From ensuring zero-waste in its kitchen to using repurposed furniture in its interiors, Silo is a new-age restaurant that’s taking brave steps towards creating a sustainable and ethical eating place.
Based in Brighton, Silo is one of UK’s first restaurants to adopt a zero-waste approach to the commercial food making process.
While it’s tempting to roll eyes in cynicism, even suspicion, at the grand claim of ‘zero-waste’, there’s enough evidence to prove that Silo’s founder – Douglas McMaster has gone beyond mere tokenism and has created a restaurant that is genuinely sustainable and ethical in its functioning.
In McMaster’s kitchen, all food that enters is either consumed or converted into biodegradable compost. His zero-waste philosophy is not confined to the kitchen alone; the restaurant’s interiors too echo the revolutionary concept with bare walls, naked bulbs, unfinished timber flooring, overturned crates and repurposed furniture.
McMaster’s resolve to not be wasteful is further reflected in his open kitchen that is minimal and practical with tableware that includes old glass jars that serve as drinking glasses and mugs that double up as cutlery stands.
In many ways, Silo is a restaurant that harks back to the pre-industrial era when people were resourceful and used what was available or thought up new uses for old things.
For the interiors, McMaster found natural partners in Baines & Fricker, a local design firm with a passion for ‘long-lasting design’ and ‘an ability to elevate the mundane and unremarkable’. “Douglas McMaster wanted an overall design that was pure, raw, undone and in keeping with the philosophy of his food,” elaborate the husband-wife team of Baines & Fricker, a firm recognised in Brighton for its robust, utilitarian furniture.
Staying true to the brief of zero-waste, the designers contacted ‘Freegle’, a not-for-profit community group who ‘use and share unwanted goods’. Through this group the duo managed to locate old school desks that they then repurposed into tables, benches and chairs for the restaurant.
The designers add, “The tables were topped with off-cuts of tiles used to create floating floors in offices. We simply cleaned the tiles up and butted them together to make the required length.” These are further coupled with modular stools and chairs made from sterling board (OSB).
The designers have nailed the raw, rustic look in the interiors with the addition of coarse, white-brick walls and unfinished timber flooring. “Everything was produced from abundant, readily available materials and follows the restaurant’s belief in using everything including the overlooked,” they share.
The design firm’s resourcefulness is a quality to be admired, although the comfort quotient of the wooden, utilitarian furniture leaves us wondering. “It is as comfortable as any un-upholstered chair or stool,” reason the designers.
Perhaps the real question here is whether the restaurant’s patrons are willing to sacrifice comfort and luxury for a reduced carbon footprint; are diners finally ready for a paradigm shift in the whole eating-out experience?
Since completing the interiors for Silo, Baines & Fricker admit there’s been a spike in the demand for repurposed furniture. They say, “We have been contacted several times regarding both commercial and residential projects.” So, the ‘repurposed’ trend is obviously catching on.
In its first avatar, Silo started off as a pop-up restaurant in the Sydney Harbour inside old shipping containers and with a kitchen garden on its roof. Now at Brighton, McMaster has thought of everything.
He serves seasonal, local food, grinds wheat for making bread, trades directly with farmers, grows his own mushrooms, brews his own alcohol and e-mails receipts to save paper.
Most importantly, he maintains a broad network of ethical farmers, growers, waste management groups, tea merchants, beans to bar cacao producers and coffee roasters who work together without ‘waste’. “In our journey to achieve zero waste we discovered primitive food systems that not only support our package-free lifestyle but has led to a way of preparing food in its wholest form,” he adds.
McMaster is a lot like the thrifty grandmother we all know, except he’s got the edge; his vision is backed by technology that helps him install an expensive filtration system to produce electrolyzed alkaline and acidic water; or link waste water from the coffee machine to the toilet’s flush tanks; or speed up composting with a machine.
Is it possible then for a commercial restaurant to be ethical and profitable at the same time? It’s still too early to predict if Douglas McMaster will end up being wildly successful or not, although one thing is for sure: he’ll definitely be earning lots of goodwill from Mother Nature.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Lisa Devlin Courtesy of Seen PR