Food&Drink Editor Gabrielle Taylor-Dowson interviews local food blogger Laura McEwan, to discuss everything from food snobbery to student-friendly eats
Laura McEwan is the big personality behind BiteYourBrum, an award-winning Birmingham food blog with a big appetite. What started off in early 2017 as a passion project has since evolved into a brand. Bite Your Brum stands out because of its unpretentious approach to food – Laura shares her thoughts on crisp-tasting with just as much enthusiasm as her fine-dining experiences, and it’s this inclusionary attitude that has garnered her such a loyal following. Laura largely only reviews Birmingham-based places; her love for the city and what it has to offer is evident in every post she makes.
Laura also knows that the majority of her followers aren’t millionaires, so most of her finds across Birmingham are incredibly affordable. It seems, then, that BiteYourBrum is the perfect tool for students to use as a way of getting more out of their time in Birmingham. There is surely no better recommendation for a restaurant, cafe or bar in the city, than one that comes from a food-loving Brummie!
What made you decide to start BiteYourBrum?
Laura: I’ve always been a big lover of food and dining out, and since moving to Birmingham in 2006 after university I’ve watched the city grow and evolve – especially with regards to the food scene. It always bothered me that no one was really shouting about it, and I never found a blog or website to follow that shared my views or suited my personality, I guess. I’m a writer by day and decided to start a blog to jot down my thoughts about the local food scene so people like me (not a student but by no means rich) could find great places to eat, whether that’s street food or fine dining. I never thought for one minute that it would grow into what it is now, winning an award and hitting 10,000+ page views a month. I’m really proud of it.
What do you most enjoy about running BiteYourBrum?
Laura: I love the interaction with the people reading it – it’s great to hear how passionate and excited folk are by the places I visit and write about. Also, it may sound cheesy but I’ve made some truly wonderful friends through BiteYourBrum – people often comment that the blogging scene can be a bit catty but I feel lucky to have had a chance to meet some special people.
Following on from the previous question, what do you find most challenging?
Laura: As with anything involving social media, occasionally you get some idiots that try to pick a fight or send abuse. I used to get a bit upset about it but then I realised you can’t please everyone and some people are just awful – once you come to terms with that you stop caring about that minority and focus on those who enjoy and benefit from the blog and social channels.
Why do you think it is important to adopt an I’ll-try-anything approach to food? Is there anything that you would never review?
Laura: I absolutely hate food snobbery – you’re not better than someone else because you spend £200 on dinner somewhere. I appreciate fine dining but I also appreciate how good a massive cheese burger is. I think people resonate with that, and they like my no nonsense attitude towards the blog. Most of us aren’t millionaires but we all like a treat now and again; the blog hopefully mirrors that perspective.
What do you love most about the Birmingham food scene? Does Birmingham have anything that makes it stand out from other UK cities food-wise?
Laura: I love the variety and the absolute determination of our chefs to strive for more. In terms of stand outs, we often overlook the importance of venues like Digbeth Dining Club that people travel up and down the country to visit each weekend. We can’t take those things for granted.
Customers are constantly told to eat and spend independently and locally… Why, in your opinion, is giving local, independent businesses your money worth it?
Laura: When you spend “locally” through independent businesses you’re actively giving back to your community. You’re not finding some global chain run by faceless men in suits that wouldn’t eat the food you’re shelling out for if you paid them. When you support indies you support new ideas and concepts, you support a person with a family wanting to bring something different to the city. I’ve got nothing against chains but I prefer to spend more of my money, personally, with great local businesses that work really hard. The Independent Birmingham app is a useful tool to help you eat and drink well for less within the city.
If you were to create a food/drink guide to ‘Birmingham’s Best Spots’ for a uni student, what would your top 3 recommendations be?
Laura: You can’t go wrong with a burger from The Meat Shack, the lunchtime curry bowl deal from Indian Streatery, and the pizza at Rudy’s. All three of those cost under £8 and they’re fabulous.
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in 2020? Any plans for BiteYourBrum you can let us in on, or perhaps whispers of a new restaurant opening in the city that you’re excited for?
Laura: As someone who lives centrally I’m looking forward to the paradise development being completed, not only so I can walk from my apartment easily but also because we’re due to see some new restaurants open. I’m looking forward to Aktar Islam’s new Argentinian restaurant opening in Brindleyplace, but there’s all sorts of cool things coming to the city this year. You’ll have to wait and see and keep an eye on the blog – my lips are sealed.
For the most tantalising food recommendations, you can explore more of BiteYourBrum at www.biteyourbrum.com, and on Instagram under @biteyourbrum