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.






Sunday, 18 January 2015

Happy New Year - 18 days late??

CHRISTMAS LUNCH WITH SILLY HAT PHOTO!
Good evening and a Happy New Year to you all............ yep, I know its the 18th January so I may be a tad late in sending you those best wishes! But honestly my dears we haven't stopped!! Sitting down to write a blog hasn't been that high on my agenda but a customer last night said how much he looks forward to my scribbling's, so I decided to make the effort.
 
Magic Mark

Well, what an absolutely amazingly busy Christmas and New Year we had here in Salcombe and especially at the Vic. I think we could have had a pub three times larger than it is and STILL be unable to seat everyone that wanted to join us for drinks or food! Absolutely amazing and whilst of course everyone went home after the NY there has been another wave of people here and we are continuing to see more people at this time of year visiting Salcombe than ever, ever before.

But first, Christmas and NY - well, we always shut now on Christmas Day, but we were booked up for Boxing Day 2 weeks before the date (unheard of previously!!). New Years Eve we had been fully booked by end of October (I think) all bar a couple of small tables.

Old Gaffers
We had the usual last minute cancellations (2 tables) although the last one of a table for 3 with only 3 hours to go left us all distinctly unimpressed (especially the comment of 'we don't expect a refund on the deposit' - oh don't you now!?!) However, a walk-in of 2 people left us back at having 92 guests for Dinner that evening.

Magic Mark came and wowed the guests with his brand of close up magic - I've stood next to him and I'm blessed if I can see how he does it!! He will be coming back in the year to work with the children over the holidays.
The amazing Old Gaffers delighted everyone as usual!  

The 'Jolly's party
They go just go from strength to strength and it is amazing how many people now come in to listen to them, sing along and then buy their CD's. They have become a real institution of the Vic and seem to fit in so well.

Great food, fantastic service, free entertainment - it seems a winning formula and one we'll probably replay next year! We had guests leaving us that evening asking about booking for NYE 2015, so that was a fantastic result!

We always turn the bar lights off and close the bar 5 minutes before midnight so the whole team can see in the New Year with a glass of Champagne and go outside to watch the fireworks. It always tickles me how the pub goes from fully packed, to empty and then packed again in the space of 15 minutes............... quite funny really and something that even now makes me shake my head and smile.  

Mick & Julie's engagement NYE 2014
We also had an engagement on NY Eve with Mick and Julie pictured here......... blimey the team were in raptures and there was lots of ohhing and aahhing. We were more then happy to give them a glass of bubbly to celebrate and we wish them much love and happiness, and hope they'll always remember that very special evening.  
The kitchen team did a great job with the food that they cooked and here they are enjoying a well earned drink.
 
So what now?? Well a new menu will be written and in use sometime over the next week.  SOH and I will be having a couple of days in Hampshire next week (2nd grandchild on the way very soon)
and then we have the annual St Austell Tribute awards in Newquay to look forward to at the end of January.
 
So for now, it's goodbye till the next instalment and where's my cup of tea.............????
 
Much love
 
 
Liz xxx










Friday, 19 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year darlings

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year darlings from all of us here in Salcombe and what a flipping year its been for us here at the Victoria. I don't know about you but I have no idea where this year has gone to - have you???

I'm going to ask for your tolerance while I just recall a few highlights in our year:

Firstly - there was the much talked about re-furb in January which went really quite well. The decision to put ourselves solely in the safe hands of the designers and team was well founded, although the mood board was well received by our customers I still couldn't help listening to those who said they thought we might spoil the Vic. Our managers at St Austell promised me that all would be well and that EVERYONE would want to sit upstairs............. I should have listened!! Because they were right!! The re-furb was every bit as beautiful as we hoped (and prayed it would be).

Its given us another 36 covers upstairs and the visual impact of the staircase as you enter the Vic is amazeballs!!   The re-furb hasn't been without it's issues though, both physically in terms of having to have shut for a few days recently to have various bits re-done and re-painted and my temper has been stretched once or twice to a bit of a limit because of this, but we've also had to learn as a team how to deal with having another space to manage.

I have to say that our team have risen to that challenge brilliantly! We were able to increase our permanent team and also took on a couple of extra part timers.  Even the cleaners had to adjust to a very different pub to keep clean - but all of them have been amazing.  We have carried on with our management training to ensure we were all equipped to move with the changes, so huge thanks to Guy Arnold.

Our kitchen team also took some advice from a Michelin Chef  Peter Gorton about tailoring our menu to increased numbers - all advice was gratefully received from everyone in the transition phase.

Peter Gorton with the team
Increased seating has led to increased footfall, and this summer was the absolute best we've ever had.  We had probably the best summer team ever who quickly settled in and made such a huge contribution to the success of our summer trade.

Our apprentices went from strength to strength - sadly Blake has left us, but he's gone on to a AA rosette hotel,
Aaron collected a special award from his college and Megan our first ever front of house apprentice is showing huge promise and already receiving plaudits from her college.

There was also more storytelling from our resident writer and illustrator Mark who once again pulled in excited children and their parents who sat enthralled in the summer sun as stories were spun and dreams made.

We were incredibly thrilled to receive the very prestigious Taste of the West Gold award early this year - this was incredibly important to us as it reflects the local nature of our produce as well as our commitment to perfection.

Following on from that Tim (SOH) and I were placed in the top 6 Licensees of the country  - although not winners (and yes I admit - GUTTED!!!) we felt we did really well to get to the top 6. The pic shows us gurning for a selfie - sober!!! You should have seen us at the end of the night!!


Following on from this we also won the Devon Life award for Best Family Friendly pub of the year.  Again, this award was also important to us as customers had to vote for us to get us into the finals, and it proved to us that all our little touches like the A la Bark dogs menu (for which we've raised over £2k this year already) the children's toy boxes and menus (all home cooked and fresh, just like the grown ups) had all worked to increase our popularity.

Having an upstairs space has encouraged more Christmas parties to come to us this year, and we have been fully booked for NYE 2014 for a couple of months now - we even have a cancellation list!!

Somewhere along the line I've also lost well over 5 stone (although a glorious holiday shoved on over a stone and a half !) but no more the fat faced woman as you see in the picture opposite.

So all in all it's been an amazing year, it's not been without it's challenges, there have been times where we've sat and looked at each other exhausted and marvelled at what the Vic has become, but there has been much laughter, some frustration, and a massive pride at what we have ALL achieved.

On that note, Tim, myself and every single one of the Victoria Inn team wish you our customers, all of our friends at St Austell brewery and all of our suppliers every best wish for 2015 and I hope Father Christmas brings you all you ask for.

I hope you'll continue to follow my blog in 2015,

Much love and blessings to you all

Liz  XXX



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


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