Published: 14/12/2020Market research is key to any business. In Mathew Carver's case this involved a trip to the States to uncover the most popular food trucks. He quickly realised his future lay in cheese, the grilled variety. Motivated by the long queues, he borrowed an old ice cream van from a friend and headed off to his first festival. An instant success, he became a regular on the scene, specialising in grilled cheese sandwiches, promoting the best of British cheese. His popularity grew to such an extent that the he was asked to ship his Bedford van to the U.A.E to partake in some street food festivals in the region, which became an annual event for the next 3 years.
During this time, Mathews' interest in cheese grew; he wanted to learn more about British cheese and ended up visiting farms across the country. From this an idea formed, to create a British cheese focused restaurant. In a week he had raised enough capital through crowdfunding to secure a venue in Camden, The Cheese Bar, which offers everything from fondues & raclette to mozzarella sticks.
Off the back of this venture he opened Pick and Cheese in Covent Garden, a conveyor belt restaurant with over 30 different British cheeses which are paired with a selection of wines. This feels like a modern twist for a typically conservative food, “I always wanted to draw a younger demographic to cheese and by experiencing it in a contemporary setting, I hope we are encouraging a new audience.” As well as the theatre goers, who must adore it.
With his restaurants unable to trade during the Lockdown and £10,000 worth of stock sat in the fridge, he quickly adapted the business to deliver orders around London. “With the first Lockdown people were generally more carefree and panic buying so we had lots of big orders” he says wistfully “In no time our stock had gone, so we began buying again and introduced mail orders around the UK.” Just as this was taking off, the lockdown was lifted and the restaurants reopened briefly, before closing again with the second wave.
“We realised that in the absence of our restaurants we would like somewhere to showcase our cheese and wines in a more typical fromagerie and somewhat lockdown proof setting.”
So what made you look in Shoreditch?
“We always wanted somewhere in East London, there isn’t a specifically cheese focused shop in East. The culture is so explorative that we felt it was the perfect place to get people engaging in our produce.”
You’ve been on Columbia Road for a month now, how has it been?
“Fantastic, the locals have been incredibly accepting and appreciative.” Appreciative? “I think it's nice that we are open all week and so become part of the social fabric of the community.”
So what’s next for you? A pandemic doesn’t appear to have stopped you, if anything it's inspired you to grow.
“I guess it has, it’s all about adapting and not being scared of change. I’m excited, we’ll finally be opening our third restaurant which is situated on a barge in Paddington in January and I will also be judging the World and British cheese awards again next year.”
How did that come about?
“I was approached a few years back, I think they wanted to bring in new blood and eyes to the competition. I’m always blown away by the quality out there.”
In just 6 years with the aid of a humble Bedford van, Matthew will have opened three restaurants and one shop. His unexpected journey of discovery with British cheese has not only enabled a successful business but helped British Dairy farmers be recognised as pioneering cheese makers.
Mathews top Christmas Cheese - The Cheese bar has teamed up with Village Maid to create a one off cheese especially for Christmas, The Sherry Loo.
Funk - The Cheese Bar - is situated on 142 Columbia Road, Shoreditch, E2 7RG