A few months ago, when it was all kicking off at work (well you try opening a hotel during a pandemic), the leadership team and I decided that we should go out to celebrate another week of Brexit-instigated freight delays, COVID-related staffing issues and the general sense of unending insecurity which keeps us happily on our toes.
Fast forward to November, as I write this, and it has all paid off. The hotel – the first Westin the UK – is open, busy and in good spirits. We can all breathe out a collective sigh of relief. Nevertheless, we never made it out for dinner as a team, at least not yet. Things were always just a little too crazy to get all eight of us together outside of the hotel.
The place we had thought about going to was Pick & Cheese at Seven Dials Market. Part of The Cheese Bar group, this is one of those eccentric ideas that suits London down to the ground and offers a dose of nostalgia harking back to the Hipster era of the early 2010s, where all manner of weird and wonderful foodie ventures ideas were taking off. Truth be told, Pick & Cheese is nothing new, and has been open since 2019.
F.O.M.O. kicking in, and with no sign of the leadership team agreeing a date to venture off to Covent Garden, there was only one thing for it. I summoned The European, who had a rare day off work in the awful job she has now thankfully ankled. Last-minute reservations in awesome places around town are like gold dust at the moment. Pick & Cheese was one of the only places on my hitlist able to accommodate our same-day reservation.
Despite Seven Dials Market offering a multitude of bars and food stalls and thronging with people on this warm Tuesday evening in September, Pick & Cheese was not hard to spot. And not hard to smell, either, as the tart aromas of fromagerie wafted across the upper level of the arcade. The big neon ‘Pick & Cheese’ sign glows bright yellow (obviously), beckoning you forward. And then you spot the conveyor belt.
The eccentricity of Pick & Cheese is that it offers small plates of cheese (paired with a garnish) and charcuterie ‘YO! Sushi’-style, meandering their way away around bar seating and booths on a looped, delicious conveyor belt. Different coloured plates denote cost (from £2.95 to £5.25), and the transparent cloches are crowned with numbers, so you know what you are ordering. There are a few off-the-belt dishes, including grilled cheese sandwiches and baked Tunworth (“England’s answer to Camembert”), which cost a little more but are probably more filling than the morsels whizzing around the cheese bar.
I would not know what the grilled cheese or Tunworth would taste like, as we absolutely rinsed the conveyor belt and ignored everything else. Eyes bigger than our stomachs, we turned a concept infinitely more suitable to drinks and nibbles or apéro into a full-blown dinner. The cured meats and cheeses were flowing. The menu is almost completely sourced and produced in the UK, but don’t let that put you off. Highlights included truffled Baron Bigod, Achari spiced salami, Devil’s Mortar (a spiced pork fat, similar to ‘nduja), ham cured in a burnt orange, rum and treacle glaze, Coolea with a clotted cream fudge, St. Ella with rose Turkish Delight, and Beauvale with pear & cider brandy jam. All were served with ample crackers.
To finish, we took a couple of whipped Rosary goats’ cheese doughnuts with apricot & vanilla jam. For The European, this sweet-yet salty ball of complex goodness was the highlight of the evening (apart from my company of course).
All this excellence was washed down with a reasonably priced and excellent bottle of Sangiovese, a smooth Italian red which never disappoints when paired with this kind of food. The evening was helped along by excellent staff. I was particularly impressed with the team working here because in principle, they did not have to do much. They could sit us down, serve us drinks, and disappear until the time comes to pay. Instead, everybody was – without exception – friendly, checked on us and could not do enough to help us feel at home and explain the idiosyncrasies of the concept.
At the end of the evening your plates are collected, and the server does some impressive mental arithmetic. All in all, we paid about £hundred, including drinks (service isn’t included, so we tipped in cash). Like any conveyor-belt restaurant, things can get deceptively expensive quite fast – your best bet is to go on a Wednesday evening, when it is bottomless plates for £twenty-two per person – we paid just under £hundred for the privilege.
And I say a “Privilege,” because Pick & Cheese was a brilliant night out and worth every penny. The leadership team would love it, although they would not have been at all jealous of missing out on the stomachs like concrete we carried like badges of honour, as we made our way back home.