THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
In the front garden of my terraced house, I have 3 large wheelie bins plus a smaller bin for kitchen waste. In his big restaurant in Hackney, Douglas McMaster doesn’t have any!!! No bins! Now I’m forced to admit the low waste, planet conscious habits I’ve been cultivating during lockdown are not enough. It’s time to smell the kombucha!
Chef McMaster headed up the kitchen in the world’s first zero waste restaurant in Melbourne. He then brought the concept to Brighton in 2014. There, he caught the eye of the team behind Crate, the hip brewery and pizzeria. Through crowd funding, they financed his move to London where he’s joined them in The White Building. The fab old factory is on the River Lea next to Hackney Wick Overground, with Queen Elizabeth Park on one side and Victoria Park on the other. It’s a hotspot! When we arrived at 7, Crate was heaving. The youthful energy filled me with joy but the lack of masks and social distancing gave me pause. Happily, this was not the case in the spacious restaurant upstairs where corona decorum is well observed.
The concept behind Silo is visionary. Zero waste means no unnecessary packaging goes in and no waste goes out. It means getting suppliers to deliver their goods in reusable containers. It means all food waste gets composted. It means milling flour, fermenting, foraging. Above all, it means respect for food from farm to table. It is inspiring and hopefully, forging a path for others to follow. On top of all that, Chef McMaster is banging out some incredible food!
The space is NYC loft in style with stark white walls, high ceilings and steel-framed windows. The centrepiece is the huge open kitchen with an open flame grill. The staff work brilliantly as a team. There is a constant hum of activity but no sign of stress. In fact, everyone seemed in excellent spirits and the vibe was infectious. McMaster himself was plating and serving, passionately talking about his food at each table.
Cocktails are pre-made by Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan and wines are sourced from artisan producers who use minimal intervention in their vinification methods. A 2009 Giulia Ribolla Gialla, Radikon (£70/500ml) was excellent. The lengthy skin maceration produces beautiful tannins in this orange wine with a good balance of mineral, fruit and flowers.
At the mo, there are 10 dishes + 2 desserts on the menu from £4 to £9. The maître‘d suggested we sample them all. He was so charming I couldn’t refuse. It was the perfect amount of food and totalled £76.50 for the lot. That puts Silo at the top of my value for money list.
Every dish had wow factor. Highlights include a malty “Siloaf” made with whole grain flour, milled on site and served with aged butter. Fabulous white carrots were served with fig leaf mayo and fig leaf salt. You can dangle these in front of me anytime! Lightly grilled Romanian white peppers came with liquid gold, made from whey and the leftovers from other ferments. The new gold standard!
Baby gem with elderflower vinegar and Mexican marigold turns lettuce into a delicacy. A pancake with smoked pumpkin and Szechuan sour cream had my taste buds doing cartwheels.
Last: the best potato ever! Salt brined, confit in clarified butter, smoked for 6 hours and served with brown butter hollandaise. Spuds of dreams.
A molten chocolate cake had extra crunch from the husks of cacao beans and a gorgeous gooey center. A close second to the potato was the dulce de leche ice cream sandwich. Brown butter biscuits gave salt to the dulce! We begged for another!
Lead the way McMaster. Those who don’t join you are destined to become old “has-bins”!
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