk openly about the highs and lows of running an eco restaurant with rooms.

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Chris Simpson


In the world of fine dining, sustainability is the topic ‘du jour’. Consumers desire more eco-friendly dining options, and restaurants are responding by adopting their practices.

Pensons has been committed to sustainability since its inception in 2019 and has come up with innovative practices to reduce its environmental impact. But what does sustainability mean to Pensons? Peta explains:

At Pensons, we try to approach sustainability holistically; it is an ethos that should inform the whole business, not just the food and drink. So, we look at how we approach the environment, but also the team and the local community. Pensons only opened four and a half years ago but sustainability was at the heart of our operation from the outset.

We started with the ‘low-hanging fruit’ areas that were easier to apply. For example, from the outset, we focused on hyper-local sourcing and traceability. This included creating a 2.5-acre kitchen garden on site. The kitchen garden supplies the chefs and mixologists. It maximises the sourcing possibilities from the Estate (including foraging for wild food and our own rapeseed oil and cider). We also work with local farmers and hand-picked fishermen who use the most sustainable fishing practices in Devon and Cornwall.

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Potting Shed


In addition to its sustainable food practices, Pensons also takes steps to reduce its environmental impact in other areas. The restaurant uses rainwater to irrigate its kitchen garden, and it has a biannual litter-pick of the verges around the restaurant. The kitchen also donate spare produce to the local food bank and delivered 3,000 meals to vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Peta added: “When it came to furnishing the restaurant, we created bespoke fabrics and napkins from the on-site weaving mill. Also, crockery was sourced from local potters and knives from the neighbouring blacksmith.  

We use a closed-loop composting system whereby all green kitchen waste is composted, along with shredded brown cardboard (from wine boxes etc). This is put onto the vegetable beds, which along with our no-dig policy, improves soil fertility and structure. It also eliminates the need for artificial fertilizers.”

Pensons’ eco commitment is an inspiration to other restaurants. Their innovative practices show that it is possible to create delicious, sustainable food that is also good for the environment.

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Restaurant


There are many benefits to going green in a professional kitchen. Some of the most important benefits include reduced environmental impact, improved food safety and team morale, and increased efficiency and customer loyalty.

However, as with all new business concepts, sustainability can create obstacles for those in hospitality. What challenges have Pensons faced and how did they overcome them? Chris Simpson explains;

There are myriad challenges when it comes to sustainability in a professional kitchen. Some of the hardest obstacles were logistics with suppliers. For example, our fish is delivered in polystyrene boxes which are not recyclable. It has taken a long time to arrange a system where we send the boxes back to our suppliers so they can be reused. Blue roll and cling film also cause issues – substitute products aren’t as effective.”

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Chris Simpson


The hospitality sector can struggle with environmental problems, but some things can make a difference. Here are some tips from Peta and Chris:

We recognise that most restaurants aren’t as lucky as to have a large kitchen garden to grow their ingredients but be tenacious about where you source yours. It is easier – and often much cheaper – to get your produce from a large wholesaler, but much of this will have been in cold storage for a long time and notched up a huge amount of food miles. Seek out small producers who deliver fresh to you and you’ll notice the difference in flavour in your dishes.”

When asked what she would have done differently if she could go back to the beginning, Peta says:

We converted a derelict farm building to create our beautiful restaurant and garden. The renovation cost more than we budgeted, but I wish we had invested more in renewable energy. Particularly given the huge increase in energy prices over the last year.”

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Menu


Head Chef Chris Simpson is a master of elevating seasonal ingredients to exceptional levels. He is known for his classic cooking with modern overtones that both surprise and delight. One of his most popular dishes is the spiced carrot starter, which features carrots grown in the kitchen garden. The dish is simple yet elegant, showcasing the carrots’ natural sweetness.

2023 has been a big year so far for Pensons. They retained their Michelin Star and took home the 2023 Sustainability Award at the Estrella Damm Restaurant Awards.

Pensons’ commitment to sustainability is evident in every aspect of the restaurant, from the kitchen garden to sourcing as much of its produce as possible from local suppliers. In summary, green runs through the veins of their business.

If you are looking for an eco restaurant that offers both delicious and sustainable food, then Pensons is the perfect place for you. The restaurant is a true pioneer in sustainable gastronomy, and it is sure to leave you feeling inspired.

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Garden


The restaurant is already using renewable energy, reducing food waste, and adopting sustainable materials. It is also educating staff and customers about sustainability.

So, what’s next for Pensons in the fight to be more sustainable?

We are continuing to expand our kitchen garden and experiment with growing varieties that suit our ground and deliver the taste and texture we want.  Being a rural restaurant, our kitchen is all-electric, so our big investment needs to be in renewable energy. We are exploring grants and permissions for photovoltaic panels, but the initial capital outlay is still huge which is hard in the current market, but important long term.” – Peta Darnley.

Eco Restaurant - Pensons - Chris Simpson


Pensons is a shining example of how a restaurant can be both sustainable and successful. Some of the challenges that Pensons has faced include finding sustainable suppliers, dealing with logistics, and finding effective substitutes for single-use plastics. However, the restaurant has also seen many benefits from its eco-practices, such as reduced food waste, improved employee morale, and increased customer loyalty.

Peta Darnley encourages other restaurants to be “tenacious” about sourcing sustainable ingredients and investing in renewable energy. She also believes that it is important to educate staff about sustainability and to involve customers in the process.

The future of sustainability at Pensons looks bright. The restaurant is continuing to expand its kitchen garden and is exploring ways to generate renewable energy. Pensons is leading the way in sustainable dining and is a first-class example of how great food and green practices are a perfect pairing.

Are you interested in making your restaurant more sustainable? Here are some tips from Peta and Chris:

Be tenacious about sourcing sustainable ingredients.

Invest in renewable energy.

Educate your staff about sustainability.

Involve your customers in the process.

You can find out more about Pensons, the Netherwood Estate, and their eco ethos below.

Further resources: Estrella Damm Restaurant Awards

Photo credit: David Loftus

If you’ve been inspired by Peta’s story and are looking for innovative team members to elevate your own hospitality business, get in touch below.

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