Chef Douglas McMaster’s Brighton-born zero-waste dining concept,Silo, where bin-avoidance forms the basis of the menu, has found anew home in London’s Hackney Wick. Serving a single tasting menu in an airy, ex-industrial room, McMaster is a man on a mission – and yet a sense of playfulness underpins the experience.
Dishes such as charred white artichokes with Stichelton sauce and ruby kraut, which might have disappeared the next day (or sooner, says McMaster, highlighting the quirks of sustainable sourcing) are colourful, creative and, if guests choose the ‘all in’ flight, delivered with an unconventional series of drinks, some from the on-site brewery. A cork-embedded magnet draws cutlery out of the recesses of each table, and a menu projected on the wall makes for a fun paper-saver.
Designed by London interior studio Nina +Co, whose founder Nina Woodcroft had become disillusioned by projects that pursued ‘beauty at any cost’, the zero-waste ethos is, quite literally, embedded into the fabric of the place. The floor is carbon-negative cork, harvested by hand in Portugal; the tabletops and bar are made from recycled polyester packaging waste by materials pioneers Smile Plastics; and the plates were produced using old plastic bags.
The lounge area that flanks one edge of the L-shaped bar, mean while, is furnished with bulbous mycelium tables, stools and lighting (above left) that have been ‘grown to order’ – to Woodcroft’s knowledge, Silo is the first restaurant to utilise this mushroom-like fungus. Even the wall lights – crafted from crushed wine bottles from the original outpost by Sussex potter Mark Ciavola – are reused in a throwback to its Brighton years.
Yet, for all its buzz, both chef and designer are clear on the concept’s challenges. ‘It hasn’t been an easy ride,’ says McMaster, noting that no one else has, as yet, attempted something similar. ‘We fell down a couple of rabbit holes with some super-cool materials of the future – potato waste, pine needles,’ admits Woodcroft, but she also says guests were enquiring about the bespoke tables on the opening night. Clearly there’s an appetite for McMaster’s vision, now proven as viable. ‘I’m in this for the long haul. It’s a lifetime project for me, not just a trend.’ silolondon.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020
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