UK restaurant Silo is pioneering a zero-waste policy that delights the taste buds of foodies and eco-activists alike.
Brighton is England’s San Francisco. Located on the sunny – well, sunny for the UK – south coast, it revels in its status as a liberal haven, populated by ex-Londoners so sick of the capital that they recreate it perfectly 70km south.
This is a good thing.
Brighton has plenty of world-class culture – from its rows of independent stores to the countless pubs that keep the city’s thirst at bay. Then, there are the distinct neighborhoods that give it so much character; from the gay village of Kemp Town to the yummy-mummy district of Hove, once an independent town in its own right.
Best of all is the North Laine (note the spelling), a barrio of closely packed streets lined with clothes stores, antiques shops, and cafes.
Silo could kick-start a food revolution
And it’s here you’ll find Silo, the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant – a place that could well kick-start a revolution in how both the public and the catering trade view food.
“We don’t have bins; all the food waste goes into the compost machine – even all our takeaway stuff is compostable,” says Av Padda, Development Manager at Silo. “Instead of getting bottles delivered, we use our own crates and jerry cans, which are taken away by dairies and wineries, filled up, and returned to us. Our milk arrives on Wednesdays in huge 25-liter cartons – it’s amazing.”
Silo was opened by chef Doug McMaster in 2014. Having founded Melbourne’s pioneering zero-waste restaurant, Silo by Joost, in 2012, he wanted to recreate something similar back home in England. Silo is the result.
Located on Upper Gardiner St, a short walk from Brighton’s railway station, Silo has a stark, modernist feel a little at odds with the pre-industrial ethos of the restaurant. Don’t be fooled however, the seats are made from recycled wood, while the drinks come in recycled jam-jar glasses. And dominating the entrance is a rumbling metal box that looks like something you’d wash a football team’s kit in. This is Silo’s famous composter.
“Everything goes into the composter“
“Everything goes in the composter,” says Padda. “It contains a micro-organism that turns the waste into acid compost in about 24 hours. We get allotment owners and gardeners coming here to pick it up so they can use it to grow their own food. It’s amazing!”
As well as the composter (or ‘aerobic digester’ as it’s properly called), there’s a beautiful, wooden milling machine in the entrance used by Silo to make flour for its incredible sourdough bread. Springy in texture and heavenly on the tongue, it tastes best slathered in some of Silo’s home-churned butter.
As you’d expect, vegetarians are looked after, but bits of meat appear on plates, too.
“We only have game and wild meat at the moment,” says Padda. “You have to cull deer as part of the farming process – otherwise, they’ll start to eat all the vegetables – so we take them from a nearby estate once they’re killed. We get a lot of offal in, too, which would just get thrown out. Soon, we’ll be serving beef, using what Doug’s called ‘old cows’ – dairy cows that are normally killed and disposed of. No one’s used them for beef before.”
The quality keeps Brightonians coming back
While the recycling element is what sets Silo apart, the quality of the food is what keeps Brightonians coming back. Whether that’s for the incredible slow-cooked eggs at breakfast or the cauliflower ‘steaks’ – people leave with that familiar satisfaction of a well-fed belly. And not throwing anything out means that diners experience flavors they’ve never tried before, either.
“Always remember, when you’re cooking a meal, that you can use everything,” says Padda. “With leeks, you have those furry bits on the end – we had a leek dish here where we cut them all off, then toasted them in rapeseed oil. They had this amazing floral flavor.”
At the moment, the only part of the restaurant that’s not 100% recycling is the restrooms, though this, too, should change soon. Av states that “at the moment, we use grey water – i. e. water that’s already been used. But in future we want to switch to compost toilets, although this might shock a few people. But compost toilets actually smell better than regular toilets. It won’t be like going out to the farm; it would still be very sleek.”
From Silo, you’d expect nothing less: Here, form and function really are inextricably linked, and all for the good of the planet.
Silo, 39 Upper Gardner Street, Brighton
Tel: +44 1273 674 259
Open all week, (8:30am-5pm Mon; 11pm Thurs-Sat; 10am-5pm Sun).
For more information, check out their website.