Silo in Hackney Wick: “Douglas McMaster is more than just a zero-waste pioneer”
The world’s first completely zero-waste restaurant, Silo is also among the few London restaurants to have earned a Green Michelin star, a new award that celebrates the most sustainable players in the business. This fact alone would be a good reason to book a table – but chef Douglas McMaster is more than just a pioneer in eco-friendly dining.
The restaurant is located in Hackney Wick, a place with quirky cafés and craft breweries hidden in massive, graffiti-covered former industrial buildings lining the muddy canal banks. On a rainy November evening, we walk into the spacious, minimalist loft that turns out to be surprisingly warm for a room of its size. At the small reception, we are greeted by a friendly waiter who invites us to our table. Silo’s Scandinavian vibe and atmosphere may remind some gourmet travellers of Copenhagen’s Amass restaurant. An alternative to the paper menu is a projector that displays all the dishes on the wall. For those who get tired of lifting their heads, there is also an electronic version available via a QR code. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the table itself is made of recycled plastic and is topped with cork cutlery containers.
There is an à la carte available but we opt for the “all-in” tasting with drinks pairing. The first appetiser is a bright-looking radish with dill mayo – a fresh and pleasant combination of sweet crunchy vegetables and herbal sauce. It arrives with freshly baked bread and homemade aged butter. The next is quavers (upcycled buttermilk) with beetroot molasses and Dorstone cheese paired with English cider. The first bite is memorable: it’s a mix of sweet and cheesy flavours and a crunchy base that awakens a complex and multifaceted palate. However, this excitement does not last long – the overwhelming sweetness of the beetroot suppresses all other flavours, leaving behind only a trail of molasses. Goat Horn Peppers, Fermented Chilli are very well cooked: moderately spicy, they carry the distinctive aroma and flavours of the open fire.
Our first course is Baby Gem, Elderflower, Mexican Marigold – the dish looks minimalistic but it strikes with surprisingly fresh sweet and sour combinations, with a long aftertaste of elderflower. The next dish is Beetroot, Sea Buckthorn, Spruce – again sweet and sour, but not as successful, which inexorably recalls the traditional recipes of Russian cuisine. It’s followed by parsnip with buttermilk and koji crumb. The caramelised sauce doesn’t play well with already sweet vegetables, and a good addition of koji crumb doesn’t quite save the day.
One of my favourite plates is the ratte potatoes which come with caramelised cream, full of rich umami flavours, and comes with salty seaweed on the top – a detail which completes the whole dish. The king oyster mushroom, cooked on open fire and served with koji porridge, is quite simple. Smoked bavette is served with Sichuan peppercorn sauce which complements the meat with richness and spiciness.
We finish our meal with two truly stunning desserts. Pumpkin seed ice cream comes with furikake and pumpkin oil – a perfect balance between sweetness and umami. The signature Siloaf Ice Cream Sandwich made from bread leftovers is just delicious.
Overall, Silo is a restaurant worth visiting. Despite the challenge of the zero-waste concept, it has a well-developed vegetable-focused menu. Plus, compost is made from the food waste and sent to local suppliers. The staff are attentive and their explanations about dishes are brief and unobtrusive. The wine pairing is interesting and complements the food. However, it came as a surprise that they didn’t change the glasses while serving different wines – could it be a service flaw or just part of a (debatable) sustainability plan?
Photos: Elisaveta Kolesova / Justin De Souza / Silo
To book a table at Silo, Unit 7 Queens Yard Hackney Wick London E9 5EN, call 0207 993 8155 or visit their website here.