Rind, Austwick: Why cheese expert Mathew Carver has opened his first restaurant outside London in Yorkshire
With a string of London restaurants to his name, including one boasting the world’s first cheese conveyor belt offering, Mathew Carver’s first venture outside of the capital being hundreds of miles north in the Yorkshire countryside has come as something of a surprise - even to him.
Carver, who runs The Cheese Bar, The Cheese Barge and Pick & Cheese (of conveyer belt fame) in London, has just opened Rind on the outskirts of Austwick near Settle after investing around £250,000 into creating the new 40-seater pizza restaurant in Yorkshire.
He says he was talked into the idea – eventually – by friend and long-term supplier, Andy Swinscoe, who is the founder of The Courtyard Dairy cheese shop, which Rind is situated next to.
"It wasn’t my idea, Andy coerced me,” laughs Carver when asked by The Yorkshire Post how the new restaurant has come about.
"We have been in business for nine-and-a-half years now. As a business we champion British cheese and work with lots of small cheesemakers and small farms, sourcing all the cheese direct. So we have had a really strong relationship with the cheese industry and Andy is widely regarded as one of the Gods of British cheese, the work he does is incredible.”
But Carver admits he took some convincing – initially turning down an offer to work in a cafe space in The Courtyard Dairy. Rind is instead housed in an old falconry centre on the site which has recently been converted.
Carver explains: "He had this cafe in the roof of the cheese shop that had been there for a few years and during Covid they had to close it. His business moved quite heavily into mail order and he asked us if we would be interested in opening it ourselves.
"I really liked the association with Andy but the cafe space before didn’t have any windows. For me, a restaurant should be about an experience and offering customers something they can’t get at home.
"Because it didn’t have any windows I felt like it was missing something. Then he got back in touch because he was building this new extension.
"I came up to have a look at it and just fell in love with it. It is everything about it, it is the site itself and the views are incredible. Andy is the perfect person to be associated with and it is a really nice partnership.
"We talked to some our team back in London about it and I had lots of people volunteer to move up and work in it for at least a year. It is a good opportunity to come up and learn a lot about cheeses and visit quite a lot of cheesemakers up here. In London, it is hard to find the time to come up and meet the cheesemakers in the North.”
Rind is offering seasonal British cheese-topped pizzas, cheese boards and a list of natural wines to customers, with its menu revolving around a wood-fired oven at the heart of the restaurant.
The menu features a half Lancashire, half Wensleydale pizza – a nod to the neighbouring counties’ historic rivalry – as well as making good use of The Courtyard Dairy’s array of locally sourced small-producer cheeses.
Carver says: "Three really strong members of our team are moving up who I trust absolutely implicitly. If we hadn’t had them moving up here, I don’t think we would have done it because you want the restaurant to have the culture of your other sites.
"I want to give customers really great food at a really affordable price.
"We have restaurants in London but there are also our food trucks and have worked in lots of places around the UK. We've actually found that people want a cornerstone of a menu that is accessible and multi-generational that a five-year-old to a 70-year-old could enjoy. Pizza is going to be the cornerstone of this menu and you can execute it really well and offer at a really good price point.”
He reveals that he has gone over his original budget for the site due to a determination to get it absolutely right for diners.
"I started out thinking we are going to spend £150,000 and no more and then before you know it, I’m up to spending £250,000 because I become a bit of a perfectionist. It is a long-term project and we are going to be here for the next 10 years. If I cut corners and buy chairs that were my second choice because my first choice was a bit more expensive, every day I come into the restaurant I’m going to think, ‘I should have got the chairs I actually wanted’. If you can financially afford it, then you should do it.
"Before I got into selling food, I studied furniture design. The one thing I really obsess about is the guest experience and how things made of quality enhance the experience. As the project progressed, I felt incredibly blessed by how beautiful the site is and just want to do it justice – even though it is expensive.”
The new site represents the latest impressive chapter in Carver’s career in the cheese industry.
Having worked selling food at music festivals as a student while studying furniture design, Carver says he “caught the hospitality bug”. After finding office life in the furniture design world wasn’t for him, he decided he wanted to run his own food stall.
"The cheese thing was quite serendipitous,” he says. “When I decided to start my own food stall, I didn’t have a particular connection or drive for anything. I went to America and street food culture was really taking off. In the end it was a commercial decision. The food trucks I saw with the biggest queues were the grilled cheese sandwich ones.
"I went to a restaurant in San Francisco called Mission Cheese which promoted small producer American farmstead cheeses. I found that really interesting because I had in my head that cheese in America was the plastic stuff.
"When I came back and told people about my idea I found it quite jarring that lots of my friends would always name European cheeses not British cheeses. I got a bit fixated on researching it. We have this amazing culture of making great cheeses in the UK but it is not really known that well. It is championed more than it was but a lot of the industry is the same people and I really wanted to engage young people."
The business started out as a truck selling cheese toasties at festivals and offering wedding catering.
"We did that for three-and-a-half years and then opened our first restaurant in Camden Market in 2017. Then our second one at the end of 2019 just before Covid and a third one in 2021. During Covid we opened a small cheese and wine shop.”
Carver says one of his ambitions is to make the world of British cheese accessible to a larger audience.
"Our restaurant in Covent Garden has this conveyer belt like for sushi but for cheese. It had a bit of a Marmite effect on people in the industry who questioned whether it discredited the quality of the cheese. For me, it set out what we wanted to achieve because we get so many customers from around the UK and around the world who think it is cool and a motive to get them through the door.
"Then they read the menu and the details and when they leave they will say, they didn’t realise we made Mozzarella in the UK or Gouda-style cheese. It starts people on that journey and that is really rewarding. You are getting people to take an active interest in what is produced in this country.”
He says he is determined to make the new venture in Yorkshire a success.
"It was quite a tough decision for a few reasons. I didn’t want it to be seen as people from London coming to own a restaurant here. We wanted to ingrain ourselves in the local community and offer a really good experience we are proud of.”