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Douglas McMaster: “I'd love to open Silo in London"

By Joe Lutrario , 01-Aug-2017
Last updated on 02-Aug-2017 at 17:18 GMT2017-08-02T17:18:16Z

Silo's Douglas McMaster: “Brighton is not the right place for us”

The zero waste chef on trying to move his Brighton restaurant to London, setting up a small plates restaurant with cocktail maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana and his ambition to run one of the world’s best restaurants. Silo opened on a quiet street within the North Laine area back in 2014 and serves a menu created using a "pre-industrial food system". 

We hear you just had some bad news on a restaurant deal...

Yes. We’ve been in negotiations for the last two years on an incredible site in London. It was the dream space for Silo, an ethical development where Hackney Road meets Columbia Road opposite Hackney City Farm. The deal was amazing: no premium and a rent of just £35,000 a year. But the development went under. There were problems with both planning permission and investment. It’s a real shame.

So you want to move Silo to London, then?

Yes probably. I don’t think it would be possible to run two Silos simultaneously and I would not want to either. I’m not in this business for the money and that would be the only reason to have two. But now the new site has fallen through I’m not sure what we’re going to do. We’d need a huge amount of cash behind us to open in London. Silo needs a lot of space. It works as a business because we offset our high staff costs by saving on food costs - we don’t buy anything in at all. To mill flour and churn butter in bulk you need space, which is problematic in the capital.

Why move it to London?

What we’re trying to do is progressive. Brighton has been a beautiful three years of getting it wrong then getting it right and we’re doing well but Brighton does not have the contemporary food culture that’s needed to take Silo to the next level. I’ve applied the fundamental ideas including making everything in house and being zero-waste, but I want to serve crazy dishes that are fit for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. To make Silo work as a business I’ve had to run it as an all day restaurant that incorporates a coffee house and a bakery. If I took it to London I’d focus on lunch and dinner and probably have a tasting menu, but I’d also allow diners to buy dishes from that menu individually.

So why choose Brighton in the first place?

I was 26 and I could not afford London. I had no money and everyone in London was asking for £100,000 premiums and a £100,000 rents. I went down to Brighton and found a great site that I could open for £40,000.  

How are the preparations for Cub going? 

Okay. We open at the end of the month so I need to get on top of it. It’s not a big restaurant. Mr Lyan and I were inspired by what the guys at P Franco are doing, it’s a tiny little kitchen with two induction hobs and no extraction that will be run by just one chef. That one chef will be me for the first three months. I’ll get it up and running and hopefully make a bit of noise about the project. In that time we will look for another person to take the reins. I can only commit for three months as I don’t know what’s happening with Silo.

What’s on the menu?

I haven’t written it just yet. It will be simple, casual and very affordable. Each dish will be paired with a cocktail. The food won’t be that similar to what we do in Brighton. Silo has its own systems and philosophy. You can’t inject a site with Silo but you can inject a site with me and how I think about food. It will be thought-provoking cookingthat is delicious. I’ll take the food at Cub seriously, but how I get there wouldn’t be anything like Silo.