Sunday, 25 June 2017

Challenges, challenges

Champagne anyone? 
Challenges! We don't call them problems any more do we......... problems are challenges! 

Of course challenges don't have you running to put pen to paper to quit the job you're doing - they just make you go and stand in a corner and sob quietly! Or as in my case rage ever so loudly! 

Challenges don't ever appear when you're ready for them they only ever come along when you don't want them, can't deal with them and frankly you just wish they'd bugger off and leave you in peace!

But life is full of challenges and anyone that tells you it isn't is either a liar or living in fantasy land - running a big successful business like the Vic is chock full of challenges - especially this year it seems.

This year, our biggest challenges have been in the kitchen! Staff have left, joined, changed roles within the business, re-joined and then this year we found ourselves at the mercy of agency staff........ for the first time ever.  It has to be said that we found a local agency ChefShare who we worked with quite well and the Chefs they sent us were nothing like the shouty, shifty & generally dubious characters you see portrayed on TV. But, they don't come cheap, so it's been a huge added cost to our business to have to employ an agency chef to ensure our kitchen continued to perform to it's highest levels.

We also had to move our GM, Rob into the kitchen for a couple of months as he had prior kitchen experience - but of course that meant we were short at the front of house!! Now we have been very lucky in the almost 9 years we have been here, we've had a steady crew and a really (quite unusually low for our business) low, low turnover of team. However, this year it's not been at all like that and frankly it's driven me to the edges of desperation and despair!

Well deserved cup of tea Chef?
What you don't see in our business is the often frenetic scenes in the 'engine' room - the kitchen! What YOU the customer see is plate after plate of beautiful food, presented well and smelling gorgeous - you don't (quite rightly!) see the deliveries that start from 7.30 in the morning of crate after crate of fresh produce that all has to be put away and then the kitchen teams ability to turn it into a menu that will delight you.

By 8.30am every morning Sarah will have a tray of Scones baking, then there's often meat to be taken off the bone, fish to be trimmed and stored, cheese to be cut and weighed.  Crabshells have to filled with crab for salads, dishes have to be devised, costed and put on as specials. Vegetables have to be prepared and ready for cooking, desserts are made fresh at least every other day - so trays of Sticky Toffee vie with Banoffee Pie and Possets for space.  Sunday lunch is at least 2 sackfuls of potatoes and as for the Veg!!!??

There are probably another 2 to 3 dozen jobs I could be writing down here, but you'd stop reading before I stopped listing the jobs!

So with at least 95% of our menu made from scratch - that's no mean feat and every single member of our kitchen team is to be congratulated on the work they do producing anything from 300 to 600 meals a day at this time of year.

Don't forget, at 10 or 10.30p.m (sometimes even later!)  the kitchen then gets scrubbed back to shiny clean gorgeousness and they stumble out into the fresh air ready for a nights sleep before coming in and doing it all over again!

So when you are suddenly a person down - that puts the kitchen under enormous strain, but this week at last we appear to have a full kitchen team again! Hoorah!!

So to Head Chef Tania, Snr Sous Tom and James, Sous Chefs Craig, Jake and Sarah, Junior Chefs Churchie and Scott and our wonderful KP's Nick and Ollie, a huge, massive, heartfelt Thank You for all you do in our kitchen for us and for the great dining public - onwards and upwards!

Oh no wait - one is off with a poorly shoulder.......... well then - almost a full team!!

Till the next thrilling instalment of life as a Pub Landlady, 😀😀

Liz x

Monday, 15 May 2017

Ok - maybe not Spring after all!

Gawd!!! The heatings back on and it's pouring cats and dogs.......... Come on Spring I'm waiting for you to come back! 

So! Good evening my lovelies, it's been great to see so many familiar faces popping in over the last few weeks for your post Bank Holiday breaks.  Some of you even went home with sun tans! Would be rust right now if you were here......! 

I was having some lovely conversations with guests in our pub this weekend and we always get great responses to the teams approach to customer service, in fact we got our results this week to the St Austell brewery mystery shop and we got 95% - we were thrilled and the 2 team members named (Jessie and Lauren) got a reward voucher from us. 

However, the conversation that stuck in my mind this week, was just HOW good our team are and how well they gel together.  I think it's because not only do we value them, pay them well and try to create a family atmosphere, THEY all seem to like each others company. 

Two of our team (who many of you will know and love) Jess (Manager) and Philly (one of our supervisors) have gone off 'glamping' for the week. I'm told that's glamorous camping - but as I say (boringly continuously) the only stars I will sleep under is where they have 4 or 5 over a hotel door! Yet, yesterday on their first day off where did they go for Sunday lunch?? Where they work! So I think that speaks volumes don't you?? 

Some of the Vic team with a couple of friends!!! 
We also have a team Facebook messenger group for sharing ideas, moans and grumbles as well as full on madness at times. They also like to go out together when they can, proving that a team that plays together - stays together!!! <<<<<<<<

We recently had a food blogger in our pub - Tim of Culinary Chatter. He did an absolutely amazing review and we are getting lots of positive comments on social media about it;

It's always a bit nerve wracking having someone write about you however much you think you did a good job and it's not until I see it in print I can relax.  

We've also been nominated for Muddy Stiletto (Devon) awards - now this is an interesting one as it's voted for by you the customer, so If you'd like to vote for us please can you follow this link;
Best Destination Pub would be great - Thank you kindly! 

What else have I got to chat about today then??? 

Well, as many of you know, I'm not working quite so many hours these days - but that doesn't mean I'm not 'working'......... If I'm not on social media advertising the pub then I can often be found in my greenhouse.  This year I've grown (many from seed) lots of lettuces and leaves and I mean lots.  So much of my produce is finding its way onto the kitchen at the Vic to be used in the menus. As a certain Greg Wallace famously said on Master Chef - Food doesn't get fresher than this! 

It really doesn't either, and there's no pesticides been on them, just me singing along to music on my Bose player in the greenhouse. I've also got lots and lots of tomatoes I've planted - again, many from seed and I hope they will be great for our menu about August maybe! I don't think anything tastes better and is more rewarding than walking outside your door and picking the freshest of the fresh produce. 

Today, we've just had a fab new addition to our pub and something SOH and I talked about for ages and that is a trophy cabinet.  Made by a local craftsman Nigel Couch it's of the most amazing quality and our trophies look absolutely fab in it. Who knows, perhaps we'll have another one or two to put in it this year?? 

Well, I think that's it for now lets hope we have sunshine on our bodies when I write my next blog! 

Liz x x x x

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Easter? Been and gone.............

Easter? Then it has to mean the first Stories in the Garden from our friend Jacob Cracker - and without it being to much of a pun - they really were 2 crackingly good sessions. Kids ( and grown ups) love these story telling sessions and we were blessed with great weather! 

Salcombe seemed to be VERY busy this Easter and as usual we have no summer staff yet, so everyone had to work that bit harder as usual. But as long as our customers were happy there we're happy. The weather was good, but we've known better and as for rain? Well we've seen none for ages - now there's the cue for the heavens to open! 

Food wise, we've taken the seafood plate off the menu for the summer but we have instead put Dressed Crab on the menu and my goodness, customers can't get enough of them! The other thing that customers are enjoying is the home-made Bannoffee Pie - I'm trying desperately to ignore it calling me............

Champagne weekends continue to be popular (and why ever not!) and Salcombe Gin (which is rather lovely) is also selling very well.  I have to say I think Salcombe Gin is actually a really good Gin and it is starting to get quite a few awards, so it's a pleasure selling it. 

You'll see I've put a picture of our Roast Potatoes for no other reason than for me a good roast spud is the essence of Sunday Roast and heavens above do we now get a lot of bookings for Sunday lunch particularly!! 
So please book with us, won't you! 

The hanging baskets and plants at the Vic are about to be refreshed and renewed by Potters Nurseries so hopefully we'll have some pictures in the next blog. 

The last purchase of logs have been made for this season and the Garden sign has replaced the welcoming Fire sign outside of the pub. 

What else? Well our lovely Ellen who's worked for us since she was 15 has just had her 18th Birthday and she is also joining us this year as one of our new Hospitality Apprentices, so you can expect to see a few photo's of her through the year as we know she's going to be brilliant. 

Next week - the 30th is the towns 2nd CRABFEST and if last year is anything to go by, it should be an amazing day. Lets just keep our fingers crossed for good weather. 

So right now, it's onwards and upwards to the summer; Summer team to be employed, decisions to be made on menus/BBQ's etc. 

Till next time, 

Liz x x x 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Happy Half Term

Well that was an odd half term if ever there was one! But before that and since the last blog (which you're right was absolutely ages ago!!) we had our usual post Christmas staff bash which this year was at the Harbour Hotel Salcombe and huge thanks to them for giving us a fantastic time! I hope we didn't upset too many guests as we (they) all got louder and louder (read drunker and drunker!).  

Don't the girls look fantastic with SOH?? 
Gosh, everyone scrubbed up very well and I think all team said it was one of the best - although I shall probably remain scarred for life at some of the atrocious 'Dad Dancing' that was exhibited by a certain silver haired Chef and assistant Manager!!! 

So! Back to half term - spread this year over three weeks and various parts of the country meant the numbers were quite diluted, meaning we didn't have the rush that perhaps we've experienced in the past but it could have been worse! Next one is Easter and we understand that this too will be shared over a number of weeks with various parts of the country - so we wait to see what it will be like. 

SOH and I have been on our post Christmas holiday ( a Norwegian cruise) during which I was exceptionally unwell only to come home and find I was a lot sicker than I thought I was, resulting in a 9 day hospital spell and I shall be off work until about Easter - so huge thanks to our great team for ensuring the business ran like clockwork and nobody noticed I was even missing.......... Having said that I've had some amazing cards, gifts and messages from many of our customers and felt very loved. 

There really isn't much else to gossip about at the moment as little else has happened, but we have a kitchen upgrade happening on Monday with some nice, new sparkly equipment coming in including a Water Bath! yes, one of those things you see Chefs flouncing about with on MasterChef and our new Head Chef has coveted for as long as he's been with us! We've also been struggling with some massive food price rises seeing shocking amounts going onto Dairy products and Smoked Salmon, as well as the Spanish flooding affecting some (not much as we try to stick strictly local) of the salad and veg produce. 

So a short but succinct blog tonight and I hope to see many of you back at the Vic as soon as I'm fit and well again, 

Much love, 

Liz x 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Dry January - not likely!

Evening all and Happy New Year to you!

I hope you had a good one - we had an absolutely fantastic NYE as usual. The food from our new Head Chef Tom and his team was outstanding and in the first 2 days of 2017 we took five - yes 5 - bookings for NYE 2017!! We also sold both of the bedrooms for that period - amazing! 

Alongside that we had our busiest New Years Day ever as well - so thank you to everyone for liking us so much and thank you to our incredible team for working so hard and making the New Years period the huge success it was. 

No pics this year though as I seemed to be busier than ever this year - I think it was because I was trying to raise money for the Salcombe First Responders and even I (yes, I know - hard to believe!) can only usually do one thing at a time! 

On that note thank you to each and everyone of you who donated of your own free will (I did NOT chain anyone to their seat until they paid!) to this amazing service that is provided completely free of charge with no money coming from anywhere but the donations of very kind people like YOU! To those of you who had one ticket, half a dozen or a £100 like one incredibly generous gentleman.  Through you all we raised a little over £1500!!! 

The winner was a local lady called Jennifer Cooper who called in with her family at the weekend to collect her prize.

So all the chocolates have been eaten (i'm guessing in most houses - not in ours as I've still not had a chocolate since August!) the great Cheese mountain has almost been demolished and surely there can't be a mince pie left in the land.  Although I did see HOT CROSS BUNS in Sainsburys last week!! Really Sainsburys............??? 

Who's on dry January then??? Please don't - goodness knows there aren't enough pubs left as it is...... 😀
But seriously, if you are 'drying'out why not see what great soft drinks your pub has rather than stay home?

The sign above I shamelessly pinched off the internet - great isn't it! 

Well then Salcombe - the tree is down, lights are too, sales are in full swing and some shops have quite amazing bargains! I've done my bit to keep Salcombe economy buoyant! 

It looks like Lloyds bank is definitely going to close this year leaving Salcombe without a bank in it's town. The nearest being Kingsbridge and I can tell you that not only is that pretty poor for the older people left in Salcombe but it's going to be real hassle for business's like ours!  We do offer cash back on purchases if you get stuck, but it's a poor show from a bank that last year were celebrating their centenary presence in Salcombe! Hypocrites!!!! Utter hypocrites! 

Ok - I'm not getting on my soap box quite so soon in the New Year - I'm going to try to be nice, polite and totally non ranty in my blogs.................👌👌👌

Well perhaps until March! 

Till later my lovely readers, 

Liz x

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year All

So as I sit here Saturday afternoon 321st January 2017 thinking about getting ready for  one of the most special evenings in our calendar - I want this blog to be all about the team! The guys in the photo and some that sadly weren't there for the photo shoot! 

SOH and I are firmly of the opinion that this incredible bunch of people make up the most amazing team we've been fortunate to work with. Actually when this bunch are in full swing - then the 'magic' really does happen, because they all really do love what they do at the Vic!

Each and everyone of them; from the 15 year olds who do the 'running' and clearing and tidying to the Managers who keep a watchful eye on things, to the Chefs who cook and clean and feed so many thousands and thousands of you every year -  they all work so very, very hard and Tim & I consider ourselves to be incredibly fortunate to have them working with us! 

Every single one of them brings something special to the business and collectively they work together as a really great team.  They all socialise with each other as well - so that says a lot about how they get on.  If someones ill, it doesn't take them long to volunteer to cover a shift - usually without asking and often expecting nothing in return. 

This year we've worked extra hard on education and training and it was a joy to see Jessie and Philly (21 tomorrow) achieve NVQ's in Hospitality.  They are now supervisors and undertaking the next level of NVQ.  Next year we hope to have to young ladies join us as Hospitality Apprentices. Front of House next year will be looking to raise their game even further with more training and a bit of fun along the way. 

In our kitchen - the machine room - Tom Huggett joined us as our new Head Chef, Sous Chef Sarah also joined us as well as Chef de Partie Aaron and in January we have a trained Pastry Chef joining us. That brings our team in the kitchen up to 9 and 2 part timers.  We're investing a lot of money into the kitchen, buying a water bath and some other better equipment.  It will all help give you the customer a better experience when you visit, as well as make our Chefs lives a bit easier.  I am excited about the food coming out of our kitchen and even more excited about developments in our kitchen for 2017. 

Now I've had a break from entering awards for a year, I shall be back on the paper trail in 2017.  I feel this will be our year to shine again! 

So from Tim, myself and all our amazing team - we wish you all a very Peaceful, Happy, Prosperous and loving 2017. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Happy Christmas my lovelies!

Ok - this is actually my third attempt tonight at writing this as for some reason the Gods that are gremlins in wi-fi are insistent that I should just watch Masterchef the Professionals! But no I have shut down and re-booted several times to enable me to deliver my wonderful Christmas words of joy, peace and light to you............. yea right!! 

Now I refuse to bow to cynicism and commercialism I WILL believe in the joy of Christmas......... I will not be bought down by the fact that I could not find my Grandsons preferred toy. I refuse to be hacked off that I had to join a waiting list for said toy!!! 

I cannot allow my hatred of big stores expecting me to shove a quid in to use their trollies - particularly when it's hissing down with rain - and their trollies are not under cover! M & S Dartmouth!! Yes - YOU!!! 

Dartmouth of all places......... what in Gods name do they think will happen to them in Dartmouth?? Will all the genteel folk start having wheelie races in them up and down the prom!?! Will they be pinched and exported as a national treasure??

I will not let the red mist descend because there just might be a shortage of Sprouts this year. WHAT!?? No sprouts they say......... the masses will riot! No - they just won't fart as much when they're sleeping off the effects of a meal that most third world countries can only imagine. 

I will not be forced into buying 3 extra boxes of chocolates and 6 packets of mince pies just in case we have starving people ringing our doorbell on the off chance of an After Eight or 3! I will not buy nuts that will languish in the dish until they've gone soft and require the dustbin as a kind ending.......... I will not buy a mound of cheese that requires me to eat every bit as I cannot bare to waste it!! Oh no I won't! Will I?????

Oh dear.......... I do sound a bit cross don't I?? I'm not, but when you're in a business that's been thinking about and talking about Christmas for a very long time it's hard not to be world weary about it.  I adore Michael Buble but when you've heard 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas' for the one millionth time it's hard not to want to commit hari kari!!! 

Anyway my lovelies - how are YOU all doing?? I know a lot of you are planning on coming down as soon as reasonably possible after the Christmas Day deed is done and we will be ready to welcome you with open arms. Salcombe has been fairly quiet the last week or 2 but we have still been remarkably buoyant trade wise, still achieving good numbers (particularly at the weekends) and this year we have a record amount of bookings for NY day and the couple of days following it! So PLEASE ring us and book won't you, can't be doing with tantrums because you can't get a seat! We are shut Christmas Day but open the rest of the time. 

 Right, moving on, the second photo in this blog is a painting SOH and I had commissioned by Caroline Appleyard - an incredibly gifted artist! I had a great photo lined up of her and I in the pub Sunday night, but no ....... my Mac has other ideas! It's getting above it's station if you ask me!!!

Now where was I?? Oh yes, Caroline and the picture.  I just love it and she has very kindly given me 2 prints as well.  One has gone to our friend Mark who does all the story writing and reading in the school holidays (also available for festivals, weddings and bar mitzvahs) and the other one we are raffling over the festive period to try to raise funds for the Salcombe First Responder Charity.  This service (of which of course SOH Tim is one) is run entirely by donations, so I'm hoping we'll make a good few bob from doing this. You can donate by post!  £5 a ticket! Please make cheques payable to Salcombe First Responders sent to the Vic. Cough Cough Jim /Adam et al...........

On the subject of being here with the family can I just put a plug here for a great local business that will actually come and babysit your children.  Not just at home but at functions - you know the ones where they're great for a while but then they'd rather do anything than sit quiet and enjoy an hours worth of speeches (who can blame them!)  Her name is Caroline Utin and her business is S.E.B.S - Salcombe Elite Babysitting Services.  She and her team are all CRB blahdy blahdy blah checked etc and she's a lovely lady who actually likes babies and children......... not saying I don't (you know I do really!) but I wouldn't get paid to glare at them although parents have suggested I could earn a crust! Here's the link to her website

Well then, the fire is lit and roaring away a treat (the cost of those logs 😄😄!!) mulled wine is on the go on the Bar at the Vic, the Champagne is chilling and the team are ready to welcome you back and ensure you really, truly do have a super Christmas and New Year with us. 

Tim, myself and all our amazing team would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for continuing to support us, whether just once a year or every week. 

We all hope you have a fab Christmas and that 2017 brings you joy, peace, great health and true happiness. 

Merry Christmas everyone and much love from both of us too,  

Liz (she writes this drivel on an occasional basis ) and Tim (He's the clever one!) X X X