Silo is a zero-waste restaurant based in Hackney Wick in London. The concept was started by chef Doug Mcmaster in 2012 in Melbourne as a pop-up, and Doug later moved to England opening Silo as a restaurant in 2014. Silo has received international acclaim for its zero-waste approach, and we couldn’t be more excited at partnering with them this year.
With a background in fine-dining, Doug felt there was something missing, and has since dedicated his energy to a question posed to him by a mentor and Zero waste visionary Joost Bekker, “would it be possible to have a restaurant without a bin?” Doug outlines the 3 underlying principles of having a totally waste free restaurant in his inspirational book, “Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint”. Principle number one is to get everything directly from nature or the origin of where that food is born (for example: vegetables straight from veg farms, dairy from the dairy farm), avoiding any unnecessary packaging and having everything delivered in large reusable vessels. This circular, direct supply chain is fundamental to Silo’s principle. The second is whole food preparation, being that everything is made from scratch, jobs like: milling flour, churning butter, fermenting food scraps. The 3rd concept is composting, be it food scraps / cardboard / paper, which then all goes back to farm where food grows, becoming food for the new crops, veg soil etc. This closed loop is what enables Silo to have ‘no bin’, symbolic in essence for an entire food system. Doug descries waste as “a failure of the imagination”, which is inspiring in every way.
An inspiring part of Silo’s ‘closed loop’ can be seen upstairs in the restaurant, where you can find Mark, aka ‘Potters Thumb’. Mark takes all the glass bottles aside: wine, spirits, and crushes them into a very fine sand. He then transforms them into usable ceramics, like the light fittings you can see on the walls in Silo.
SILO & SEEDLIP
Seedlip & Silo share a mutual respect for the natural world, the abundance of what it provides, and how much knowledge we can absorb from it. Stephen Muttley runs the bar at Silo, and has worked in hospitality for 20 years, previously working at Lyaness. We spoke to Stephen about our partnership with Silo and Seedlip, the process of creating “zero-waste” cocktails, his inspiration behind the drinks and lots more.
Why are Silo & Seedlip coming together this year?
Having worked with Seedlip in previous venues for many years, I’ve found that the flavour profiles of the 3 expressions of Seedlip (Spice 94, Garden 108 & Grove 42) are excellent to create flavourful non-alcoholic cocktails. Each expression has a lot to say for itself, and offers a punchy base and depth of flavour to make really quality, sophisticated drinks. At Silo we offer a wine pairing for each course of our tasting menu, and for the last few months I’ve worked on creating a non-alcoholic option for those not wanting to drink alcohol but still wanting to opt for the food & drink pairing element.
Why do you think it’s important to have non-alcoholic serves at Silo?
Having non-alcoholic alternatives is a must have for any bar or restaurant. Everybody deserves to have tasty drinks regardless of the alcohol content, and plus because of the people we get coming to Silo, many are often interested in being conscious of consumption in all respects. Food & flavour are such important rituals in life, not necessarily always with alcohol. Our new serves offer that same pairing experience, just alcohol free.
I’d like to hear a bit about your inspiration behind the Seedlip serves.
I have always come from a cocktail background, and since starting at Silo it has been a learning process for me to understand the environment that I am now working in. Natural wines are a huge part of what we do here at Silo, probably second most important to our dishes, so I knew this was exactly where I wanted to go with the Seedlip serves. Each one is served chilled, straight up in a chilled wine glass, with no ice or garnish. People often associate pairing different wines with food, but there is so much to be said when you begin to match cocktail flavours and food.
They sound exciting already. Could you talk me through the process of making the drinks?
At Silo, we all work as a team. It is fundamental to the zero-waste principal. I work closely with the chefs in our open kitchen to understand what ingredients they are using, constantly thinking about what I could do with excess parts of any ingredient. With our Seedlip serves, I wanted to create one focus ingredient that would pair with each expression.
Last summer in 2021, we had a lemon basil oil on the menu, which was herbal and fragrant. I took the stalks from the lemon basil that the kitchen didn’t need and made a kombucha with them. Preservation is an amazing technique that aligns with the processes here at Silo, plus the taste was perfect for the first drink, the ‘Meta Fresh’. Made using Seedlip Garden 108, it is ultra fresh and tastes like an exotic garden.
I also made a kombucha from fennel fronds (the leafy bits attached to the stalks) and offcuts that the chefs didn’t use. It took about 5 weeks to make this ingredient, but is the perfect accompaniment to Seedlip Grove 42 in the ‘Cloning Orange Wine’.
Another process that was satisfying to work on was the preserved apple in the ‘From Malawi with Love’. I tried to use ingredients that grow in abundance and then use the entire thing. The preserved apple was done by making a salt water and honey solution and leaving the apple to lacto ferment for a few days. I then juiced the apple, blended that with the brine, and made a syrup from the apple skins. I then blended it altogether and it just works so well with the Seedlip Grove 42. I also love working with likeminded companies who are pioneers in ethically sourcing and manufacturing ingredients, like the Malawi steamed green tea from Rare Tea Co, or the huge vats of clarified juices we get from DC Williamson. This ensures we have no waste as they come in 20kg reusable vats!
Which is your favourite of the 4 Seedlip drinks?
That’s a tricky one, as each one is so different! I would have to go with the “Cloning Orange Wine” made with the fennel kombucha. I’m most proud of that one as it has such a resemblance to orange wine, which I’m a big fan of.
What has been your favourite moment since starting at Silo?
Genuinely there are so many different ones, but I would probably have to (as cheesy as it sounds) call out the incredible and inspiring team I work with every day. It is an unbelievable community of likeminded people who have the same mindset when it comes to waste, food, and flavour. It’s an amazingly creative environment to work in.
A highly memorable moment for me personally was during lockdown when we only had the small Silo shop open for locals and passers-by. We often had local foragers come by, and one day we had a couple who brought in some Japanese cherry blossom they had found about 100m from the restaurant. They were so passionate, and kindly left me some from which I made a beautiful syrup that has an almost almond like flavour. They also opened my Google Maps app to drop a few pin locations on where to find it again. Yeah, that was pretty cool. Overall, starting at Silo really has made me reassess how I make a drink from start to finish.
I had the most wonderful time dining at SILO and chatting to Stephen, Doug, and the team. The Seedlip drinks are available with the tasting menu from now, so if you are interested visit them in Hackney Wick, their website is https://silolondon.com/, and you can see Doug’s book “The Zero Waste Blueprint” online and on many shops around London. Thank you Silo for the ever inspiring attitude and concept.
Seedlip GB Brand Ambassador