Interview with Edinburgh’s Lunchquest – NJAFB 2016
We are very pleased to have finally caught up with two of our favourite food bloggers – BKR and MJ from Edinburgh’s brilliant Lunchquest. Way back in May they earned one of our coveted Not Just Another Food Blogger Awards, so we thought it was high time that we got in touch to find out how it all came about.
hungryhouse: Hey Lunchquesters! Congratulations on your award! How much recognition do you get from your local Edinburghers?
Lunchquest: Thanks, Hungryhouse!
We tend to keep things pretty lowkey. People who know us, know us, and we have lots of good banter with readers and local businesses. But I think this was our first award, or if not the first certainly the biggest.
hungryhouse: So how did it all start?
Lunchquest: When mutual friends introduced us then soon left town, MJ and I had the beginnings of an odd little friendship that we decided to maintain by regularly lunching. MJ is from Alabama so was keen to break me out of relying upon my regular haunts. She did a good job.
hungryhouse: Lunchquest has been going for five years now, and you’ve given your readers an insight into hundreds of restaurants, coffeeshops and takeaways – how do you keep finding new places to review?
Lunchquest: There’s a pretty regular turnover of places in the city, for good or ill, so while we’ve probably covered a fair number of the eateries in the city, there are always new places cropping up.
Part of how the site has developed has been to take the focus away from just spotlighting new openings, to highlight places that are perhaps highly valued local eateries that haven’t had much review love of late.
In some ways delivery services like hungryhouse have been quite helpful as they’ve opened up seams of established places that are perhaps off our usual routes that we can try for their takeaway offering.
I don’t think we’ll ever get to complete coverage of the city as we’re a small team and there’s a lot of ground to cover.
hungryhouse: What’s changed most about Edinburgh’s food scene in that time? Has it gone through a similar food revolution to other big cities like London and Manchester?
Lunchquest: I guess so. I think we’ve seen an explosion in three main areas: coffee, street food, and high quality drinks. Places like Bramble and The Bon Vivant had been pioneering the Edinburgh cocktail scene for a while before that, but the Hanging Bat was a game-changer for the Edinburgh craft beer scene – a mantle now taken on by Salt Horse with the addition of magic macaroni pies from Twelve Triangles – then producers like Kitsch and Roots have been at the forefront of craft soda. Oh, and there’s tonnes more gin than before. Coffee has gone from a few excellent places to a booming coffee scene across the city. And if there’s one thing we cover in Edinburgh almost comprehensively it’s street food and market traders. Their rise has been the biggest change I’ve seen in the last five years. We have some brilliant traders now, including Jones & Son, Shrimpwreck and Fresh Revolution.
hungryhouse: The Lunchquest site states, “There isn’t a place that serves food that we won’t review.” Is there a certain dish or kind of food that you think Edinburgh does better than any other?
Lunchquest: I think what defines Edinburgh dining is the hugely impressive array of places serving good locally sourced grub, cooked in various styles, for a very reasonable price; the “middle market” if you like. Places such as Field, The Dogs, Purslane, The Apiary and L’Escargot Blanc offer outstanding value and quality. When I visit other cities that’s the thing I miss the most.
hungryhouse: If there was only one cuisine that you were able to review now until the end of your food-reviewing career, what would it be?
Lunchquest: Italian cuisine has so much variety in their wines, and their food covers so much ground, I reckon you could write engagingly about that for a good while and not run out of material. But I actually think a single-item review site lends itself better to drinks, so a cocktail review blog might be fun.
hungryhouse: Lunchquest seems to have something of a cult following – thousands of twitter followers, people asking you directly for advice – what do you think people like most about your site?
Lunchquest: Join our cult, join our cult…
I know this answer for absolute certain: it’s that we include what we wore in the reviews; for at least half the readership it’s the first thing they check. It somehow sets the tone for our slightly offbeat approach.
We started including it for a couple of reasons – one of which was that we were memorably dressed on the first ever quest – but it’s consistently the most popular thing about the site.
hungryhouse: Your site is almost encyclopedic when it comes to Edinburgh’s food scene, but your first mission was to find the best places for lunch. I’ve just parachuted into Edinburgh city centre. It’s noon. Where’s the one place I should hit up?
Lunchquest: I think it’d have to be the Edinburgh Larder.
hungryhouse: And, last of all – are there any other food bloggers that Lunchquest gives a thumbs-up to? Who did we miss out of 2016’s Not Just Another Food Blogger list?
Lunchquest: I reckon the Edinburgh (now Scotland) Coffee Lovers – http://edinburghcoffeelovers.blogspot.co.uk/ site is worthy of recognition. They’ve recently gone Scotland-wide in their coverage. It’s a great site and one I use a lot as it offers a great insight into quality cafes, coffee shops and local roasteries.
About BKR and MJ: BKR is a local legend. MJ, as mentioned above, is from Alabama and came to Edinburgh to study for her PhD at the university, and decided that with good people, and good food, there was no real reason to leave. She’s currently working on more schooling in publishing and social media at Oxford Brookes and is busy organising literary projects and playing roller derby with the Auld Reekie Roller Girls.
Next on the agenda for Lunchquest is exploring how we can use emerging technology solutions to build more dynamic and interactive city guides, which should be fun.
Feature image via