THE BAR OF THE FUTURE
IS IN BRIGHTON
The most unusual and innovative restaurant in the world has just opened its doors in the city of Brighton, a quick two hours drive from London. But is that even possible, and if so, how? First of all, this bar operates on the premise of zero waste, and consequently approaches certain things from a different angle in order to achieve this, from the handling of food and leftovers even down to the selection of furniture. Yes, you heard right. Zero point zero waste. And that’s not all.
Zero point zero waste. And that’s not all…
In Silo, people eat from plates made out of recycled plastic bags and drink from glass jam jars. Receipts are sent to customers electronically via email only and the toilets are flushed using grounds from the coffee machines. Soap and detergent are swapped out for electrolyzed water, an alternative sanitation method that effectively kills pathogens, even on food. Electricity will be powered by solar panels soon enough as well.
With his restaurant, Douglas McMaster puts a sophisticated concept into practice that only a few people worldwide have dared to tackle so far. He himself describes it as a ‘pre industrial food system.’ That simply means returning back to the roots.
The restaurant has its own grain mill, and certain products such as yoghurt, butter, almond and nut milks, are all made in house. Even chocolate is produced here, from the cacao bean all the way to the chocolate bar.
Silo is a little old fashioned in how it handles delivery, storage and recycling, but in a positive way and for good reason. McMaster is critical of today’s food industry and the general disrespect it has towards food and the environment. Before founding Silo, the 29 year old chef already had 12 years of experience in upscale restaurants under his belt, he was always aware of the extreme and unbelievably unnecessary waste and knew he wanted to do it better.
While living in Melbourne, Australia, McMaster met Joost Bakker, a floral artist very deeply rooted in nature and sustainability. To this day, McMaster says Joost is his biggest inspiration; together, they designed the concept for Silo and ensured that everything from food to furnishings was thought out and examined through a sustainable lens. Respect and awareness across all affected areas, like the environment, handling of food, and manufacturing processes, form Silo’s foundation. Instead of importing food that is not locally available, thus circumventing nature’s processes or manipulating it to align to our needs (something which has become common practice today), Silo works in harmony with nature. It only prepares what is locally and seasonally available; nature determines the menu.
Ingredients that are homegrown and homemade
Silo has its own plot of land for its sheep to roam and fruits and vegetables to grow. The restaurant has its own grain mill, and certain products such as yoghurt, butter, almond and nut milks are all made in house. Even chocolate is produced from the cacao bean all the way to chocolate bar. McMaster and his employees ferment their own vinegar and alcoholic beverages. What the company cannot make itself is then purchased directly from producers in the surrounding area and with reusable containers only. No intermediary necessary.
The selection of dishes is less varied than in most restaurants. There are six main courses to choose from. One with meat, one with fish, at least one is vegan, and several are vegetarian. Specials complement the ever changing menu.
One might think that Silo would only offer purely vegan or vegetarian dishes, but McMaster finds the consumption of animal products harmless as long as it’s done sustainably. When it comes to meat, the restaurant follows a ‘head to tail’ philosophy, meaning they use as much of the animal as possible. This gives everyone the option to choose what works for them. The transparent selection prevents food waste right from the start. If there are 40 dishes on the menu, the ingredients for all 40 dishes would also need to be readily available; you can imagine how many of those ingredients that are always kept in stock but not often used eventually end up in the garbage.
Bertha , the compost machine, takes care of all things organic
Biological waste is the one thing that is not entirely preventable. That’s where ‘Bertha’ comes in. She’s a composting device placed visibly at the entrance of the restaurant that can process food waste into compost overnight. If the amount of compost produced is larger than required for their own garden, Silo gives the excess compost away, incentivizing its customers to try out their own vegetable garden. Restaurant patrons are also allowed to bring their compostable waste from home and feed it to Bertha.
The thoughtfulness and transparent dining experience are what Silo’s customers seem to value most. Many of the processes can be observed, as the kitchen is built as an open room. Silo’s transparency is also exemplary; there is nothing to hide here, just things that should be copied or adopted by other restaurants.
Silo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It even received this year’s OMF Award for the “Best Ethical Restaurant.”