Why Muscle Food’s swipe at Ely’s foodie scene doesn’t make sense.

You may have recently read a piece on Cambridge Live about Muscle Food’s research into the cities across the UK ranked on their foodie scene.

This study ranked Ely as the third from bottom out of 69 cities across the United Kingdom, which has led to numerous people scratching their heads as to why?

Ely has an abundance of tea rooms, a thriving market, a diverse choice of restaurants for its size, and a very good cost of living when compared to other cities, so what’s the deal?

After digging through the study and looking into their metrics it starts to raise alarm bells immediately. It’s also only applicable to a small proportion of the population and judges the foodie scene on some very unusual measurements.

Here is a list of things I found reading the study.

Uber Eats?

Two of the metrics used to measure the study are the usage of Uber Eats.

Are Muscle Food’s sponsored by Uber or something? Who cares!

Not only are there other delivery companies out there but not having everything within the click of a button is no bad thing. Part of the passion of being a foodie is stumbling unexpectedly across a hidden gem. Some of the best restaurants are run by older generations who have been running their business the same way for generations and feel no need or urge to connect up to the app.

This may be important for youngsters but for a majority of people this is meaningless.

The purpose of the study.

Muscle Food is a fitness publication. Its perspective is to judge cities based on its healthy restaurants…which it claims Ely has only one.

Unless you are one of the 1 in 10 people in the UK who only eat healthy food exclusively then this is a pretty pointless statistic. If you are in the 90% of the population who range from never eating healthy to mostly eating healthy then you are still going to be able to indulge in some of Ely ‘s wonderful cuisine.

Now you could argue that being a health food website, what do you expect? But their study is called “The UK’s best cities for foodies in 2022” with no mention of healthy eating in the title. How many people have read the Cambridge Live article (which makes little effort to highlight this other than briefly mentioning healthy eating as one of their metrics) thinking this is a damnation of the Ely’s foodie scene as a whole?

Fact is, healthy diets are about balance and moderation. A restaurant can serve both “healthy” and “unhealthy” food without being considered a healthy restaurant. What you choose to eat is down to you as an individual.

The Old Fire Engine House, Sushi & Salad, and The Cutters Inn aren’t “health food restaurants” but have healthy food on their menu. Yet in the study they count Ely as only having one without specifying which restaurant that is. 🤷‍♂️

The data is wrong.

You can forgive a Nottingham based company for doing an article on a city in the fens without visiting. We can hardly expect them to travel across the country investigating every place in the UK for the sake of an article but it has become abundantly clear that the data being used is either out of date or quite simply wrong.

One of Ely’s strengths is its wide selection of tea rooms from Julia’s Tea Room, to The Almonry, to Peacocks (which has been repeatedly voted one of the best tea rooms in the county). Yet, for some reason the data shows that Ely only has 5. Please, Ely is pretty much a city of tea rooms and coffee shops!

Also, there seems to be a strange phenomenon in Ely at the moment where all the restaurants have suddenly decided to stop serving desserts? As you can see, Ely gets marked down as a 0 for this category. It seems strange for a health food publication to use desserts as any form of metric in judging a foodie scene too.

Looking further at the chart above, apparently we don’t have any bakeries either. I’ll let Grain Culture and Barker’s Bakery know that they don’t exist.

Counting at the top of my head we have Boswell’s, Tom’s cakes, Lemon Tree Deli cafe, Grain Culture, and Market Kitchen which all offer baked goods such as bread, cakes, and rolls. That’s 5 alone without counting specialist cake stores like Hand Crafted Cupcakes.

Population balance

Did you know that Ely doesn’t have a population of 9 million? Me either! Any study worth its salt does not compare a city the size of London with the city of Ely which hovers around 18,000.

London will naturally dominate any foodie scene in the world, let alone the country when judged as a whole, so it’s unfair to compare without some sort of balance.

Should we be measuring cities as a whole when the best dessert could be 45 minutes on the tube from the best main course? It seems pretty unlikely that this is going to have any relevance in real world practicality, whereas Ely has everything within walking distance (in stunning historic surroundings, may I add?).

Judging a city per sample of 10,000 would be a fairer way of measuring it. With London being 9,000,000 and Ely 18,000 that makes London 500 times the size. Let’s see the results when we cater for that adjustment?


Studies like this are well and good when you are comparing large cities of a similar size (despite some strange metrics and unreliable data) but the fundamental issue is that the way it’s measured is disproportionately promoting the big and wealthy cities at the cost of smaller communities.

Ely has one of the best tea rooms in the country, a market with a superb Italian bakery, Brazilian food, and Hong Kong fusion. Not to mention one of the best sushi joints in the county, a Jamaican restaurant, The Old Fire Engine House (which speaks for itself), and an up and coming South American restaurant opening on the river front. We also have a microbrewery, the Ely gin company, and several locations to buy craft beer.

Ely may not be perfect but it punched well above its weight. I encourage the team at Muscle Food to visit our beautiful city and try our foodie scene for themselves!

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