Victoria Cameron’s blog A Spoonful of Sugar has the motto “I eat, therefore I am”. When Glasgowist meets her in the Kelvingrove Cafe she has just finished lunch and is keen to talk about other restaurants to sample in the area. A food writer for Time Out London with a background in PR, her passion for food began at an early age and found an outlet through working in delis in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.
She returned to Glasgow in October and has begun chronicling the city’s best restaurants alongside posting her own recipes. Next will come a new website devoted to Glasgow and Scotland called Spoonful of Scotland.
We had a few questions.
Was it an easy transition, moving back home from London to Glasgow?
London and Glasgow are incredibly different, I didn’t realise how different they were until I moved back up. I thought it would be simpler, but I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is how people eat out. Obviously I’ve not been back home that long. This opinion may change, but it’s not like in London where you eat out all the time. I was eating out maybe five, six, seven times a week.
There’s so many places to go. Maybe I just enjoy eating out more than other people do, but most of my mates I guess all love food, as well, and I became really good friends with lots of bloggers. We were all going out and trying to explore as many places possible. We’d eat out probably more than the average person, but everyone I knew was eating out in the same way that I was. It was more the sheer vast number of places in London.
Every week it seemed like six new restaurants would open, and suddenly one was the hottest place. Everyone had to be seen eating there. My entire Instagram feed right now is full of a place at Borough Market called Padella. It has a really small menu of maybe five or six different pastas and then a pudding. Every week my Twitter feed absolutely bombarded with photos from Padella. There’s queues outside. I don’t know how it exploded, but it did.
My restaurant list is insanely long. Every time a new place would open up, I’d add it to the bottom of my list. There was old school places I hadn’t been to for years that I want to revisit. Then also if I was reviewing a place, I’d like to go twice just to see that it was the same both times. I kept thinking if I took six months off work and did nothing but eat, I still couldn’t get around London. It’s also not that expensive to be out in London. It’s quite expensive to eat out here. You can eat really well for a really good price. I think that was another reason.
In terms of what you’re seeing here in Glasgow, what is the depth of the culinary scene in Glasgow?
I’m scratching the surface. I’ve still got tonnes of places to go. I’ve got my list here as well and it is really long because everyone I meet keeps telling me places to go to.
I think Finnieston is amazing. I think there’s more of a London vibe here in this part of town in terms of how people eat out. I think people eat out in the West End more than they do, say, in the Southside. I’ve got loads of friends that live in the Southside who maybe go out for a special occasion, and they might eat out once or twice every month or two months. A lot of them have kids, as well, so obviously they’re not going out in the same way. Whereas, my brothers live in the West end, and they eat out quite a lot. I think this area has obviously got so many more options.
How does that compare to the Glasgow you knew before you moved away?
Well, Finnieston wasn’t really a thing before I left. It was more Byres Road and Great Western Road for me. I don’t think I ate out as much then because I left Glasgow after school. I left and went to university in Edinburgh.
Is it like discovering a new city, then, even though you grew up here?
Exactly like that. I feel like I’ve moved somewhere different. Byres Road has changed a lot. The Merchant City wasn’t even a thing when I left. I remember when I was at school, I had a tutor right before my exams. She lived in the Merchant City. I remember her saying to me ever so clearly, she said, “This place is going to be amazing one day. It’s going to be really cool here.” I was like, “No, it’s not.” Now obviously there’s so many places in Merchant City. I need to discover that a bit more.
Do you think Glasgow restaurants tend to fall into certain trends or categories?
The one phrase I keep hearing from people in Glasgow is, “I know what I like, and I like what I know.” There’s a lot of similarity. I think there’s more depth and variety in some areas.
What I keep doing is I keep looking at menus online and menus as I’m walking past and not I’m necessarily talking about the West end here, more in the city centre. It’s quite a lot similar things on the menu. There’s loads of steak places. Steak and chips, duck, lamb shank. All the breakfasts are the same. Eggs benedict, pancakes with maple syrup, a full Scottish breakfast. There’s no Melbourne type brunch places that I’ve seen, but I’m still looking for them. Glasgow needs a bottomless brunch place.
What are you looking for when you are picking places for review?
Just something that’s a bit different. Ox and Finch has really interesting menus. Crabshakk. Table 11. I actually love the food in there even though it’s quite expensive. Bakery 47, I discovered that last week, I love that place.
Where’s the best in town right now?
I think if The Gannet keeps going the way it is, I think it could get a Michelin Star. It’s really popular. People love it. I think people do like that kind of dining. I think Glaswegians do love their food, and they love having that experience when they go out for a meal.
Tell me about the recipes that you put on your website.
A lot of them I get them from recipe books. I might get a brand new book and then love it and try out new recipes from it. Other ones I tend to put old favourites from family, ones that my granny used to do that I loved when I was young. Actually it started because one of the girls I used to work with kept saying she couldn’t bake. I said, “If you can read, you can bake”. Baking is really simple. You follow the ingredients and the directions completely to the letter. It can’t fail. It’s not like cooking where you can throw things in, and you don’t really need to measure things necessarily.
With baking, you have to be really specific. I kept saying to her, “even if you think you can’t cook, you must be able to bake”. Then I gave her a recipe, a really simple recipe for carrot cake. She threw it in the bin, the actual cake mix, half way through because it said you put oil in it, and she didn’t know if that was right. She must have made a mistake not putting oil in the cake. She saw the mix at the time when it was mixing, and it didn’t look right. You have to mix it quite a bit for it all to mix well. She thought it looked terrible. She put it in the bin. I was like, “Michelle, that’s how it’s supposed to be”. That’s how I started doing recipes with photos step by step, so you can see what it’s supposed to look like at each stage. You can see if it’s not looking right or the pictures can reassure you that you are on the right track.
I put up the same recipe that she had tried with all the photos, and then about a week later, she sent me a photo of her carrot cake, which looked absolutely perfect. She said, “I would never have done that if I hadn’t seen the photos of each stage”. That’s how I ended up doing recipes with photos going right through it. I’m very visual, so I need to see what it’s going to look like at the end. That’s why I started doing recipes. Also, I bake all the time, and I cook all the time. It kind of makes sense just to do something that I love or something that works well, I’ll always put it up on the site. There’s certain recipes that I do off the top of my head. I have no idea how I measure the ingredients, so I don’t put them up because I make it differently each time.
A lot of the recipes I like, I’ll just merge together. I’ll take a little bit of one recipe, mix it with a little bit of another recipe, change it a little bit to my own tastes. I can’t eat chilli. Anything spicy or coriander, so I always take that out. Some recipes I might reduce the sugar and add date syrup instead, which actually makes things nice. Like my flap jacks, I didn’t know with date syrup it makes them chewier and really lovely having taking out the sugar and stuff. That’s kind of how I do it really.
You’ve continued to blog about Glasgow since you moved home, what are you planning next for your writing?
The blog is a recipe, review, recipe, review formula. That’s very much a hobby. I’ll just do it as of when I’ve got time to do it. After Christmas, I had more free time, so I was blogging quite a lot. Sometimes I might not blog for about a month. It just depends on my time with having moved up and discovering a new place, I wanted to do a whole new thing, such as my website, which will be called Spoonful of Scotland.
It will be purely focusing on Glasgow and Edinburgh because my blog kind of evolved by eating out more and more in London. With this, I kind of want to take that process and put it into this website and have more people discovering Glasgow along with me. The more places I’m finding people in Glasgow would love to see. I’m also targeting people who don’t necessarily know Glasgow who are coming to visit the city.
So many of my friends come to Glasgow or Edinburgh for weekends or for holidays, especially during the summer or the Edinburgh festival and they don’t know where to go. I sent huge long emails of all the places that I love, and I tell them about the places that I love in Glasgow. If you have a day, have breakfast here. Have tea here. Have lunch here. Have afternoon tea here. Go for dinner here. Then go to a bar here.
It’s grown out of that really. It was so many emails I’ve sent to people and they have had a brilliant time. They want to come back to Glasgow or Edinburgh again.
There’s a lot of blogs and websites already that will tell you about what’s going on in Glasgow. I want people in other cities and in other countries to be looking at my website as a reference of where to go.
I’m discovering Glasgow and other people can discover it along with me.