Monday, 13 October 2014

Sorry (again)

I'm sorry, sorry, sorry  - I can't believe it's been six weeks, yes 6 weeks - since I last blogged. I have no idea where this year is going!!! 

Anyway - the summer board has been dispatched to the cupboard and the new winter board (courtesy of our resident storyteller/author/illustrator - Mark Fraser) stands enticingly at the front of the Vic. The fire is lit, the blinds half drawn, hot chocolate is selling faster again and the woolly pullovers are starting to appear. 

About this time of the year I'm starting to say that the pub is quieter, the nights are drawing in, no ones around......... etc etc. Well only one of the three applies right now...??? Which one? The nights are drawing in - that's which one, because we are certainly quieter than the summer but goodness me, much busier than any other year at this time and as for people around? Well, they're certainly in our pub that's for sure! 

The menu has veered off centre towards more autumnal foods and gorgeous rich Steak & Wild Mushroom pies have replaced salads, and Chicken & Mixed bean warming stews are appearing. Alongside those are fantastic double baked Pork Belly, still some great fish dishes and the introduction of this little beauty in the day menu >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
A hot meat platter! Consisting of Some gorgeous Pork Sausages, Hot cubes of a fore mentioned Pork Belly, and home made Chorizo scotch eggs. Add to that some piccalilli, apple sauce and crusty french bread - what more could you want on a cold Autumn day.  

We were pleased to find out that the Vic has been nominated again this year in the Devon Life Awards 2014 in the Family Friendly Dining Experience section. So we will be getting our glad-rags on and hot footing it to Exeter on the 6th November for the awards evening. 

Talking of awards it was fantastic to see Anton Petrowski at The Treby Arms get awarded a Michelin star this month - a fabulous place to try and visit if you can get a table! 

This might also be the right time to tell you that the Victoria Inn will be closed for a few days in November for a bit of remedial work carried over from the refurb we had in January - those dates are Sunday 16th/Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th November re-opening Wednesday 19th November. I'm sorry if you're in Salcombe on those dates and that this is disappointing for you, but it's the best time for us business wise.   

After that of course we have Christmas & New Year to look forward to (well we personally have a lot more to look forward to, but I'll leave that to another blog) and the menu's etc will be on the website shortly - however.................... don't leave it too long if you're thinking of booking for NYE, because we already (without advertising) have a lot of bookings already!! 

Till next time peeps, hopefully not 6 weeks either!!!

Liz xxx

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Finished! Just like that (as Tommy Cooper would say) !!!!

As quick as it started, emotional goodbyes are being said as our holiday guests (and team) pack up and go home!! I always find the summer holidays amazing as half way through it seems like it's never going to end and yet when the end comes it's always like 'wow' where have they all gone!! Some of the families have become our regulars for this six weeks and its been a delight to see them - all of them so lovely and so happy to have a little bit of Salcombe as there own for a short while. 

The only difference this year seems to be that an awful lot of adults are still here (we were still fully booked last night!) so we foresee this summer going on for a while longer - and of course this morning the sun has come back out! Sunday lunch (today) we are fully booked inside............

It has been an amazing summer for us with many, many, many thousands of meals having been served in this 6 weeks of glorious madness. Our team this summer have been absolutely exceptional! There are always a couple every year who either haven't got the stamina for it or think they've come for an easy summer ride and yes we did have a tiny bit of that this year, but the ones who stayed to support our full timers and us have been totally, utterly, incredibly amazing!!! 

In the top photo are Tom, Lily and Lauren - all three are intelligent, kind, nice, hard working individuals with amazing work ethics that will take them far in life. Lily is at university (middle blonde) already and Tom & Lauren start this year. I think if I remember rightly Tom & Lauren got 5 or 6 A*'s between them. 

In the picture below is George - just 16 and an amazing young man with huge potential. He is one of our 'runners' and again hard work comes naturally to him - in fact we often forget he is only 16. Everyone adores George and despite that angelic smile where there is banter to be had he gives back as good as he gets!!! He now goes back to being one of our weekend team. His older brother worked for us in the same way as George is - as a Saturday lad through to university. 

Then we've had Alex, Jack & Grace all from one family who have a holiday home down here. Also Will & Lucy - another brother & sister act who live here. Ben has been with us so long it feels like he's a permanent member of the team, but he's currently in Hong Kong on university work - or so he says! Then Georgia - lovely, lovely Georgia! Bags of pub experience and she's joining us FULL TIME!!!! Hoorah!!!! 

Between them they've run, smiled, carried, smiled, sweated and smiled some more! They've gone home at the end of shifts more exhausted than I expect they ever thought possible - but they did it! Friendships have been made, a little romance I believe, and lots of laughs. 

I don't think I've forgotten any of the summer team - but Tim & I and the rest of the gang could never have got through the holidays without each and everyone of them - THANK YOU my lovelies. Then of course there is the regular team led by Rob, Glo and James who are far too numerous to mention - but to all the kitchen team, all the front of house team, to our 2 fantastic cleaners - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! 

In the middle of this madness we had a fantastic down on one knee marriage proposal from Steve to Lynn last weekend - both local people and I managed to find a table for them for this great event! Several of us were in tears as it was incredibly romantic, Lynn had no idea whatsoever and they very kindly sent me beautiful flowers for arranging the surprise.  

Then there have been the ice bucket challenges (which I am NEVER EVER doing!!) from SOH and Head Chef James - both of them great sports! 

Then there were the Old Gaffers who NEVER fail to delight our guests - yet again last night there was a fantastic atmosphere and they were loved by all. 

Lastly, Christmas menus are now finalised, letters written to local firms and I shall be out and about next week enticing people to have their Christmas celebration with the award winning Victoria Inn. 

As for the wooden boards in the Sainsbury's trolley?? 
Well that my dears is all part of the secret Autumn menu I'll be unveiling this coming week....... a landladys  life never stands still!!! 

Till next time my lovelies - enjoy the return of the sun, 

Liz x

Friday, 15 August 2014

Regatta Week is here

Yes - it's Salcombe Town Regatta weeks again and that means we're half way through the 'season'. My goodness what a summer we're having as well............ we just can't believe we are as busy as we are!! We knew that with the newly improved Vic we'd see a rise in business - but flip me sideways we have been bowled over by the huge amounts of visitors we're having. Of course, STILL many guests are seeing the Vic as she now is for the first time and that reminds us all how gorgeous our pub is (we're already taking her for granted!) and just how much she means to so many visitors. 

The garden is being very well used of course by families with squillions of children in tow and I re-started feeding the chickens as a learning experience for the kids! That's always fun but I forgot just how much fun it can be - I love to see the look of wonderment in their eyes as the chickens come quite close for their food. So many children worried we eat them when they get old.....??? We don't is the answer. 

The weather has been pretty fair for the Town regatta and it was great to see a little market place in White strand for a few days instead of just cars - we even had a little train! 

I wish we were allowed to have a regular market place there - but I guess car parking gives South Hams council more revenue???  

I have to say that it was also very nice to have Fore Street pedestrianised for a couple of hours - children could run about with no fear of being sent to A & E by cars driving far too fast!! Every now and then it gets talked about, but never seems to get past the talking stage! Of course its a bit of a nuisance for deliveries (especially when our own dray was here for well over an hour Tuesday with a MAHOOSIVE load successfully blocking traffic every now and then!) and also lots of other shops that rely on regular daily deliveries, but other seaside towns manage it, so why Salcombe can't is totally beyond me!!!! 

Anyway - off my soapbox and more about the regatta - last nights fireworks were superb!! SOH and I stood and watched them like a pair of young lovers (aawww) along with hundreds and hundreds of many more people -  young and old oohing and aahhing at the colours and bangs, but it has to be said that this years display seemed particularly spectacular. 

We also had the Kingsmen singers, Panache and Morris Men last night - and then most of them invaded our pub after their performances! The Morris Men sat in the library room and entertained people for an hour - flipping fantastic it was as well.  Whilst the Kings Men sang in our pub the other evening - completely ad hoc and absolutely fantastic.

We've just emptied the charity box for the Hearing Dogs Charity - if you remember we donate the entire amount from our dog menu Al a Bark to this charity and I'm glad to report that since re-opening in February we have raised about £720............ just by selling dog chews etc!! One such grateful visitor of our dog menu was the gorgeous Yogi pictured here. A beautiful mild mannered dog who found my ear canal interesting and tasty!!!! My own 2 dogs were less impressed at his scent on me! 

Anyway, it's our one day off together this week - so I'm off to slump in front of my Kindle (my new found love!) and relax, 

Laters my lovely friends,  

Liz x

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lets re-visit this blog!?

So I was in the shower this morning thinking (where all my best thoughts are thunk) and I thought that I would re-visit this blog and just go back to details about what a Pub Landladies life actually entails. So what follows is a pretty fair description of my average day (SOH's day would take another blog all of its own!):- 

Wake up about 8a.m - cup of tea on the side bought up by SOH
Put on Iphone and check for recent Trip Advisor posts - feel a heavy heart of depression or a lightness of spirit dependant on results of TA
Write a face book post for the Vic and then also update Twitter
Check e mails for anything heart stoppingly urgent
Check voice mails to ensure no staff phoning in sick with bubonic plague! 

Get up, shower and do some housewifely chores
Sit in garden for 10 minutes enjoying my porridge and the peace and quiet of my new tranquil garden space

Today - go into work and water garden, flowers, bushes and say hello to chickens (important part of the day - the chickens!) 
Meet new potential Chef apprentice and spend a few moments making sure he's not quite as terrified as he looks
Speak to Chef and ensure all worked well on last shift I worked with him and that the kitchen is setting up ok for a potentially hugely busy day

Set off for Kingsbridge to get Chicken Pellets (feed for our pub chickens) berating children on bikes in the main street for causing me unnecessary stress by cycling too close to me as I attempt to negotiate round tourists intent on committing suicide by stepping in front of my car! 

Must stop in T***o to buy bag fulls of summer fruit to keep my sugar levels up and stop me mindlessly eating chips in the Vics kitchen (!).  But, every other person in the South Hams has the same idea so a quick trip turns into an hour long journey.

Back at the pub and speak to Rob our General Manager to ensure he has everything in hand - all ok?? Yes?? Phew.......... One member of staff down front of house, but we'll be able to cope I'm assured! 

Check in the office to see if SOH has anything HR wise I need to be doing, or PR enquiries to be answered / worked on. 

Work on bar for a while, but all well under control so home for lunch and then answer e mails and do any admin I can do from home (includes Blog writing - a surprisingly good form of advertising!!) 

Sorting out the website to make it current takes longer than I hoped thanks to a slow connection, but also put a new pub playlist together as team are sick of hearing Mr Buble and Rod Stewart!! 

After an afternoon rest (walking the dogs/ maybe a snooze / bit of gardening) its back to work for the evening shift - starting at anytime after 4.p.m. As we enter the summer season I'm working a lot on the pass (that's the bit of counter between the back of the kitchen where the works done and the front of the kitchen where the food is put to go out - the bit where you see Gordon Ramsey standing shouting orders) I'm (attempting) to orchestrate getting the food from the kitchen to the guests table in 30 minutes or less (more if we're placing an order every 1.72 seconds as we were the other night). So there have been I'm afraid a little bit of raised voice from me every now and then, and when I've said 'Now' the team know I've meant it!  

On top of that, I also get called to the bar to help out as they battle against a tide of empty glasses, customers vying to be served and tables needing to be cleared.  Our biggest issue in this warm weather is trying to keep wines cool and so every half hour or so the shout goes up for 'More Ice Please'.....................  

I also do the 'Hostess' bit checking on customer satisfaction, any complaints (we never said we're entirely perfect!) are dealt with quickly and to everyones satisfaction.  This involves running up and down many flights of stairs many, many times! Out to the garden back down to the bar and round and round it goes. We put a lot of miles in now in this pub of ours! 

Maybe about 9 in the evening we'll remember that we've barely eaten ourselves (even though we've fed the 5 thousand it sometimes seems) so we try to at least sit together for half an hour once in the day. 

About 10.30 I / we start to ferry staff around to pick up their cars from the corners of furthest Salcombe so they don't have long walks after their shifts. 

Somewhere in the day (every day) there'll be a drama - electrics tripping, washing machines leaking through the ceiling and a seagull in the upstairs part of the pub are just a few recently! There will always be a member of the team (or two) that need my time to discuss issues they have. In between things there are regular meetings with Chef to check all is ok. 

Because we have a couple of Managers and a key holder we can generally be back in our house by about 11.30 enjoying a cup of tea and mulling over the events of the day. Both of us find it quite hard to go straight to sleep so generally its gone 12.30 before we turn in. 

I do a last check of Trip Advisor, Twitter and Facebook and then finally turn off my phone.   
I've worked since I was 15 1/2 and I can truthfully say that I've NEVER worked so hard in all my life - but aside from the days when I just want to pack a case and dissapear I can truthfully say that I've never enjoyed a job as much as I enjoy this - but it's so much more than a job, it's a complete way of life. 

If you count on the fact that you will NEVER have the day you think you're going to have, if you remember that you must always expect the unexpected, be prepared to spend time away from each other (even though you're in the same building) and then when you do work together you're likely to want to commit manslaughter - you'll make a fair pub landlady!!!! 


Liz xxx

P.S I wouldn't change a thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

P.P.S _ I'm just off to raid T***o for Ice as we're already out of what we had!!!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, 21 July 2014

So it continues

The warm sunny weather that is! How glorious is it to have all this sunshine, smiling bronzed people, happy laughing children and generally the sun making everyone a bit more light hearted! Personally, having had the gardens at our home re-worked its lovely having a pleasant space to have breakfast in the sun! A great start to what are long busy days. 

Our baskets are looking totally gorgeous this year again, they come from a local firm Potters Nurseries. They always do a great job and every year we reckon they're the best ever - but this year they definitely are! 

The pub is really busy as usual. It feels like we are finally getting to grips with having a three tier pub, and having our summer staff in full swing is really helping.  On that note we have a fantastic team this year who are so willing and best of all really able to cope with the demands of summer! Brilliant, just brilliant! 

Having a separate garden menu seems to be working for the customers and also our kitchen - the garden menu has a limited menu choice but the old favourites of Burger and Fish & Chips are on it as well as great salads which are just flying off the menu! Lobster Bisque is really popular as is the Seafood Plate (or Platter). 

We've also just purchased a new Wine fridge as the other one couldn't keep up with our demands for cold wine - naughty fridge!! This new one can hold about 80 bottles at any one time so we can be sure that we're offering our guests consistently chilled wines. 

We are also having a glass fridge installed - that means that gents can have Lager and Cider in perfectly chilled glasses. Not sure yet if we can put wine glasses in there - but once again, the Victoria Inn offers its customers something extra and special! 

Having a bigger pub has meant that we have discovered a host of challenges! For example: increased demand  for food has meant that appliances in the kitchen are being used more, for example the dishwasher is wprking harder as is the Rationale oven (the best thing we EVER purchased!) As a consequence we had to have the circuit board looked at and elctrical improvements made to it......................??? Its all a mystery to me, but it does mean that the kitchen electrics aren't tripping 10 times a day! 

We've lived with our new look pub for 6 months now and forget that many customers are starting to see it for the first time as they come down for their regular 2 weeks hols, and it's quite delightful to see their expressions as they view our glorious pub for the first time. 

One thing that continues to be a runaway success is our Al a Bark menu and I know we have a guest visiting very soon who has something very special for our pub - I can't wait to see what she's bringing with her and YOU will love them!!! Curious?? I hope so! 

Ok - well the pub is calling me. It's a Monday morning and probably just about anything could happen today - I've learnt to expect the unexpected in this business. Saturday my SOH walked in to find the washing machine door seal had ripped (thanks to a member of staff who left a knife in the washing!) and water had gushed through to the gents down below! In this game there's no such day as a quiet day at the office!!! 

Love to you all, 

Liz x x x 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How long???!!??

Oh my goodness............ I can't believe its been almost 2 months since I last did a pub blog, and may I say a huge thank you to one of our customers yesterday who prompted me to write tonight.  Can I say secondly, I'm so sorry that I've been tardy in blog writing this year but time is at a bit of a premium these days! 

As I write this I'm hearing 'Crazy' by Patsy Cline on the radio and it must be said that's pretty much how life has felt since the Victoria Inn had it's re-furbishment at the beginning of the year and re-opened.

To say the refurb has been well received is pretty much an understatement....... I remember having a conversation with Jim at the St Austell brewery and saying to him how worried I was that customers wouldn't like the new look pub, and that I was worried whether the new upstairs would be used much by guests.  I remember him saying that guests would be practically fighting over the window seats within a few weeks............Blimey oh riley he was right!!!!  We have become a pub that if you don't book in advance it can be touch and go as to whether you'll get a seat and certainly a table or time of your choice. We try our hardest, but please ring or email us to make a reservation and to be certain of a booking to your choice won't you. 
Oars in the Umbrella stand!! 

This brilliant and beautiful new pub has not happened without creating some challenges for us - but we think (I do hope you agree!) that we have tackled the challenge of increased numbers of customers eating and drinking with us succesfully now after a few teething issues. 

We've increased our staffing by loads to ensure we don't disappoint in terms of customer service as well. Our kitchen now has 2 extra people and front of house has 3. Our summer staff have started to appear and it looks like we have an absolutely fantastic summer crew again this year - in fact about 12 extra summer staff in total!! So I think we will have about 37 staff on at various times! 

We've been working very hard to get our menu's right again this year for the 'season' and have decided to offer a separate Garden menu and serving dinner from the new time of 4.30 to accommodate people coming off the beaches. Chowder comes back and lots of fish of course - but this year I'm determined not to unveil what we're doing until right the last minute so that we're not copied! The new menu comes in next week and will run till the 2nd week of September. 

We introduced a Gin menu a couple of weeks ago and that has been soooooooooo popular -  even WE have been surprised at the reponse! A choice of a premium Gin (double) with a Fever Tree tonic (fabulous) in a beautiful big goblet type glass and garnished with all sorts of things ranging from ground black pepper to slices of ginger, grapefruit or strawberries - whichever is pertinent to the Gin. Absolutely loved by our customers! 

Our summer baskets are in situ at the front of the house - although we almost lost them as we didn't realise that the early heat had dried them out quite as much as they had! But, apart from 2 end baskets they seem to have recovered from their drought of water.......

We are already looking forward by advertising for another Kitchen apprentice, as our 2 boys Aaron and Blake are undertaking year 2 at college to ensure even better skills under their belt.  We will also have a front of house / hospitality apprentice starting with us in September. 

I hope the above shows you why when I have much free time, you'll generally find me slumped clutching a mug of tea staring at the TV - but not really watching it! My brain never really shuts off and on a short break the other week it was day 3 before I realised my jaw had unclenched! But for SOh and I, the Victoria Inn is now a real dream come true and we love every minute of being with her - we hope you do too?!?

I promise not to leave it 2 months till the next blog!

Liz - Licensee X

Monday, 5 May 2014


One of our small guests adding HER touch to our new garden sign
Hello dear reader - sure it must be down to single figures now as for one reason and another I haven't had the chance to blog for weeks!!!  Primarily it has to be said because we have been non stop busy - oh my! The re-furb has been SOOOOOOOOOO good for business. Also, because after thinking I was clear of poorly chest infections after 13 months being fit and well - I was hit by a horrible chest infection and was in and out of hospital over the Easter period, and only the last week or so have I returned to work.  

Anyway - back to the business of the Victoria Inn. As I say the re-furb has been very good for business - guests love the new look and what a difference it's made to their eating habits. What do I mean?? Well, guests are having many more 2 or 3 courses and staying & savoring the ambiance.  I had a conversation with a lady at the weekend who was actually downstairs in the library room - and she said that whilst they've always loved coming in to the Vic, she thought it was all so much more open and airy now - in fact her words were 'not so claustrophobic'!  That seems to be a common theme, but we do have to smile at guests who come in and look at the new stairs as though trying to figure out what the difference is............ but in many ways, I think that's great as it means the re-furb has been done sympathetically and absolutely in keeping with the character of the pub as was! 

The new garden sign has been painted by our friend Mark Fraser (the author and story teller in our garden in the summer) and the little girl is painting HER leaf on the bush, as did several children! Its absolutely lovely and we are lucky to have such a talented friend. 

We're also trying to actively encourage guests to book if they want to dine with us as even though we have a much bigger pub, we still turned many customers away this Bank Holiday weekend as we just couldn't fit everyone in. We've also now added 4 additional Full Time Permanent people to our team - 1 to the kitchen and 3 to front of house hospitality team - such are the demands of all our additional guests and the increased numbers. I also don't want to kill of US or any of our team through working us/them to death!! 

At the beginning of April we went to London for the judging process for the BII National Licensee of the Year 2014, along with 5 other contenders. This involved going in front of 3 panels of 4 industry experts, having photo's taken and a video (yuck - hate those!!) - next thing is lunch next Tuesday at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London to find out if we have won the title.  One of our Chefs and one of our Managers is joining us for this and I expect we'll see lots of people we know when there. I'd like to say I won't be nervous - but I will.  I'd like to say I don't mind if we don't win - but I will. However, having said that, I do realise how well we've done to get through to this stage out of all the hundreds that applied in the first place.

Whilst we were in London I saw this brilliant sign which was VERY pertinent to some of the prices in the pubs and restaurants in London - maybe I should nick the concept???  Not that we are that expensive when a pint of St Austell Dartmoor from sells at £2.80....

Last month we also said farewell to Jim Sloan as our Business Development Manager (change in areas) and hello to Dwayne Peace who's taken over from him. Dwayne is not new to us as St Austell brewery is very much a big family and you get to know most people in one way or another (generally pickled at the yearly Tribute awards!) He's a lovely chap and we look forward to working with him. 

So then, wish us luck for the 13th May and you can be guaranteed to read all about it here at some stage or another!! 

Carpe Diem

Liz x

My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog