We caught up with the food journalist, raconteur and bon viveur Richard McComb to see what he loves about Birmingham
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I am Richard McComb, a journalist with 25 years experience in the industry and probably best known for restaurant reviewing which I started in 2007 at the Birmingham Post. Today, I am freelance and run my own website www.richardmccomb.com which has independent restaurant reviews, food features and luxury hotel reports.
HOW DO YOU GET INTO TOWN?
I am lucky because I work from home so commuting isn’t an issue for me other than when I have appointments in the city centre. Then, like everyone else, it can be a nightmare. Unless I am eating out or attending an event (and anticipate drinking) I drive my old BMW into the city. I soothe my nerves playing Al Green and sing along badly.
IS BRUM A GOOD PLACE TO WORK IN?
Birmingham has changed immeasurably, largely for the better, since I moved here in the early 90s. The restaurant scene is unrecognisable and the city is starting to gain strength in depth, although I think we are at the beginning of the journey. That’s exciting.
I love the boom in independent cafes – I like a flat white in Six Eight Kafé in Temple Row and Yorks Espresso Bar at the Great Western Arcade. Looking forward to trying Quarter Horse Coffee in Bristol Street too.
Don’t be put off by the Michelin hype and the ‘fine dining’ tag – there is great value to be had at lunchtime in some of the city’s most revered restaurants, including Turner’s, Purnell’s and Simpsons. For bargain eating, it’s the Chinese Quarter for me, including Minmin and Toppoki.
I don’t powerwalk! If it’s a sunny day you’ll find me with a sandwich, probably from Anderson and Hill (I love the Roman), people-watching in St Philip’s cathedral grounds. The benches on the terrace of the Library of Birmingham are good to stretch out on for a nap.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE CITY?
It sounds silly but having lived here for more than 20 years I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. The Colmore Business District has some lovely old buildings and the refurbishment of the Grand Hotel can only add to the charm. Everyone says Digbeth, right? It’s the place with most post-industrial potential.
I check out lots of different bars and pubs for so I don’t really have a favourite. However, I love the cocktails at the Edgbaston and the gins at the Jeykll and Hyde. I’d trust Gary Anderson with my life at the bar at Purnell’s Bistro. For a hacks’ retreat, it’s got to be a boozer – the Old Joint Stock, off Colmore Row.
HOW CAN THE CITY BE MADE BETTER?
The city’s canals need to be opened up more, like at Edible Eastside in Digbeth, which is a wonderful spot. There is huge potential for recreational spaces and eating/drinking venues in these hidden urban spaces. And of course we need more independent restaurants.