I first went to Douglas McMaster’s Silo restaurant before lockdown (pictured above with the original tasting menu) intrigued to find out how a restaurant without a bin would operate. Mostly what I learnt was that it produces some absolutely stunning food and that food waste, indeed any kind of waste, is wholly unnecessary. For more on Douglas’ approach to eliminating food waste, click here. In this post we are focusing on the food, which is incredibly simple yet in the same breath quite unfathomably exquisite in terms of flavours. The menu seems to adhere to a kind of Japanese-style minimalism of sticking to three main ingredients and flavours and making each of them mouth-wateringly divine especially in combination with each other.
When he re-opened post-lockdown with a food-wine bar concept I was back like a shot and I knew exactly which friends I would bring with me. They, like me, practically live for good food and wine and I knew they would appreciate it. I wasn’t wrong. My friend Imogen is even talking of coming back for her birthday she liked it so much. She also tried to sweet talk the waiter/chef into letting her spend a whole day there. Actually he seemed pretty happy to have her, but we weren’t sure quite how serious he was…
Silo is a little difficult to find, so allow an additional five minutes for getting lost if you haven’t been before. I got lost the first time and must have gone round in circles a few times before finally finding the entrance up a black-painted iron staircase along the riverside. My friend Imogen ended up queuing for the brewery below before she realised she was in the wrong place and her husband Tim randomly showed up in the Silo toilets completely disorientated by having come in some strange back entrance. By chance Imogen had decided to use the facilities before dinner, and, as it is a unisex set-up, was able to rescue Tim in the process.
Finally united at the table we were able to peruse the menu. What we really liked about the new concept was that all the food came quickly so we could treat it as a kind of order-as-you go menu. We started with the wine – got to get your priorities right! This proved to be quite a find. I could see Imogen’s eyes light up when she did the honours of tasting it, so I knew we were onto something good.
The wine list was extensive especially as all the wines on it were from low intervention vineyards and winemakers. I had no idea how diverse these wines already were. Hats off to the team who put the list together! We picked an unusual Sicilian white wine, which turned out to be the house favourite. Honestly, it tasted like liquid gold and slipped down an absolute treat. It had a surprisingly strong apple flavour to it for a wine as well as a floral fragrance. When it came to ordering another bottle, despite our normally curious tendencies, we all agreed it had to be another bottle of the same.
Eventually, encouraged by our lovely servers, we tore our attention away from the wine to decide on food. One thing I knew from my first visit that you can’t miss out on is the Siloaf and aged butter. It sounds simple, but you won’t get a bread and butter better anywhere else. It comes warm so be prepared to get stuck straight in. Murmurs of appreciation were heard all round, not for the first or last time that evening.
This was followed by a carrot crudité and fig leaf dip made from the fig leaves at the bottom of the stairs we’d found so difficult to find (not because they were concealed by fig leaves!). We enjoyed all of the following dishes:
- Preserved tomato, fresh curds, smoked whey
- Cuttlefish kebab with umami dipping sauce (this dish changed Imogen’s mind about cuttlefish being boring)
- Hot 4 U pancake, smoked pumpkin, Szechuan sour cream (only slightly spicy despite the Szechuan element to it so it doesn’t destroy the wine)
But the most extraordinary dish of all was the smoked potatoes, brown butter hollandaise. It sounds relatively normal and we almost didn’t order it for that reason, but these were no ordinary potatoes. These had metamorphosed into something wholly other. Somehow they had almost turned into ham. I’m not sure what it was beyond the smoking process that had done this to them, but they were rich, juicy, smooth and most definitely hammy, but somehow even better than ham itself, which can be a bit dry and flakey.
Safe to say, we had a wonderful evening, helped along by our very friendly, knowledgeable and clearly hugely passionate servers, and will definitely be coming back.