Sunday, 9 November 2014

What a week!!!

Well what a week it's been.......... another Birthday celebrated by me, a couple more pounds shed (mainly thanks to me catching one of a couple of lurgies doing the rounds here in the glorious South Hams!) but most importantly was our success in the Devon Life Food & Drink awards 2014!

We won the Best Family Friendly Dining Experience category sponsored by Frobishers ( a rather nice drink that we stock at the Vic and as I wasn't drinking that evening I managed some of their very nice Cherry juice!!). We were ( well I clearly was!!) as you see quite shocked by winning as the incredibly embarrassing picture of me with my mouth open catching flies illustrates quite neatly!! SOH has his customary laid back look but even he confessed to me after that he was as surprised as I was.

Now whatever award we enter for, or get nominated for and in this case it was customers voting for us that got us into the top three - we are always thrilled just to be nominated................. I have learnt not to expect to win anything since I was about 10 and always failed miserably at everything I attempted. I was the girl who was always the last one chosen to make the netball team or the one who didn't quite get the marks hoped for............. anyway! Moving on!

We were runners up last year in this category so I saw no reason to think we'd be any luckier this year, and regardless of what I SAY there's always a bit of me that's bitterly disappointed if we don't actually win - so I've perfected the art of that fixed smile and 'well done' to the winners whilst inside being gutted!!!! Shallow aren't I - but honest!!

I had hoped to put the logo on here but haven't been able to today, but I'll play around and see what I can do.  Needless to say, everyone of our team was delighted, especially Jacqui who was one of the team on the night we were mystery shopped and when asked what a Gurnard (fish) looked like pulled a gurning type face!!!!  That apparently was well received by the judge and showed our humour and friendly style.!!

Congratulations also the Church Inn at Churchstow (another St Austell pub) for winning Best Sunday Roast - so pleased for them and their team. It just shows that there are still some great pubs around with excellent offerings if you look a bit further than the obvious mass produced chains.

Pleased to say that we are still really quite busy - quite a few people coming down to take their boats out of the water, close up caravans and a few houses, but still lots and lots of day visitors and the hotels remain full so that's all very good for business! We were apparently very busy last night with quite a few big tables but I was nursing (and still am) a delightful dose of a tummy bug!). 

Remembrance Sunday so SOH tells me saw an unusually large crowd at Cliff House with rowers in the water who raised their oars at the given moment. SOH placed a wreath on behalf of the First Responders and he said how lovely it was to see so many young people being involved.  I watched the TV snuggled up in the warm watching a ceremony on the BBC I've seen for more years than I care to remember, yet it moves me every single year.  

There isn't much else to say right now other than just a reminder that we are shut for three days: 16th, 17th and 18th of November re-opening Wednesday 19th November with a cracking new winter menu.

We have to have a bit of maintenance work done and this was deemed to be the best dates available to us - so I'm really sorry to disappoint any of you thinking of visiting us then. I will try to blog again next week, so here's to a germ free week for us all,

Liz x

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Half term - already??

Can someone kindly tell me where this year is going, because I have no idea where the last ten months have gone!!! I've looked and just can't find them!

So - we carry on being phenomenally busy........... now don't get me wrong I am in no way complaining as in an age where pubs up and down the land are struggling to make a living we are exceptionally grateful that people love us as much as they do - but I do feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for the bubble to burst.....???  However, the re-furb, growing economy, warm weather  et al is ensuring we are still doing ok.

This Sunday just gone was the very first time in our 6 year history that we were fully booked at least 3 days before the day! We also had people sitting in the garden this half term weekend because it was so exceptionally warm.

As for New Years Eve - well I've only just advertised that event on the website and we already only have about a dozen spaces left - so if you're contemplating a visit to us NYE don't leave it much longer to book!!

I just wish I could get guests to understand that even though the Vic is loads bigger its also loads busier and if you don't book for a dinner or lunch reservation you may not get in, particularly if you're a party of 6 or more.

So, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE book or else please don't stand in front of us with pleading/accusing voices and expecting us to magic a table up! We'll always do the best we can even if it means a short (but pleasant) wait at the bar with wine in hand, but booking makes everyone's life easier.

So onto news - well it was very nice to go to a Hotel in Torquay last week to celebrate successful apprentices at South Devon College. We were delighted to see Aaron collect a fabulous cup for getting a Special Endeavour award - seen here pictured with his proud Mum & Dad. He really is a lovely young man and works so hard in our kitchen. He has some great ideas food wise and his palate is very good! He also has a blindingly daft sense of humour!!

Aaron is one of 3 apprentices we have - 2 in the kitchen, Blake is the other one (now on their 2nd year) and young Megan front of house who is our first ever Hospitality Apprentice - already she has learnt so much and all that adds to the overall experience of our pub and what we can deliver in terms of customer service. We also pay our apprentices far more than the national average - which we believe is a pittance (starts from just over £2.70 per hr!!!) and almost amounts to slave labour, so we pay a good wage and we also pay for them to attend college. We get a small grant from the Government for their first year but that barely pays for college, so we believe in the value that they give our business and pay them accordingly.  We both actually feel its quite a privilege to mould these youngsters and try to give them a good head start to their working life.  

What else?? Well SOH and I are off on a holiday of a lifetime at the end of November and so we are very busy getting ready for Christmas as there will be limited time for that when we come home in December. Sorry - did I say WE???? Well I/ me/ myself am writing, wrapping, sorting and SOH is..............???? Answers on a postcard please!!!

As I've referred already the weather is so mild down here that we have still been using the garden so that's not closed down yet as we would have done normally by now, and we shall have a Halloween interactive story telling session on Friday 31st at 6.30 with the lovely Jacob Cracker - our resident author.

Next week we shall be going to Exeter for the Devon Life awards again as we are nominated by YOU our customers for Best Family Friendly Dining Experience - fingers crossed we may win this year but regardless it's fabulous to be nominated into something as prestigious as Devon Life!

So on that note, I'm off - write again in a couple of weeks,

Liz xxx

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 

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