Food review: Say Cheese, Shrewsbury - four stars
Toasted cheese. Yum. What’s not to like about savoury, satisfying, meltingly good cheese. Savvier food nations go nuts for the stuff. As, indeed, do more fashionable parts of the UK, where you’re able to buy toasted Swiss cheese for £6 a pop. And now, ladies and gentle-eaters, Shropshire is cottoning onto that trend.
Say Cheese is a newly opened sandwich bar at the top of Shrewsbury’s Wyle Cop. It opened a few weeks back at premises that were formerly a sushi bar. As the name suggests, it specialises in one dish: the humble cheese toastie. And while it still has a long way to go if it’s to fulfil its undoubted potential, it’s made an impressive start in life.
Say Cheese has been beautifully designed. It looks as though the team behind it were smart with their money; so they created lights where the bulbs were encased in old cheese graters. The walls are festooned with famous mice – from Mickey, to, erm, I can’t think of any others, but there were evidently dozens down the years. Who knew.
The counter is similarly adorned with all things cheesey. There’s a huge, nicely-designed super mouse in the window, a book of cheese jokes – the sort of sub-par cheese puns that would make Jimmy Carr gag; you know the sort of thing: ‘Who was Everton’s MBE-winning goalie? Breville Southall. Actually, I just made that one up. It’s not really in the book. But you get the gist. Even the chairs are a vivid shade of cheesey-yellow.
The best part is the rack of mice traps on a wall. Cute. And if you’re a mouse tempted to go wall-climbing, beware; those things will snap your legs and leave you to die a slow and painful death. There ain’t no cheese at the end of that rainbow.
It’s an in-and-out sort of place. The drinks are decent, from craft beer and prosecco – oh, darlink, we are do decadent with our cheese toastie and fizz – to decent soft drinks and Nespresso coffee. And the opening hours are to suit workers and shoppers; with cheese on tap from 8am to 5pm.
Varied and delicious
There’s a range of toasties to get you through the day; from a cheese, bacon, egg and ketchup toastie in the morning to a pulled pork and cheese number later in the day. When my partner and I called, we feasted on a chorizo and cheese toastie and the aforementioned pulled pork offering.
Thick white sliced was laden with a mix of cheddar, mozzarella and Red Leicester (I think) to give the cheese a winning combination of flavour, stringy texture and colour. They were tossed on the hot plate and pressed beneath an iron for three minutes then, voila, melted cheese.
They were delicious, as you might expect. The chorizo gave She Who Must Be Obeyed’s toastie a sweet, warming heat. A side of slaw with an acidulated pickle completed the dish. My pulled porker – I think that’s what it was called – was delish and had a ballsy, barbecue-ey flavour. It was utterly indulgent, awful for the waistline and we enjoyed every last mouthful.
Right, there’s still 500 words to go, but let’s get onto the marks. Say Cheese is fun. It’s cool. It’s convenient and decent and I hope to goodness it works out. Shrewsbury needs more places like it. But it feels a little under developed.
Take, for instance, the brilliant grilled cheese stall at Borough Market: Kappacasein. Its owner Bill Oglethorpe makes his Ogleshield cheese in Bermondsey, using a rich, unpasteurised, full-fat milk that gives the mature cheese its distinctive flavour. The result is one of the finest aromas your nostrils could ever hope to savour, emanating from Kappacasein’s Swiss raclette—a generous helping of melted Ogleshield on a pile of new potatoes, baby gherkins and pickled onions—and toasted cheese sandwiches, made with Montgomery cheddar, onions, leeks and garlic on Poilâne sourdough. That, my friends, is what you call a cheese toastie.
It would be hoping for too much for Say Cheese to get busy witih Montgomery, Keen’s or Lincolnshire Poacher at this stage in the game. And as delicious as it would be, we can’t expect it to get a raclette burner and start spooning molten goodness onto a plate any time soon. Though let’s keep hoping for the moon on a stick and one day we may get it. The bread’s not the best, either. In a town blessed by Shropshire’s best bakery – that’s Bakehouse & Co, bread fans – there’s no reason not to do a deal, place an order and offer sensational sourdough or one of its many specials.
All things come to those who wait and let’s hope Say Cheese make it through their first year of business – I’m sure they will – before raising their game, improving their cheese and making more dough by selling the best in town. Until then, there’s much to enjoy about it.
We said we’d talk about the marks and five paragraphs later, we will. In ordinary circumstances – and the reasons explained above – Say Cheese might reasonably expect a solid 7/10. There’s no sourdough or Montgomery, no ogleshield or raclette (I know, I keep banging on about that, but it’s sooooo good – the equal of those cool little micetraps on the wall). But the dude behind the counter earns it an extra mark.
We called late in the day and he was three tunes into the Oasis greatest hits compilation when we placed our order. And then, during a thrilling and unintentionally brilliant 30 minutes, he sang every last line as though he was Liam at Knebworth. Bless. On one occasion, the tattooed cheese master even sang the lyrics to the wrong song – and cared not one bit. He was utterly oblivious to us – but when he did engage, he was real, polite and entirely authentic. The world needs more men who’ll sing like nobody’s listening. He was a diamond in the rough.
Extra marks, extra cheese and a you-ought-to-try-it recommendation get Say Cheese off to a decent start. Let’s hope things work out and they improve the quality of their offering over time with better bread, better cheese and more micetraps.