Pies and Principles: Paper and Cup (London) and Uncommon Ground (Chicago)

Our pick of restaurants and cafes that put morals on the menu. This month we visit Hackney’s first ‘recovery cafe’ and America’s greenest restaurant

Paper and Cup

Review by Harriet Lawrence

Just off Shoreditch High Street, tucked away opposite a church and garden, lies Paper and Cup cafe. Near enough to the area’s ultra-trendy buzz but with quiet and tranquillity, it’s arguably a perfect location for Hackney’s first ‘recovery cafe’ – a space aiming to help drug and alcohol addicts.

Paper and Cup is a sanctuary in more ways than one. For the everyday commuter, it provides well-crafted caffeine sustenance for the body, and carefully selected literary sustenance for the mind, with a large collection of books for sale.

But their intention goes deeper than being a welcome alternative to Starbucks. Founded as part of the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), they offer one-year work experience placements for those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

“It’s about building bridges,” says Sheona Alexander, a project leader for SCT. “The baristas are trained by Union Coffee and work at the cafe for one year, and then they come to me and my team to continue their journey into permanent work.

“It was important to me that the cafe be beautiful, welcoming. The staff should feel part of the community again, and that working with us is the first step on the way to complete recovery.”

Paper and Cup has now gone one step further towards achieving this goal, with the cafe opening every Wednesday evening as Choices Cafe, a socialising space for recovering addicts.

“It’s an informal space where people can come, drink discounted coffee and chat with others in the same boat as them,” says Sheona.

“The cafe is for everyone but the Choices nights are especially for those in recovery; a place free from temptation where they can just be themselves.”

By combining up-to-date coffee tastes with social enterprise, Paper and Cup has created something wonderful that should serve as a real inspiration to other budding social charities.

Open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-6pm and Sunday 10am-5pm
18 Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch, London, E2 7JP
Tel: 0207 739 5358

(c) Flickr member Blng

© Uncommon Ground

Uncommon Ground, Chicago

Review by Ben Whitford

A stone’s throw from the sari shops and kebab houses of Little India, on Chicago’s bustling north side, stands America’s greenest restaurant: Uncommon Ground, a temple to responsible eating whose owners have been serving up eco-friendly, locally-sourced food for 20 years.

Uncommon Ground’s cosy, den-like interior is lined with reclaimed wood panelling. It’s what’s outside that matters most though: much of the food served travels only a few metres from farm to plate. That’s because Uncommon Ground boasts America’s first organic rooftop farm, growing the herbs and veggies that appear on the seasonal and regularly-changing menu. The patio, too, is lined with planter boxes full of pepper and tomato plants, and shaded by solar panels connected to charging stations where customers can top up their electric cars.

The menu blends comfort food with more creative global cuisine. We started with a delicate white gazpacho, served with fresh mint and sherry vinegar. A gorgonzola cheeseburger made with grass-fed, free-range beef was juicy and tender, while a split pea falafel sandwich made for a hearty vegetarian option.

We washed down our meals with lemonade muddled with fragrant basil leaves from plants growing near our table. There are stronger options, too: the cocktail list features house infused spirits, and the restaurant brews its own organic pale ales. One thing’s for sure: Uncommon Ground’s commitment to sustainability is worth raising a glass to.

Open daily from 9am
1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL, USA
Tel: +1.773-465-9801