Friday, 20 February 2015


When Sinead had first contacted Love Brighton about places to go, people to see and libations to swig, one place kept getting mentioned over and over again.
Silo.  The UK's first zero-waste restaurant.  Now I have eaten at sustainable restaurants, nearly-zero waste restaurants, foraging restaurants and other variants on this theme, but never at somewhere that proclaims to be completely zero waste.  Just pause and try to get your head around that for a moment.  You can't purchase flour - you need to mill it yourself if you want people to eat bread.  Every last scrap of food waste needs to be composted.  Booze needs to be brewed on site. All the building materials need to be recycled.  All produce, every last scrap needs to be locally sourced or come into the UK via sustainable methods.  The sheer scale of this endeavor is, quite frankly, terrifying. 
This is a challenge that founder and head chef, a former BBC young chef of the year, Douglas McMaster has launched himself into with a passion and fervor that is astounding.  You would have to be passionate in order to commit to something as absolute as zero-waste.  Passionate, or absolutely bonkers.  Silo in Brighton is not Douglas' first foray into the world of zero-waste.  A prototype of his vision was launched extremely successfully in Melbourne with the Artist / Designer Joost Bakker. 
Located inside an old industrial Warehouse in the North Laines, Silo's mission is evident from the moment you step through the great doors.  In the waiting area / bakery you can see evidence of the mushrooms being grown onsite ready for cooking and the waiting list by the tills with peoples names being jotted down on the back of old brown envelopes.   The toilets are flushed with used coffee grounds. Really.  Almond milk is made on site for people who can't tolerate lactose.
The waiting system is quite refreshing.  You pop your name, your phone number and the time you arrived on the list and they call you when your table is ready.  Shay and I were happy to wait by the cakes, out of the rain and use the 15 minutes until they could seat us as an opportunity to snap some pictures.
The tables look like they have been recycled from old scaffolding platforms, whilst the chairs and benches are made from compacted recycled plywood.  They don't look particularly comfortable but are in fact surprisingly kind on the backside!
Silo is extremely popular with a constant stream of hungry visitors, so expect to share your table your party can't occupy all the seats at a table.  The main room is open and airy, with the chefs cooking in full view of the diners.
The ingredients that the restaurant uses add another novel dimension to the experience.  Silo believes in a pre-industrial food system, with ingredients having been through an absolutely minimal food processing system.  Food is sourced from local farmers, alcohol is brewed on site in the basement, where the composter is also located. Wild and foraged food features heavily.  The menu is simple, with only 6 dishes to choose from, including a daily Plant, Dairy, Fish, Meat and Wild option to.  This limited choice is deliberate.  In an interview with The Guardian, McMaster said that “Choice is something which is wrong with the food industry. The places with more choice create more waste and have lower standards, that’s an absolute fact."

The menu is presented to you on a tablet or projected onto the wall.  This causes some issues when the projector inexplicably cuts out and a different menu from the day before appears, but for the most part it is a simple, obvious system that reduces paper wastage.
We start with water with herbs in containers made from recycled glass and jam jars.  All drinks are served in jam jars - including the coffee and tea apparently, while the drink stocks are kept in recycled and reusable containers.
Then the bread appears on plates made of recycled plastic- delicious slabs of home milled sour dough using a speciality mix of ancient grains. It is packed full of flavour and has a light, nutty taste to it.
I order a drink made from fresh ginger and lemon; it is hot and cooling at the same time and quenches the thirst I have from my hangover which is starting to gather momentum by now.  Shay orders one of the home brewed ales which she said was nice but with a very unique taste.
Now came the big test. The main dishes.  I must confess, I was worried that the lure of Silo so far had been built on a gimmick and there would not be the substance needed in the food to back up the claims.

I needn't have worried myself.  I ordered the catchbox fish dish, which on this day happened to be some unfortunate cod that had swum into the nets, with greens and a light butter dressing.  It was divine, and I do not say this lightly.  It was served with seaweed mash, steamed leeks and capers.  I actually had to ask what one of the ingredients was as I had never heard of it before.  Turns out it is a cousin to broccoli (which I detest, but in this dish was wolfed down).  The flavour combinations were subtle and delicate, and, (to quote a phrase I am not particular fond of as it is ridiculously hipster, but in this situation it absolutely applies), the entire dish left you feeling clean afterwards.  Every single element on the plate had a purpose and it just came together in a medley of magnificence.
The food here is masterful, and incredibly reasonable priced.  We had a main and a drink each for about £15 each.  No receipt - no paper wastage.

In addition to the restaurant is the bakery where we pick up cakes for the train ride home later that day.
You can also grab a sandwich to go here if you don't have the time to stop and linger over lunch.  When we were here the place was continuously busy with the lunchtime crowd, including families with very young children who (surprisingly to me) loved the food that they were served, considering the amount of flavours on the menu that I thought would not be particularly child friendly.  To be fair, I have no children and was a picky kid, so I could be extremely out of touch!
Overall?  Silo blew us both away.  It is an incredibly brave venture, and one that, they seem to be getting right.  It only opened in October 2014 and they aren't fully there yet - they are still trying to raise funds to improve areas that aren't quite zero waste yet, such as sourcing ingredients that are difficult to get in the UK and improving the coffee system
My verdict?  If you live in or near Brighton and have this on your doorstep, I am jealous of you.  If you live in or near Melbourne and have this on your doorstep, I am jealous of you.  It is worth making a trip to Brighton for this place alone.
If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my Facebook group or Twitter or Instagram!

No comments:

Post a Comment