Versa: the concept-eatery championing sustainability and local producers

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Hi, I’m Pippa, the chef and owner of restaurant Versa in Port Erin. A little green door leading to a restaurant that is essentially operating out of a small flat with an open kitchen and foraged decor. We take pride in using what is available and if something isn’t available- tough! (for instance, a large restaurant space in Port Erin) Versa comes from “vice versa” and implies a relationship and ours is with the land. Give and take. Our menus are even plantable.

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We only use local ingredients in our restaurant or local products that are entirely made with local produce. The only exception is coffee at brunch but we make sure to use the grounds for several other things and the coffee is locally roasted. We want to show how easy it can be and how important it is for the local economy and the planet. Admittedly, it also feels good. We have no excuse to use dried herbs packaged halfway across the world when we have fresh, organic herbs at Staarvey Farm all year round. Or furthermore, fresh wild herbs in abundance growing quite literally, on our doorstep... Some of which are very invasive so by using them, is helping biodiversity. Some examples of these are Garlic Mustard, Cow Parsley, Rosebay willowherb and three cornered leeks.


When writing the dinner menu, we first call around local fishermen to see what has been caught locally and check the MCS guide for good fish to see if it's sustainable. Next, check with the butchers what Manx meat is good and ready to use. Next, we source our eggs from Coole girls, or Red Mie farm for duck eggs or even the few chickens we have ourselves. We base our menus around the seasonal vegetables available, particularly the beautiful Manx asparagus just now and then follow with dairy from the Cooil Brothers, the most local to us. We make sure to spread our business around the several producers as without them all, we wouldn’t exist. Local potters, wood turners and craftsmen are involved heavily, too. There is far more to locality in a restaurant setting than just the food.


When only using local produce in a restaurant setting, you have to be constantly preserving the produce, making each ingredient go a long way and to minimise waste. Pickling and also preserving in the likes of Manx Ellerslie oil is common practice at Versa, along with drying and utilising vegetable skins and seeds and pulp again and again. This aids in being sustainable and also forces us to be creative and to love our day to day. IOM sea salt, a new venture in the south of the island, has saved us time rather than making our own and we are particularly grateful for this in the preservation of ingredients.

We really need there to be more local produce and a more diverse amount of ingredients to use here on the island. By using the ones we have, and making the most from them we can create demand and further fund these producers to take on new projects. We particularly want oats fit for human consumption, poultry, beans, more fruit and vegetables and someone to produce single origin chocolate in an ethical way.

With sustainability at heart, I really want to talk to you about how foraging can play a part in menus and at home. Using a weekly menu format at Versa allows us to showcase foraged herbs, vegetables, flowers and seaweeds in small quantities without stripping a hedgerow for example. We have land owners permission most of the time but quite openly take some invasive species around glens and footpaths in a careful way. I personally believe, that as a Biosphere, we have a duty to show how biodiverse entities such as forests and beaches can be a great food source, too.

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We love the charcuterie from Close Leece farm. A meal at Versa is rounded off with a locally made board from fallen trees covered with meats, the Creamery vintage cheddar, a simple water biscuit using Laxey Glen Mills flour, honey from Port Erin and some pickles. We use the Dairy shed yogurt on our menus in several ways… Labneh, dips, to bake, to marinade. Ross Bakery is also our savior. Our restaurant is too small and not fit for having a full bakery section that produces anything more than pastry, tarts, bonnags and flatbreads. We rely heavily on a close relationship with Simon and collaboration is vital and a celebration of community. Circular economy also comes to mind.

When walking my dog, I keep my eyes out for what is about daily and try to integrate these things into the menu to encourage people to connect with the land more and to be a topic of conversations at the table. I used to want a restaurant to generate a passive income so that I could use the money to be involved in charity work around the globe. But now, I’ve realised that having the choice of where I source my food, eating locally and respecting our land has the power to have a significant impact for the community and environment, one small choice at a time.


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