Test Driving Silo - the very model of an no-waste approach restaurant

roomA look at Silo - the menu is projected onto that back wall. 

What can you tell us about Silo?

The main man behind Silo is Douglas McMaster, who originally launched the restaurant in Brighton and is at the forefront of the no-waste movement in UK restaurants (he's even written the book on it). This means that the restaurant specifically uses sustainable food. It also has a compost machine that turns restaurant scraps and trimmings into a compost used to produce more food. On top of that, the restaurant adopts what they call a "pre-industrial food system" which essentially means applying as little processing as possible. 

We first encountered McMaster in London when he took part in Dan Barber's Wasted pop-up and now he's back in London to stay. He's closed the Brighton restaurant and moved the whole enterprise up to the city. 

Where in London?

He's moved to Hackney, just upstairs from the Crate Brewery - less than 5 minutes walk from Hackney Wick overground (it's very close to Cornerstone). If you're looking for the entrance, head to the canalside, face the building and you'll see the steps up to Silo on your left. 

And the best place for a first drink is downstairs?

It's definitely an option if you fancy a beer. If you're here early, then grabbing a seat and a beer downstairs is the best bet - but there's a very different vibe to the upstairs restaurant. Up in Silo itself, you can find a few places in the bar, so it's also worth heading upstairs if you're looking for cocktails or wine. 

roomKicking things off with Empirical Spirits (see below for more info on these). 

And how about the room itself?

It's significantly different from Crate Brewery, as you can see from the picture above - much more cool and laid back. Seating is split between traditional seating and counter dining. If you're solo dining or there are two of you, then the counter is definitely the best bet and there's the opportunity to learn much more about what goes into each dish. 

The no-waste ethos carries over from the food and into the room itself. The counter is made from upcycled plastic packaging by Smile Plastics, a waste materials design and manufacturing house and the wall lights are created from crushed wine bottles.

In addition to this, because the menu changes regularly it is projected on the wall so that the regular reprinting of the menu is not required. As someone who lets out an audible sign when confronted (more often than he'd like) with a brown menu with slightly darker brown tiny text - this is much preferred. It's huge and so much easier to read (although this was in the evening - so that might have helped). 

How exactly do things work?

Excuse us while we "explain the concept" (it's actually quite simple). The menu is a single menu affair - six courses for £45. You can choose a meat/fish option or a vegetarian option - in which case the two items that are most like main courses are swapped out. 

Here's what we had on the night:

roomGolden beetroots, glazed in beetroot molasses, Mexican marigold and shoyu - they were excellent, but we also tried an alternative of this dish below...

roomThis is the same as the dish above, but with the beetroot replaced by tomatoes. We preferred this version but it shows how the meal changes depending on the produce available. 

roomCharred white artichokes, Stichelton blue sauce and ruby kraut. This was hands down the dish of the night. The artichokes are left to slowly caramelise over the fire and at the end plunged into the coals for the charred exterior. Combine that with the rich sauce and it's truly extraordinary - elevating simple artichokes to something quite wonderful. 

roomGrilled cuttlefish, white kimchi, chicory and caramelised butter. The cuttlefish is used because its numbers have soared in recent years - but this dish didn't quite win us over - the texture of the cuttlefish was a little too much on the rubbery side. If you can, we'd say sub this for the carrot dish.  

roomBraised Fresian dairy cow, purple sprouting cauliflower (yes, that really is cauliflower, not broccoli) and buttermilk - the more sustainable side of beef eating, using cows that would normally go to waste. 

roomQuince ice cream, silo creme fraiche and grand fir - a light finish. 

And it's good for vegetarians?

Absolutely. As you can see, a large part of the menu is made of vegetables - and we think the carrot dish below was actually much better than the cuttlefish - so we'd recommend ordering that instead if you can. Here were the two main veg options on the night:

roomBarbecued carrots, egg yolk fudge and douglas fir. We'd already tried McMaster's carrots before, so we had an eye on this dish regardless. Well worth getting and that egg yolk pairs perfectly with the smoky carrots. 

roomVegetable prune, pumpkin seed pesto and coal oil. That "prune" is a slow-roasted beetroot, cooked to give it a similar consistency to the meat course. A great alternative if meat is not an option for you. 

How about drinks?

There is a printed drinks list, but as items are removed/sold, there are notations to indicate this - so this won't be reprinted often. But it's definitely a list worth working your way through.

Things kick off with several Empirical Spirit serves - what they bill as "cocktails as wine". Empirical develop "alcoholic flavours" (£7-7.50) - not based on any specific spirit, but something completely new. Worth a try if you haven't had them before - and we can definitely recommend "Helena 2.0" as a dessert wine alternative. Silo also have twists on classic cocktails (£10 - £12.50) from the always-reliable Mr Lyan and a range of non-alcoholic cocktails from Seedlip.

As for wine (bottles start at £29), these are all non-intervention in some form - ranging from organic to orange. The list is also split into four sections - Recognised Classics, Unfamiliar but Familiar, The Wild Bunch and Orange & Cider. Proceed along that list depending on how adventurous you want to be. We headed into the "Unfamiliar but Familiar" territory for a 2018 UBE Miraflores, Bodegas Cota, an excellent wine which started off close to a sherry taste and developed throughout the meal. We'd suggest putting yourselves in the hands of their sommelier and let her guide you to something new - or alternatively take the £50 drinks pairing which takes in cocktails, wine and cider.  

Overall thoughts

We had very high hopes for Silo. It's certainly one of the most interesting restaurants to open in London this year and with the no-waste movement building, it seems a perfect time for this restaurant to lead the charge. But whatever the ethos, a restaurant really only survives on great food, service and vibes - and we think Silo has all three of those in spades. A  genuinely interesting and enjoyable addition to the London dining scene.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Silo. Prices correct at time of publication. 


More about Silo

Where is it? The White Building, Unit 7, Queens Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Instagram @silolondon.


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