Unit 7, The White Building,

1st Floor, c/o CRATE Bar,

Unit 7 Queen's Yard,

London E9 5EN


The Food:                                                  

Siloaf, butter

Quavers, vegetable treacle and goats’ cheese

Leeks with cuttlefish garum

Atlantic edge oysters with pickled seaweed

Savoy cabbage with sea buckthorn and pine

Beetroot with black garlic and preserved pumpkin

Celeriac with caramelized cream and cobnut

Koginut pumpkin, sour cream and Szechuan pepper

Oyster mushroom with allium and koji porridge

Panela ice cream with plum sauce and basil

Siloaf ice cream sandwich

The Wines:

NV Franck Pascal Champagne Brut Nature Fluence 88
2020 Domaine Lissner Wolxheim Riesling 89
2021 Ditcheat Hill Cider Single Orchard Selection NR
2009 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Faustine Rouge Sciaccarellu    92
NV Holzer & Holzer Fernet Hunter NR
NV Domaine de la Tournelle Macvin du Jura 84

If humankind is to avoid the same fate as the dodo and avoid turning a celestial body that overcame the gazillion-to-one odds of sustaining life into a lifeless rock, then we must accept that we are polluting ourselves into oblivion. The slowest mass suicide ever. So there is much talk about climate change and what we can do about it, strategies such as zero wastage. It’s a goal that is easy to talk about but much harder to put into practice, not least for the restaurant industry in terms of sourcing and transporting ingredients, all that packaging, gas and electricity required…


The Silo bar

Silo is purportedly the world’s first zero-waste restaurant. Chef Douglas McMaster, ex-St. John Bread and Wine, opened Silo in Brighton in 2015. When the five-year lease ran out, he relocated to Hackney Wick in East London, close to the Olympic Stadium. A friend suggested we visit. I felt some trepidation since I would surely be trespassing outside my gustatory comfort zone, notwithstanding the threat of…eek…natural wines. I packed sunglasses in case they were too orange and a bag of excuses if they were faulty.

But Silo was revelatory. It shifted my dietary horizons and surpassed expectations. That’s not to say everything hit the bull's eye, and plus ça change, I am not going to pull any punches in this respect. Yet Silo is an important fixture on London’s dining scene given its tenets. Because of this, the ramifications if we do talk about global warming instead of acting, this Vinous Table enters into unprecedented detail describing the lengths Silo has undertaken in achieving their aim, the practicalities to “close the loop.” I am indebted to general manager Dominique Easter for taking the time to furnish me with this information.

Quavers, vegetable treacle and goats’ cheese

Entering the restaurant, I admired the capacious minimalist interior, the centerpiece a long L-shaped counter behind which chefs busy themselves. Echoes of Edward Hopper, though in his famous painting, the menu was not beamed upon an entire rear wall. Aesthetically, it’s a wonderful space, with plenty of inter-table room without feeling empty. Perhaps my only quibble was the lack of signage for the loos, resulting in three of four of us queuing needlessly with crossed legs. We decided to order the entire menu since the dishes are designed for sharing. Before continuing, I should emphasize that this is not a vegan/vegetarian restaurant. Indeed, there was one venison dish on the menu that night. We exchanged this for a non-meat optional extra and the wine pairing menu.

We began with siloaf and butter. Siloaf? Never heard of that…but it was an awesome start that set the tone for the rest of the meal.

Leeks with cuttlefish garum

“We mill the flower in-house from YQ grain from Flourish farm,” Easter explains. “It is cut with the wild-farmed bread at a ratio of 10%. YQ is a heritage grain, taller than conventional wheat, and it has a stronger root system for foraging its own nutrients from the soil. It has a resilient yield as no two plants are the same, which means it will adapt to the environment and the season. The strongest grain thrives, and the weaker dwindles, meaning that the seed from each harvest evolves to become more suited to the farm that it's grown on. Each season it should produce a unique flavor, like wine. The current batch was harvested in 2022. The butter is cultured (soured) and churned in-house with cream from Hollis Mead Dairy in Dorset. [The cows] are 100% pasture fed at an organic dairy and delivered in beautiful pails that you can see under the stairs. No single-use packaging is used in the entire supply chain. The Cornish Sea Salt is smoked in the house over birch wood. The broth comes from surplus vegetables, their roots and skins, caramelized into a broth with dashi, rapeseed oil and thyme.”

Atlantic edge oysters with pickled seaweed

Next: quavers, vegetable treacle and goats’ cheese. They looked fairly innocuous, but they were stuffed full of flavor, and they had a tincture of something Japanese. My hunch was well founded. The quavers are made from a base miso mixed with a primary miso or garum. In this mix, we take a base of Yellow Split Pea Miso and blend it with a Dorstone garum, which is mixed with starch, dehydrated and then fried. The primary miso or garum in the quaver is made from collecting trim of previous cheese on the quaver. The vegetable treacle is made from reducing stock of various vegetable skins, roots and trims into a treacle-like consistency. The fresh (frozen) goats’ cheese is grated into a cloud over the top, and the overspray is diligently collected to make garums of the future. 

Celeriac with caramelized cream and cobnut

The third course was perhaps the simplest. Leeks seem de rigueur, and a fine leek needs no embellishment. “The leeks are provided by Flourish (see above) and steamed, while the cuttlefish garum is made from cuttlefish ink, koji and salt,” Easter explains. “At this point, the garum is three years old, and it’s a brilliant use of an abundant, native species to produce a fish sauce-like condiment. The onion top oil is made in batches out of any green onion tops we come across through the seasons.”

Koginut pumpkin, sour cream and Szechuan pepper

Bivalve time! These oysters were top notch with their tangy salinity, a little lighter in style than others recently enjoyed. “The rock oysters come from Pembrokeshire in South Wales where they practice ‘restorative aquaculture’. Around 150 billion oyster larvae are released every year to help repopulate wild stocks. This was started and run by Dr. Andy Woolmer, a marine biologist with a passion for oysters. The seaweed is baked for 15 mins at high temperature and blended with rapeseed oil.” 

Oyster mushroom with allium and koji porridge

Savoy cabbage with sea buckthorn and pine came next. Oo-er. I’m not a cabbage fan, not at all. But this was another lovely dish, and the cabbage seemed to have an uncommon sweetness. Easter shares, “The January King Cabbage comes from Flourish and is in peak season – dense, crunchy and juicy. It grows amazingly well in the wet and cold British autumn and winter weather. This dark green and purple-stained round cabbage becomes particularly sweet from months of winter growing. The Sea Buckthorn is foraged from coastline spots around the southeast of England, and here, we reduce the juice by half and season with our elderflower vinegar. The Pine Oil is likewise sourced, and the yogurt is made in-house from ‘Hollis Mead Milk’."

While no fan of cabbage, I am a beetroot fan, and this was served with black garlic and preserved pumpkin. “The beetroot, also from ‘Flourish’, is cooked overnight until chewy, then peeled and thinly sliced. The black garlic is from the blackening cupboard and held at 60° Celsius for three weeks, then blended into an emulsion, the cured and dehydrated pumpkin grated over the top and thereby closing the loop on last year’s excess,” Easter enlightens. 

Hot on its heels, celeriac with caramelized cream and cobnut. The combination of ingredients worked beautifully here. “The celeriac is from Flourish, and to use their own words, it is one of the unsung heroes of the vegetable world. It’s peeled, steamed, brined and roasted, while the sauce is made from gently reducing cream until it caramelizes and fresh cream is whisked in. The cobnuts come from Kent, an ancient British variety of hazelnut used at least since the Tudor period. It’s great to use products of perennial agriculture as it's vastly more sustainable than annual agriculture.”

Panela ice cream with plum sauce and basil

The flourish squash, sour cream and Szechuan pepper was one of the most eagerly awaited dishes and a highlight. The natural sweetness of the squash combined beautifully with the Szechuan pepper that, as it should, left the tongue tingling after swallowing. “The Koginut pumpkin is a hybrid squash of butternut and kabocha, and it offers the best of both in terms of sweetness, smooth texture, storability, yield and a built-in ripeness indicator to ensure it is picked for peak flavor. It takes 110 days to reach maturity. The pumpkin is peeled, carved, and then steamed, brined and smoked, its skins carefully cut into thin strips and pressure cooked with cider vinegar and sugar to produce a marmalade-like texture. The sour cream is from Hollis Mead, and the Szechuan spice mix is an equal blend of black pepper and Szechuan.” 

The other high point was the oyster mushroom with allium and koji porridge. I cannot remember the last time I tasted champignons as tender and flavorsome as these fellas.

“The mushrooms are from Merit, based in Elstree, and the Koji porridge is made of buckwheat koji. We sprout the quinoa in warm water for six hours and lightly steam it. Then it is cooled and inoculated with Aspergillus Oryzae spores which produce digestive enzymes that saccharify the quinoa, breaking down starches and proteins into their component sugars to impart natural sweetness. This is the base of all of our miso and garum production. Using the quinoa koji as a fresh product is a lovely way to show off the technique and flavor potential. The porridge is seasoned with amazake, another koji-based product and lacto-fermented mushroom trim juices. The final seasoning is done with a Meta dairy garum, a long ferment made of all kinds of surplus bits of dairy collected over time and fermented with koji.” 

We finish with two desserts. The Panela ice cream with plum sauce and basil was extraordinary. “The Panela sugar is from north of California in Colombia and shipped directly by boat to London, then transported by canal boat or bicycle to the restaurant. The plum syrup is made from last year's plums, and lemon basil oil is from last summer.” The syrup was rich but not overpowering, and the basil lent further freshness. It was absolutely brilliant, likewise the Siloaf ice cream sandwich, a fun way to end the evening and essentially closing the loop. “The beginning and the end,” Easter says. “The wafer is made from bran from milling the flour, not currently done in-house, from Wildfarmed. The ice cream is made from leftover toasted sourdough ends and Hollis Mead milk, while the ‘Dulce’ caramel is made from leftover buttermilk from churning the butter and soured milk.” There was something that reminded me of a childhood treat about this sandwich, sweet but balanced with an irresistible texture.  

Onto the wines. We began with a sparkler, the NV Champagne Brut Nature Fluence from Franck Pascal. The biodynamic Champagne is a blend of 54% Pinot Meunier, 26% Pinot Noir and 19% Chardonnay cultivated on flint and limestone soils, with no fining, filtering or acidification. This was a solid start, a feisty nose with Mirabelle and green apples. It’s perhaps not the most complex on the block but certainly clean and fresh. The palate is well-balanced with sharp acidity and admirable minerality, though I want a little more tension to sustain the finish. This was followed by the 2020 Riesling Wolxheim from Domaine Lissner from Bas-Rihn in Alsace, fermented in stainless steel with one year on the lees. With crushed stone and background quince and mandarin scents on the nose, I appreciate the attack and delineation. The palate offers impressive weight, not overly sweet, with grapefruit and peach skin notes towards the easy-going finish. 

So far, so good. Then a curveball as our sommelier forewarned that the next was not a wine but a cider. Hmm…that’s cheating. We signed up for wine-pairing. Whatever. The 2020 Cider Wilding from Ditcheat Hill is made from minimal intervention farming in the north of Somerset from a single orchard, a blend of 60% Ashton Brown Jersey and 40% Sweet Coppin varieties. Apparently, this was a great vintage for cider apples. This just did not work for me. The cider does not smell fresh, is a bit pongy, and is funky on the palate. Neither of us could drink more than two or three sips before shoving our glasses aside and praying for a return to fermented grape juice.

We did, and with some style. The 2009 Faustine from Domaine Comte Abbatucci was poured from magnum and turned out to be the surprise showing of the night. This is a blend of Niellucciu and Sciaccarello grown in the Tarvo Valley, biodynamic since 2000, with minimal intervention. Glorious! Black plum, basil, mulberry and black olives on the nose that retain freshness and delineation. The palate is quite structured yet not heavy, the acidity neatly counterbalancing the layered black fruit. There is Corsican warmth in every mouthful, still youthful considering its age, with an almost Tannat-like finish. I loved it and wished I could have ordered another glass.

We finished with two wines that are rather out there, which is fine if they give sensory pleasure. I just could not get on with the Fernet Hunter from Holzer & Holzer made in Brunnwald in Austria, and transported in large reusable containers to avoid waste. This take on Italian amaro is really just not my thing. We finished with a NV Macvin de Jura from Domaine de la Tournelle in Arbois made from 100% Chardonnay that is biodynamically grown. The Macvin is made by boiling to reduce the Chardonnay and then fortified with brandy before aging in oak casks without fermentation. The nose is pungently oxidative, and it threatens to kill our delicious desserts. For the second time, glasses were put aside, and I began yearning for a lovely dry Jurançon or maybe a South African straw wine instead.

The Silo menu wall

Silo made a big impression. They are taking on the seemingly insurmountable challenge of zero waste and proving that can be achieved without compromising quality. Perhaps such a policy nudges dishes in a different direction that enhances the originality of flavors and textures. On several occasions, I thought: “I’ve never had anything quite like that.” Part of me is yearning to go back – the litmus test of any good restaurant. It will be interesting to see whether other restaurants in an industry already being accused of flagrant waste adopt similar policies. There’s a lot to be learned. It’s clear that at Silo, nothing goes to waste. Everything that can be recycled is done so, often ingeniously. Taking the train home, I vowed that when I return to Silo, I’ll cycle from Guildford. Maybe.

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