London’s first (above-board) subterranean farm opens for full production today, and first in the checkout queue is Michel Roux Jr.
Growing Underground, a well-lit greenhouse set up 100 feet below Clapham Common, was developed last year in tunnels originally used for sheltering Londoners during WWII.
The team behind the initiative have been growing micro-herbs with artificial lighting all winter, and now and Michelin-starred Masterchef judge Michel Roux Jr is planning to serve them up at Le Gavroche.
The farm's founders say constant temperatures and the absence of pests make its produce better than fruit and veg that has seen the light of day.
According to founders Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, it features state of the art lighting, hydroponics and ventilation – and offers Londoners the lowest possible number of food miles for the popular herbs, which are cultivated on special growing platforms.
Micro versions of green basil, red mustard, coriander, garlic chives, wasabi mustard, purple radish, red basil, salad rocket and pink stem radish are included in the new range.
Le Gavroche was opened by the Roux brothers in 1967, and is recognised as one of the finest French restaurants in the world.
Could this pave the way for the urban farming movement? Farms have become popular in the City in recent years, with urban farms in Vauxhall and east London opening and architects suggesting London's skyscrapers should be fitted with allotments.
“This is major milestone for us – and for the global urban farming movement”, said co-founder Steven Dring who set up the farm with his business partner Richard Ballard.
“We have been working in our food mine for more than two years and we’re thrilled to be bringing our first commercial scale harvest to the surface as Spring arrives."
Michel Roux Jr said: "I’m delighted that they have reached this important landmark in the development of the farm, which coincidentally is almost directly below my home."
"They’ll certainly be a fixture on the menu at Le Gavroche and I am developing a recipe with Growing Underground herbs at its center.”