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Silo London: World's first zero-waste restaurant set for Hackney Wick switch

PUBLISHED: 14:50 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:50 28 October 2019

Sample dishes from Douglas McMaster's Silo restaurant. Picture: Matt Russell.

Sample dishes from Douglas McMaster's Silo restaurant. Picture: Matt Russell.

Matt Russell Ltd

The world's first zero-waste restaurant is relocating from Brighton to Hackney Wick, launching on the upper floor of CRATE Brewery from Tuesday, November 5.

Douglas McMaster is partnering with CRATE Brewery as he launches Silo London. Picture: Xavier D. Buendia.Douglas McMaster is partnering with CRATE Brewery as he launches Silo London. Picture: Xavier D. Buendia.

Douglas McMaster's Silo, which first launched by the seaside in 2014, strives to 'close the loop' in the food production process by trading directly with farmers and composting all leftover scraps. Together, Silo and CRATE have ambitious plans to make their White Building residence its own sustainable eco-system.

McMaster first got the idea for Silo when living Down Under. "I met an artist, Joost Baker, who was making installations and exhibitions out of waste material in 2011," he says.

"Through talking to him, he asked 'why don't you have a restaurant that doesn't have a bin?' I was young and naïve enough to take him up on his challenge, and made the world's first zero-waste restaurant. It didn't happen overnight - it took many years to figure out - and unfortunately I had to leave Australia because of a family illness, but while Brighton isn't that close to (McMaster's hometown) Sheffield, it's closer than Australia!"

What followed was the opening of a pioneering new restaurant; one that worked exclusively with natural materials and used ingredients in their whole form. Plates were upcycled from plastic bags, work benches were crafted from filing cabinet frames, and produce delivered to the restaurant via re-usable crates. In the kitchen, a huge aerobic digester generated up to 60kg of compost in the space of 24 hours.

Silo became the world's first zero-waste restaurant in 2014. Picture: Matt Russell.Silo became the world's first zero-waste restaurant in 2014. Picture: Matt Russell.

For Silo's move from coast to capital, the menu will comprise of 10 to 15 regularly changing dishes, available from 6pm daily. Silo London will also open at 10am on weekends for those who want brunch with views of the River Lea.

"Silo established and grew in to something I believe in very much, and so I wouldn't want to disregard that," adds McMaster, speaking of possible tweaks between the former Brighton and the new London sites.

"I'm very proud of where we got to, but a new environment offers new opportunities. Financially we're in a much stronger position - in Brighton you were holding your breath every week managing a start-up business with a radical concept.

"It's just an evolution, so many ideas reached a certain point in Brighton but [we] didn't have the power to push beyond it. [Silo London] is building a restaurant out of zero-waste materials. It's going to be spectacular, it's going to be breathtaking, [transforming] waste materials in to beautiful, functional, productive spaces."

McMaster first got the idea for Silo while living in Australia in 2011. Picture: Matt Russell.McMaster first got the idea for Silo while living in Australia in 2011. Picture: Matt Russell.

Silo the second will include plates like grilled fantail squid, white kimchi and Douglas fir; Jerusalem artichokes cooked on fire and served with Cashel Blue and ruby kraut; and blue potatoes, barbecued sea kale and caramelised whey. For pudding, golden linseed ice-cream with fig leaf oil and sea buckthorn, fresh cheese, grand fir and fermented caramel await. Much thought has gone in to the drinks list, too.

Ania Smelskaya (previously of Sager + Wilde, Silo Brighton and Plateau Brighton) will curate a wine list from artisanal producers, while Mr Lyan - who McMaster works with via Cub in Hoxton - has collaborated with Silo's creator once again for the cocktail list.

McMaster keeps close tabs on the development of other zero-waste restaurants around the world - there are two that have opened since Silo, he tells me, one in Berlin and another in Helsinki - and he's a figure likely to remain at the forefront of this growing movement.

"In a nutshell, waste is polluting the earth, and with that I don't just mean tangible waste," he continues. "Waste is not just a thing that amounts in a bin. It's not sustainable, and we have no edible future if we don't consider zero-waste. Whatever you call it, it's inevitable."

Rhubarb, fresh spruce & yoghurt from Silo. Picture: Matt Russell.Rhubarb, fresh spruce & yoghurt from Silo. Picture: Matt Russell.

McMaster admits to feeling "a pressure to deliver" as his restaurant makes the 55-mile journey to east London, but his excitement for this opportunity to develop the Silo brand is plain to see.

"It's been an amazing team effort, having 30 core people on this project whereas before it was just me. To have that many people working so hard on what I brought in to the world, to have these brilliant professionals fighting so hard for something I started, [the feeling] is gratitude. A whole lot of gratitude."

Silo will open on the upper floor of CRATE Brewery, Unit 7 Queen's Yard, Hackney Wick, E9 5EN, on November 5. More details here.

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