Eating Out: magic of ‘Charlie’ the milk float

Upcycled vehicle making plastic-free deliveries is the ultimate ethical business model

Thursday, 1st April 2021 — By Tom Moggach

Fair well Jerilee Quintana and Claire Marchais

Jerilee Quintana and Claire Marchais with ‘Charlie’ the milk float

AS we emerge from lockdown, expect big changes to the way we live, eat and shop.

In less than a fortnight, we can drink and eat al fresco. Pubs and restaurants with outdoor tables are reporting bumper bookings from April 12 – read on for our first tips.

For food shops, this new era is all about speed: the battle to offer lightning-quick delivery to your doorstep.

On the Holloway Road, a tech start-up called Gorillas Technologies has started to build hyperlocal hubs to deliver groceries in 10 minutes, starting with the Angel area; another business called Grocemania collates orders from local shops and delivers for £2.50.

But I’ve fallen for Fair-Well, the roaming milk float with the ultimate in ethical business models.

Friends Jerilee Quintana and Claire Marchais launched Fair-Well to deliver plastic-free ingredients – with no delivery charge or minimum order.

You book a visit on their website, they park nearby and you bring them your empty containers to fill with your pick of around 150 products – mainly organic and Fairtrade. Bestsellers include organic rice, cashews, eco washing-up liquid and dried mango.

Fair-Well launched just before the pandemic and business has been brisk. A successful crowdfunding campaign has raised funds for a second milk float to broaden their reach.

“It has never been done before,” explains Claire. “It’s the first of its kind in London.”

Regular shopping can generate a staggering volume of plastic waste; by choosing Fair-Well it is cut to zero.

“People have to be more aware that an individual act or effort makes an impact,” she adds.

The upcycled milk float is called “Charlie”, but there’s a bitter irony in what the vehicle represents. The old-fashioned milk round was a fantastic local food system, recycling those clinking glass bottles with a personal touch.

But a price squeeze by the supermarkets destroyed the traditional milk round, replacing glass with millions of tonnes of plastic containers.

In future, I’ll be using Fair-Well to cook from scratch. But I also cannot wait to eat out.

Big questions remain about the future of hospitality. How can restaurants recreate a fizzy atmosphere in an era of face masks? Will you ever squeeze to the bar again to grab a pint?

In a fortnight, I’ll list the best pubs and restaurants with outdoor tables. Feel free to send me your tips.

If you’re itching to book now, here’s a few suggestions. Exmouth Market is a good bet, with destinations including Caravan and Morito.

In Soho, 17 roads will be temporarily closed once again so that restaurants can bring out their tables.

Up in NW3, Belsize Village streatery will re-open on April 13 with a variety of restaurants, including Calici, Retsina and Charro de Rio.

For pub fans, you might want to check out Bevvi, a new app that maps all the pubs with courtyard gardens. Use it to alert your friends so they can swing and join you.

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