Thursday, 25 June 2015

Hoorah!! The Sun is Shining!!


Hold on - the sun is shining.............is this summer???? It certainly feels like it as I sit here typing this last Blog before I go on my pre-season break in Spain. If you've been following this blog regularly you'll know that as licensee's we can't always take our holidays together, so SOH has had his break with a couple of friends the other week and it's my turn next week. Can't wait actually - Kindle is loaded with great reads, sun cream is bought and standing ready and the laptop will be going with me as I want to finish a long overdue staff training manual.

Our new summer menu's are finally up and running on the website so if you want to have a look, head over to our website and have a look at the food page: www.victoriainn-salcombe.co.uk

What's already proving beyond popular??  Salcombe Crab is as always a firm favourite and we have a lush Crab Salad on the Summer Menu as one of the salad options. The Tagliatelle (meat and Veg option) is flying out, as is the new Spicy Fish stew.  We decided against the usual Fish Chowder this year - this is a bit more refined and in our opinion more flavoursome - come taste it and let us know what you think?

As for the puds?? We've probably never sold as many as we are now and the big favourites are............... ALL OF THEM!!! But in particular the homemade Chocolate Mousse with a fantastic Cornish sourced (Callestick Farm, Truro) Blood Orange Sorbet - oh my word, I've never tasted anything so gorgeous in ages!!

The other pud selling really well is the Grapefruit Merengue tart - taken from the Tom Kerridge recipe book and adapted to our needs.  
I love that mans food......................

A really nice summer Gin offer as well - A large Sipsmith Gin with a Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic - fabulous!

Some of our summer team are starting to work and here is a picture of Toby (dark hair) having a laugh with Craig whilst behind the bar.

The flowers at the front of the Vic are starting to bloom beautifully as they are at the back, SOH has been busy with his paintbrush as well as with his tool set and a  new Budgie shed graces the first terrace with  some pretty, pretty budgies tweeting away in it.  

What else to tell you?? Well I'm trying hard to put together a 2nd newsletter to get out to all of you that have signed up to receive it - but technology and I are struggling a little today. Again, if you want to receive the newsletter (full of my usual meanderings!) and the occasional discount offer go to the website and sign up for it.

We had the most adorable baby in this week (our cushions came in very handy as a little makeshift bed) we were all oohing and aahhing over her.  It's such a joy to watch the children growing up with us here at the Vic - this little one is called Nuala and I think she was only a couple of weeks old.

Anyway,  that's enough of my witterings for now - I'll catch up with you all in a couple of weeks when we're one step nearer to it being 'The Season'!!!

Yikes...................................

Till then my lovelies,

Adios

Liz x

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The heat is on!!!

So we didn't pick up the final prize of BII Licensee of the Year - that pleasure went to Keith & Diane Marsden from the Prince of Wales pub in Mosely.  But my goodness we had a great time in London with our splendid companions Rob - our General Manager and Adam one of our Chefs. Don't you think they look handsome in this picture???

The night before the Lunch was an event at the Post Office tower in London.  Ye Gods but it was high up........ a few Prosecco's cured those nerves though. Great company and an absolutely splendid Elton John guest tribute act. The actual lunch was held at the Honourable Artillery Company in the City and was an excellent bash!!   I met and spoke with Clare Balding - what a truly lovely lady and her speech went on for about 15 minutes when she actually had about 3 minutes allotted. Close up she has the most amazing eyes and her passion for sport and equality just shone through - I felt really inspired.  I love the fact that she talked about how it was ok for women to be competitive.  We were also treated to an inspirational talk by Sir Clive Woodward - again, when I  sit and listen to people like him speak I personally find it hugely motivating. We all then went out, drowned our sorrows and got completely ratted!!!! There was barely a murmur from any of us on the train home the next day!
But whilst it's disappointing to have not lifted that prize there was something that happened to me straight after the lunch - and that was a man came up to me and asked if I was the licensee with a pub in Salcombe.  We had a conversation where he told me that he and his family had visited us last summer and we had made his holiday really special (also apparently increasing our sales in Muscadet!!). That to me was really important to hear that right there, right then.  We are still in the top 5 Licensees of the entire UK (2nd year running) an important fact to remember and our customers love us! A fact re-iterated by sooooooo many texts and messages of goodwill that I received from customers and friends.

So, moving on now  - we are absolutely all systems go for the summer! New menu's are in place and a great new Childrens' menu is in with a little platter for toddlers with carrot sticks, bread sticks, cheese, sausages etc and that's all thanks to a customer who suggested it! They even have special little childrens divided plates from Cath Kidston.

The grown ups menu has 2 sections - one for the garden (a slightly reduced menu) and a full menu for inside the pub.  Now starting to serve dinner from 5p.m.  Just right for all of those hungry families coming off the beaches in the summer. 

The newly introduced Prosecco menu is flying out of the door (no Prosecco shortage here!) with Champagne Sunday (£4.75 for a glass of great Champagne!) equally popular. The garden has been planted with summer plants and is starting to look pretty inviting.

Fathers day is  already looking hugely busy, with a party of between 30 - 40 and several other parties already booked in - so we should have a great vibe in the Vic that day in particular! Just as well I have another great Chef joined us - the lovely Richard, there is of course a photo to follow.

We have said good bye to the lovely Glo this week - she of whom there are few photo's as Glo hates (I mean really, really hates!!!) having her photo taken. But here is
one from NYE this year when we celebrated the start of another fantastic year.

Glo has decided that it's time to take her foot off the gas a bit, and whilst we are desperately sad that she has left us we remain great friends and it will be lovely to welcome her to the other side of the bar and look after HER! 

Glo has been with us for 7 years and previously 2 years before that with the previous landlord. Professional, kind, great with customers and team (especially the younger ones) she could always be relied on to bring finesse and graciousness to our business.  If we had functions she could totally be relied upon to pull something out of the bag that was just that extra bit special. She could walk in and instantly spot what hadn't been cleaned - she coined the phrase 'Time to lean, time to clean'!!

Personally (and our discussions last week confirmed this) I enjoyed the early years with Glo on a Sunday when we had on the 60's music and Sundays were such fun.  But the business we lovingly call the Vic is a very different business now to what it was then.  It's incredibly hard work, we are (thankfully) consistently busy, often fully booked days before, there are few 'quiet' spells - the youngsters get very tired, so for us slightly older ones (coughs!) it's even harder. We wish you love and laughter Glo and lots of gardening in the sun.

But - times change and it comes to all of us to decide when it's time to call it quits - not for us though, not for a good many years yet!! On that note - I'd best be getting back to that place called the Victoria Inn..............................

Much love darlings

Liz x
p.s : We have some great things planned post summer............. watch this space!!

Friday, 22 May 2015

The waiting's almost over!

Liz meets Michael Ball
So before I tell you about our trip to London for the last round of judging, I simply must tell you about meeting Michael Ball before his Plymouth concert.

As I told you last time I had treated myself to a 'Meet & Greet' package. I thought I'd be one of dozens, but there were only 5 of us! An eclectic bunch and 1 very bizarre young lady who had not purchased the package but tried to push herself in!! I don't think so dearie!!!!

So the big moment came and all 5 of us were ushered into the auditorium of Plymouth Pavillions where we sat slightly hushed and occasional teenager giggles (disconcerting when the combined age was close to under 400!!)

I have to say that as he approached where we were sitting I had what can only be classed as one of those moments that feels totally surreal.  Here was the man who I had swooned over in Les Miserables, and who's Radio 2 show has me smitten.  Do you know what?? He was as lovely as you would expect him to be.............. full of twinkly eyes, crinkley smile and a filthy laugh.  One of the ladies meeting him had lost her Husband not too long ago and she was keen to tell him how important his music was and he was just charming.

My photo opportunity was amazing and I came over momentarily shy! (I said momentarily!!) within seconds I was inviting him to the Vic for supper (never one to miss a chance) and we talked like we'd known each other for years!! The lady sat next to me in the other photo was 84 (I think) a Plymothian and she was swaying and tapping along with the best of them.

But you know, it's a bit like the Michael Buble concert I went to - I do love these singers (and when Michael Ball sang Empty Chairs from Les Mis I was in bits) some of the fans are a bit full on...........some of them had been to 5 or 6 concerts - they must spend a fortune!!!

Anyway, that put me in good spirits for our London trip for the last round of judging for the BII Licensee of the Year.  A very pleasant night before the event at Quaglinos with very good friends took my mind off it a treat and the Amba Charing Cross Hotel was quite delightful so this time round I was far more relaxed about it all.

The other finalists were lovely and it's always interesting how quick you form a camaraderie with people and share your experiences of the process. Last years winner Lee Price had read my blog (he was a judge this time) and presented me with a giant safety pin at breakfast which had me in fits of giggles!! (go back and read it - you'll see why).  Anyway, no wardrobe malfunction and on the whole I thought it went reasonably well, but just like any interview you walk out thinking - should have said, should NOT have said etc etc etc!!!! We were first to be filmed (thankfully) as we both find that quite an ordeal.

Anyway - its done, the dye is cast, the decision made, we can do no more - we'll know whether we were good enough at the lunch bash in London on 2nd June. We've both bought new outfits, (any excuse - although I thought SOH would faint when he bought his!) and we will wait and see the outcome. We have a function at the Post Office tower the night before which should be fun, and we are taking 2 of our team with us.

The Vic has been humming.  Hugely busy still and a packed weekend looms ahead of us. We're running a special promotion on Champagne all weekend, and the new Prosecco menu is being VERY well received. 

We welcome Kaytie to the kitchen team as our new Chef de Partie - here are some of the team on the pontoon opposite the pub.  The sods know I hate going on it but they thought it was a 'good photo opportunity'!!! They'll pay for that.

I have also had another Chef accept a job with us today, so we are absolutely on a roll and I have some big plans for our business after the summer holidays, but you really are going to have to wait and see for more news on that front!! Front of house we welcomed another full timer to our team - Jess. Lovely lady with bags of experience, and also a new 'runner' Emily.

On that note, I'll say ta-ta for now - be sure to keep an eye on our facebook or twitter account for news of how we get on in London!!

Much love to you all,

Liz x

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Keep calm dear - it's only an interview!!!


Yep - my stress levels get set to rise again as we (SOH - Scrumptious Other Half and I) travel to London next week for the next round of judging to hopefully get us to be the winners of this years very prestigious BII Licensee of the Year award!

You may recall I've spoken previously about our quest for this award, we were semi-finalists the year before last, finalists last year and I'd quite like it to be third time lucky, but who knows.
 
This bout of judging last year was probably one of the most nerve wracking things I've done in many years - for all sorts of reasons.

Firstly, I WAS incredibly, gut wrenchingly nervous! I haven't felt as bad as that over anything in YEARS!!! I am so competitive and I so didn't want to let our team or customers or SOH down. I've had scores of interviews over the years and also interviewed many dozens of people myself, but this was sooooooo far out of my comfort zone.

But also I was still fat! Yes FAT! My clothes were tighter than tight and my button pinged off in the ladies before we'd  even said hello to the judges!! I did the whole process with a small safety pin that kept popping open and stabbing me in the tummy. I got anxious, hot and sweaty and my beautifully made up face resembled a cherry tomato by the time we were filmed at the end of the morning. It's very hard to concentrate and appear professional on answering questions from a Dragons Den type panel when all you can think about is whether your trousers will survive the next 2 hours!!!!!

When I'm nervous I speak even more - correction, I babble -  and faster than ever (I know, that's INCREDIBLY hard to believe!!) consequently my adrenalin levels went through the roof and by the end of the morning I had the headache from hell and didn't stop shaking for the best part of an hour afterwards.  I think I slept the entire journey back to Devon I was so shattered.

So my motto this year is: Keep Calm and be Awesome - because we know we're great, our business proves we're great, we've just got to remember everything we need to get across, do our homework on all the likely questions (remember to let SOH get a word or 3 in!) and as for trousers?? I have lost loads of weight since that cringe making morning and my interview outfit is ready to go!

We're meeting good friends the night before for a meal in London so I'm sure that will relax me no end:- memo to self relax does not mean get blotto!!!  Hung-over for an interview is definitely not a good look!!

This Friday though I have an absolutely lovely evening to look forward to as I'm going to MEET Michael Ball before his concert in Plymouth.  I've splashed out on one of the Meet & Greet tickets that seem to be so popular these days, and I have (I hope) a great seat after that event to see a man perform whose music I have loved for many years.

A Bank Holiday weekend and a diary full of bookings will also ensure that our minds are taken off next week and today has been spent typing up the summer menus for the 8 weeks that we will run them, starting Mid July. Just where is this year going!!!!????  Tables in the pub garden have been sanded and painted (a nice pale green - very pretty), once the frosts are gone there will be planting, and the bunting for regatta week has been ordered. We have nearly a full compliment of our summer team signed up and ready to go as well.

This weekend we have our resident Storyteller & Magician making themselves popular with kids and adults alike.  Hop over to the latest news page on our website for all the dates and times:  www.victoriainn-salcombe.co.uk Why don't you sign up for my infrequent chatty newsletters too whilst you're there?!

What else??? Oh I know, I have been immersing myself in the likes of Master Chef and also the new Alex Polizzi (Hotel Inspector etc) programme Chefs on Trial.  I absolutely love all of those sorts of programmes where our business in one way or another is examined and I'm always keen to see what we can learn.  I would love the opportunity to meet Alex and see what she thought of the Vic!! I already have some great ideas for the Autumn menu's and where we're going to go next with them and better still my kitchen team are up for the challenge. What is it?? Oh no, sorry - you'll have to wait and see!!

So till the next Blog when I'll tell you all about our trip to London town,

Much love

Liz x



Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hard work brings more work...........


I've long held a belief (drummed into me by my much loved, but long departed Mum) that (and I quote) 'Hard work never killed anyone' quickly followed by (I quote again!) 'But why give it a chance'!!!  Consequently, I've always had a very strong work ethic, and believe I've worked quite hard ever since I left school  at 15 &1/2 with not one qualification to my name (I was even a failed 11 plus).  So, where am I going with this blog tonight??

I guess it's to say I've never been so successful in my working life but I also NEVER worked so hard - EVER!!!!  The more successful and popular we become, we seem to be working harder than ever - but in other directions and not just pulling pints! (mind you being a publican is NEVER just about that!)

One day recently
For example - we implemented a feedback form for customers to tell us if they liked what we're doing, what could we do better and would they like a newsletter clogging up their inbox 4 times a year.

Good idea?? Absolutely blooming fabulous BUT.............. I now have to sit trying to decipher bad handwriting, enter it onto a database, deal with comments saying thank you or whoops!

A website?? Brilliant - but woe betide you if it's not kept current and up to date! (no point having it otherwise)

Trip Advisor (even those 2 words make me shudder) can make or break the mood of my day!!

Twitter, Face book and Instagram?? Oh my word - there are just not enough hours in the day!!!

So next time dearest darling customers, you wonder why I'm not behind the bar it's probably because I'm glued to a computer/phone/tablet screen somewhere. I might (pah!!) be on a beach somewhere hot and sunny (nothing planned for a while) but I guarantee my IPhone won't be far away!

But I like nothing more than meeting other successful people and I'm really lucky to know a few who are around me here in the South Hams and guess what?? They're also women!

Zoe - who owns The Beauty Lounge here in Salcombe. www.thebeautyloungesalcombe.co.uk   A young woman with the most fantastic business. Great products, high work ethic and on her way after a relatively short period of time to being exceptionally good in her field. Already expanding her business and starting to be recognised for excellence in the field of Beauty.  

Sara who owns HAC in Kingsbridge is another: www.hairadvicecentre.net
she is an award winning salon owner who takes training to another level for her team. She makes visiting the hairdresser a unique experience and is the consummate professional. She takes young people with an interest in hairdressing and turns them into exciting and enthusiastic stylists.

Lastly its Shani who owns Bella Borsa - a beautiful Handbag shop - in Kingsbridge. What this woman doesn't know about handbags and how to sell them is no odds to anyone (much to my SOH's chagrin). It is almost physically impossible for me to walk in and walk out without buying one of her beautiful, high quality bags or purses.

What unites us as successful businesswomen?? A passion for excellence, a will to succeed, the drive for delivering a great product and a commitment to a high degree of customer satisfaction. As well as the ability to consume copious amounts of wine and chocolate when the going gets tough!!

But principally its hard work, determination and effort. 

On that note - I'm off to the pub to work a shift on the bar!

Love and hugs to you all,

Liz x

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Where do I start??

Welcome George
In between a couple of short weekend breaks (Copenhagen visiting the Carlsberg Brewery and Portsmouth to welcome No 2 Grandson George to our family) it's been a time of frantic work and trying to achieve a list of tasks.

But before more of that, we are delighted to let you know that we have been shortlisted to semi-finalists for the exceedingly prestigious Licensee of the Year 2015 run by the BII (British Institute of Inn-keeping - our professional body). This resulted in a flurry of activity by the team as anything that stood still longer than 5 minutes was cleaned and polished to within an inch of its life!! Customers were lucky to escape with a light dusting!!

Seriously, getting that far in a completion like this gives you the opportunity to view your business with a more critical eye.  Have you ever watched Dragons Den and the Dragons interrogating the people trying to get money from them?? Well I can assure you its a little like that. But we have it reasonably sorted - SOH does all the
clever finance stuff and wows them with his mathematical prowess (this time even getting a judge to agree that he was wrong  not quite right!)

Whilst I do the chat - hard to believe that, isn't it!!
Having said all of that, I still needed 2 paracetamol when they left (perhaps they did to) We'll hear if we're finalists in about 3 weeks time.

Just before I carry on - we now have our very own badged bitter - 'Salcombe's Best' at only £2.90 a pint!! Probably (!) the cheapest bitter in town!

Anyway,  I am slowly getting to grips with a list of techy stuff that frankly I've been delaying as long as possible - the most important being a newsletter.  You know one of those things that come up in your in box as yet just another e mail to read and generally get deleted without even being looked at!! But I'm really hopeful that you won't do that to mine.

Firstly, they're only going to come out to you FOUR times a year (Ye Gods, I can't do it any more often than that!!) it'll be full of inane chat about the Vic and maybe even a special offer or two - so if you think you can bear it, head over to our website www.victoriainn-salcombe.co.uk and sign up.

Then I've been updating the website with pics, this blog, Trip Advisor updates, staff training, getting the Easter entertainment schedule sorted and then the SUMMER MENU planning.

Apart from that - well what else could there be?? Oh yes! Running the Vic!!

Laters Darlings

Liz x

Sunday, 22 February 2015

February Half term

Well can you believe that February half term has been and gone, we've synchronised our diaries right up until September and we're looking at a very, very busy year! We've had enquiries for parties from Australia, bookings for the Hobbit are looking healthy (a prime fortnight in August has just cancelled if you're interested??) and we already have dinner bookings for summer holidays!!

We've received interest from young people wanting to join us for the summer holidays as well as we're already looking at new and interesting summer drinks. The next biggest challenge for us this year is to achieve a great exciting summer menu that
works for our customers as well as making it easily and speedily achievable for the kitchen to produce. 
 
This January and February has been full of ups and downs already, we have had four deaths of friends and acquaintance's, which filled us with sadness but we have also had reasons for great joy!

One of our team - Jade - has safely delivered a bruiser of a boy; James almost 8 1/2lbs - very glad to say that Mother and baby are very well. We are due a 2nd grandson any day now, and we are looking forward to a trip to Copenhagen at the weekend with a visit to Carlsberg Brewery on the schedule.


Our trophy!
But most exciting of all was receiving the Tenant of the Year award from our brewery St Austell. It was an amazing evening and we were both thrilled to bits to have our hard work and that of our team recognised.  I always love the fact that St Austell put on such a great bash to say thank you to their hard working tenants and I think everyone that attends it recognises that as well.

I undertook a cookery course at Ashburton Cookery School last week and I loved it!! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves food! It was great to do something just for me for a change and I learnt that I'm not a BAD cook, I just need to take my time and taste, taste, taste!! But I must say categorically this was just for me - not work.

Lastly, I was in Kingsbridge last week when I bumped into this loveable and quite gorgeous Cockerpoo in training to be a Hearing Dog. Our A la Bark menu has so far raised in excess of £1200 for this amazing charity and it was lovely to see our donations working.






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