Monday, 28 May 2018

Almost June?? No, it can't be?!?!

Flip me sideways it really is almost June! Halfway through the year and I've realised I haven't blogged since March........... Well, I have to tell you, this has been one of my worst years health wise and bugger me if I haven't got yet another chest infection - my 3rd this year!! I have been ill almost 6 months now (give or take the odd couple of weeks here and there) so it's right that you know we have taken the decision for me to be semi-retired from the business.  

You're likely to see me for a couple of shifts over a weekend, I'll continue to drop in and out, issue a few orders, do a bit of 'hello darlings' and then come home to do work like this! Blog writing, computer work, social media etc. 

There comes a time when you have to put yourself first in this life and almost going into Intensive Care this year has made SOH and I re-evaluate my role in this stressful business of being a publican. 

One of my good periods a month or so ago saw me go on a 'Snow Shoe' walk in the French Alps on a women retreat with my personal trainer Claire Morgan-Hughes of Devon Fit Camp fame I walked for 6 1/2 miles ups a mountain, round a mountain and then back down a mountain - so I know there's good health in me somewhere, I just have to tap into it, and then hold onto it! 

Happy ladies celebrating the Royal Wedding
So enough about me - how are YOU all doing?? I met loads of old friends yesterday down in Salcombe for the May Bank Holiday - the town has wall to wall visitors right now and everyone seems in jolly good humour! Nothing like sunshine to put a smile on peoples faces is there. Our kitchen has been highly busy the last 2 days producing just under 1,000 meals in 2 DAYS!!! I remain amazed by what they consistently produce and whilst under enormous pressures........ 

Our Front of House staff work so hard as well and yet still manage to have a smile on their faces! Such lovely people working with us, we're so lucky!! 

We're also exceptionally fortunate to have a new Head Chef leading our kitchen team; Jon Bell! Old school Head Chef who cooks with passion and enthusiasm, calls a spade a shovel (he's northern!) has bags of experience in award winning pubs. Jon is a huge softie and we have hit it off like a house on fire, not easily ruffled and just one of life's nice guys. We're very fortunate to have him!  

I'm soooooooooo excited about the menu he's going to bring you in the summer!  We also have our Christmas menu for parties small and large (not Christmas Day though) and also New Years Eve menu although we are 70% booked for that event already.............. how amazeballs is that! Those should be on our website in the next day or 2 so check back soon. 

Just a reminder that if you really want to eat with us, you have to book to be absolutely sure of a table with us, and sadly, we now take deposits for all booking of 6 people or more. £5 a head refundable if cancelled within 24hrs notice.  We've had to take this step due to people booking the tables, taking potential bookings away from other people and then simply not turning up. People apparently call it choice booking - they book several places and then make their choice on the night.......... I call it bloody mad manners myself! So give us a call on 01548 842604  and we'll do our best to get you a super table at our award winning pub. 

The 50 different gins that we have on offer are all going very well, with a couple of firm favourites for sure, but our customers do seem to like to try out some of the slightly more different ones, especially the fruity Gins with brilliant Fever Tree tonics. 

SOH is busy out in the Vics garden today planting up a few more plants, following Judith from Bayleaf having done the bulk of the work in planting up the back of the garden and Potters Nurseries East Allington having now planted up the front of the pub!, and all very splendid it's looking too! Photo's of that next time. 
As is this rather gorgeous painting from local artist Jon Woolfenden, painted right outside the Vic, I just think it's stunning - don't you? 

A quick round up of what entertainment we have for you over the next month or 2:

  • FIDDLERS GREEN - Folk/Rock/Easy Listening (Fabulous Darlings!!) June 30th @ 8pm and 14th July also 8pm

  • OLD GAFFERS - Our local Sea Shanty group (pure brilliance) 12th July and 21st July again an 8p.m start. 

So there you go. A quick catch up on all things Pub Landlady and I look forward to saying 'Hello Darling' to you all very soon, be kind to each other and enjoy the sun. 

Much love as always, 

Liz x

Saturday, 17 March 2018

March? Really??

This lovely photo of the Vic was taken by local man Pete Robinson when we had our last snow fall and blow me down as I sit typing this blog now if there aren't more snow flakes falling from the sky! It's also artic cold out there too............ I just hope this doesn't do to us what it did then! 

Salcombe hasn't seen snow like we had for many years and we were forced to shut for about 2 half days as we have some staff that live quite a distance away, so we couldn't compromise their safety.  

I had another spell in hospital just before all this snow happened, this time with Flu (proper Flu - not the stuff men have!) another 9 days in there this time and I'll probably not be fit enough to return to work until after Easter. But the pub continues to run like a well oiled machine. 

New wine lists are on the way, also a revised Prosecco menu as well as 50 gins!! As a business we've always strived to keep ahead of the game with our business planning and reviewing our drinks offering regularly is a big part of that. Gin is still a huge part of the drinks business so thats why we decided to increase the Gins we have.  

Some cracking gins we have too, mostly from the UK but there is one from Spain and also one from the USA. The American Gin is Bluecoat, this one is made with 100% organic botanicals, and the Spanish Gin is Gin Mare - this has arebequina olive, rosemary, thyme, basil and mandarin in it! 

Several are from Scotland and one that looks to be a firm favourite is The Botanist from Islay, the first and only Gin from this area is said to be a rare expression of the heart and soul of this remote Scottish Island. 

Then we have Peaky Blinders from Sadlers; a small batch, handcrafted spiced gin, undoubtedly going to be popular because of a certain TV programme with the same name! 

The team have already tried a couple and one they seemed to particularly like was That Boutique - Y Gin Company Cherry Gin served with Fever-Tree Cola. I'm assured that it is delicious.  

Another firm favourite was Boe Violet Gin (infused with Violets!) a beautiful colour. I could go on and on but I'll endeavour to tell you about another couple of our new Gins next time.  

Alternatively, do come in and try some yourself and perhaps post a photo of yourself drinking it like Lindsay who was drinking a Brockmans Gin along with Barnaby sat near the fire. 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Longest January ever!

After an amazing Christmas and New Year, it was down to earth with a bang, although we have had quite a good trade this January. 

But for me this January has to be one of the longest and worst I've gone through in a long time! Yet again, my health has let me down (despite having got myself in the fittest shape ever with my personal training!) So after almost 3 weeks of having batted the cold, the chills etc etc etc (God this gets boring) I was really poorly and my GP had me go into our local big Hospital: Derriford in Plymouth. 

I was really reluctant to go there but there is a moment in time when you realise that sometimes you don't have a lot of choice as to what life has in store for you, and all the tablets and potions are just not working. But it also came at a time when the media were telling us how awful it was in the hospitals up and down the land and that corridors were the new wards, staff were on their knees and people were dying from lack of care.  So none of that made me want to chance my arm by going into a hospital that I've not always had the best of times in - let alone when they're on Black alert!    

But you know what?? When you can't get breath into your body and you're pretty sure that the last gasp you took really might be your last - well!? There's no more aces to play, its straight in to ED where a Staff Nurse took one look at me, told me to be quiet (in the nicest possible way) to save what breath I did have, whacked a cannula into my arm in the quickest time I've ever had it done and rushed me over to recuss!!                                                            Well bless me, it's all a bit of a blur after that as the medical team did what they do best..................they filled me with all the stuff I needed, drips, nebulisers and oxygen!  I'm telling you when all this is happening all I AM concerned with is getting out the other end! I have to remember to keep fairly calm (pah!) let the drugs do their stuff and hope and pray that this time ain't the time it doesn't work. Sound melodramatic?? Trust me it isn't!! It also isn't easy to keep calm!                                                                                    

Once stabilised, I was then transferred to the 'Majors' bays, where the treatment continued and you're monitored to see what they'll do next with you! In my case, it was for a few hours, but nothing like I had been expecting, and then transferred to MAU where normally you're observed for overnight or whatever, and then either home or too a ward.  I was then on MAU for 3 days after which a bed on a respiratory ward was found for their specialist care. 

My reason for writing such a personal account of my illness is that in all of this experience, and in each and everyone of the departments or wards, with all the pressures the teams were under I received nothing but brilliant care, kindness and amazing professionalism.  Derriford is a huge hospital and it's NOT always received the best reviews in the world in the past, but something IS clearly happening that is making a patients experience (my experience) so much better. 

There is no doubt that they are massively understaffed, I saw staff going home totally exhausted, there were night shifts in particular that saw a Senior teams with insufficient Health Care Assistants, staff pressured when prioritising call bells from disorientated patients (myself included one night as a fever broke),  endeavouring to get drugs and bedpans to patients in a timely manner. 

But from the Housekeepers like Anne Marie who remembered my name and the fact I liked Custard Creams from the first day on the ward, to young Bertie a first year Dr who was kindness itself - one of so many young earnest Junior Drs - to HCA Mia who made the nights shorter with her humour and dry wit and my undying gratitude to HCA Isobel who made a terrifying fever in the wee small hours of the night (very slightly) less terrifying!  To the Junior Sister Sarah who admitted me to the respiratory ward - took one look at me and said 'Don't worry, you're in safe hands'.  To the consultants & senior Drs I saw EVERY day, sometimes twice a day, their very manner re-assured me I was definitely going to be walking out, but patience was needed. All the radiographers, blood takers and pharmacists - Thank you! To the countless other professionals who I didn't take their names because I was too busy trying to breath! To the patients in my ward who also had their struggles but who became a big family very quickly, I thank you. I hope I also did my bit to help YOU.  

So how do we make the NHS fit for purpose?? I have no idea............. I do know it can't keep be being used as a political football and 'just' throwing money at it won't make it ok! There has to be a cross party approach with people who really understand what's needed. Those people are really not necessarily MP's!!!! 

I do know that friends of mine have left the NHS because they cannot stand to not do their job properly and as they trained to do it, they also can't stand the unrelenting pressure.  The NHS of now is not the NHS as it started out, is it an element of paid care that's coming?? I would pay more but would you? I do think we're being naive if we think the NHS won't crumble one day, and I think that's coming sooner than we think.  

So what for me next?? Well, its slow baby steps to full recovery and hopefully recommence my personal training beginning of March. But until then I'm off work until March, although even today I had a business meeting at home with some of the team - spring menu's etc. I'm also still doing all the social media stuff and getting myself on really top form for a trip to Rioja in February to Santalba Winery and our friend Roberto!! So whilst I'm not physically at the Vic, I'm still very much there and working behind the scenes! 

Here's to the warmer weather to come in the spring, my eternal gratitude to everyone who I came into contact with at Derriford and in the nicest possible terms I hope I don't see you again for a very, very long time! 

Love always 

Liz x x x

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone and a Happy New Year

None of this 'Happy Holidays' nonsense from us here at the Vic - It's a full blown 'Happy Christmas' to you all - are you ready for this great event.............??  Our decorations went up the first full weekend in December and the dreaded Christmas music shortly afterwards. Our poor team are already sick to death of hearing the same stuff, but just occasionally you'll get one of them humming away...... they won't admit it mind you! 

So this week we said goodbye to our lovely General Manager Rob, who's been with us for 5 years and has worked so hard to help us build the business up following on from the refurb and is loved by customers and staff alike. He's been like a second son to me personally and we are all so going to miss him! There was a very drunken send off in the week, where Rob had written 2 speeches - one clean and lovely the other risqué and hilarious. I'll leave you to guess which one we all enjoyed more!

Now holding the reigns as our new Manager is Geordie Jess. She's been with us 2 years and has a great proven record in hospitality, so our business is in good, safe hands! 

Well, it's been another amazing year here at the Vic with us winning some truly super awards;- not least was being the Taste of the West overall No 1 Place to Go To 2017 Champions as well as Best Dining Pub ! 

New Manager Jess & Senior Chef James at an awards evening
Food and Drink Devon also saw us awarded the Best Pub Restaurant for 2017! All three awards were incredible and a huge pat on the back not only for us as the licensees of this great pub but also to all our brilliant team. 

Perhaps not the best summer trade we've ever known this year so we'll be doing a 'sun' dance next year, but the rest of the year hasn't been bad at all and Gin continues to be the No 1 most asked for drink closely followed by Champagne! 

Staffing the kitchen this year proved very challenging! In common with the rest of the UK, Chefs are in short supply and the ones that are around are not always of the calibre I like for our award winning pub, and to be fair, not many Chefs can send out huge numbers of meals a day every day (all freshly cooked)  but we are back to full strength again with some very talented people once more.

In the Front of House (and despite losing Rob) we have maintained a very stable team, all of them being the sort of people you can really rely on to get the job done and without making a fuss.  Customers like to see friendly, familiar faces who remember them and in the Vics team that's just what you get. We have 3 apprentices in the FOH team and 1 in the kitchen - so I'm looking forward to  watching their progress. 

What will 2018 bring then for us as a business?? I think it's about cementing our position as an award winning pub with great staff, fabulous food and a huge range of drinks. A garden that we hope will get better use next year (please lets have a hot summer) and hopefully a huge surprise for our customers during CrabFest weekend! 

Until then, Tim and Myself would like to wish you, our loyal and very lovely customers the Merriest of Christmases and a Peaceful, Prosperous and frankly Wonderful New Year, 

Much love

Liz x x x x

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A Game of 2 halves!!

Gosh this year at the Vic really has been a game of two halves (as all the best Footie pundits say)! We've had floods again this summer, electrical issues bringing everything crashing to a halt (every time SOH even steps foot out of the County), staffing shortage in the kitchen meant we had to employ an Agency Chef for the first time EVER (at an exorbitant cost to the business), we also had one of the worst seasons in Salcombe for footfall that we've seen in a long time - with August being awful for most business's in town, us included ....................... yet it's also been the most amazing time for us at the Vic personally and of course for our great team!

We have just celebrated 2 huge awards in 2 weeks - the first being Taste of The West overall award for Best Dining Pub in the West Country, where the Judge said that 'If there was a pub in Heaven he hoped that it would be like the Vic'! What a lovely thing to say!!

Then sometime later in the lunch hour both SOH and I were staggered to find ourselves in the running for the penultimate and amazingly prestigious award of no 1 Place to Go To - again for the entire West Country! We won!!!  The judges said that our place had everything that was great about a traditional pub! I am not ashamed to say I cried and even SOH almost got excited (!). I then was asked if I'd like to say a few words and for once in my life, it really was just a few words! (Mr Sloan take note!)

Then this week, we both went to the Devon Food and Drink awards where we were absolutely thrilled to be awarded Best Pub Restaurant - again with the judges giving glowing praise about our business.

Getting both Dining awards was amazing because I really do believe we offer some of the best food in a pub that you are likely to get. We have both worked so hard in the 9 years, and had many great teams work with us, but the team we currently have and have had for the last few years are outstanding in what they deliver. Both in terms of cooking and in delivering customer service so all of the awards are not just for Tim and I, but for each and every one of our team.

THEN only yesterday we were informed we are finalists in Visit Devon Tourism Awards 2017 - and will receive either a Bronze, Silver or Gold award in November!  We also have Devon Life awards and the Herald Express awards to go to yet as well...............

So as I said at the outset - a true game of 2 halves!! How do we move forward from these accolades and ensure we stay No 1 and top of our game now??

Well, we keep ensuring the very best produce from our local suppliers, we have a full compliment of Chefs again with another 2 senior and very experienced Chefs having joined us (welcome Chris and Zac), in fact we have a Chefs meeting tomorrow to discuss Winter menu's.

We support our Hospitality Apprentices to be the very best they can be - because they are our future and we continue to cherish and be thankful for the amazing team of people who work with us each and every day.

Then it's a huge Thank You to all our loyal and supportive customers (many of whom are personal friends now) who continue to keep visiting us and continue to love what we do.

Love and kisses (from a slightly emotional)

Liz x x x x

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Summer Hols. Salcombe is...........??

Snapes Point 
So it's the summer hols and Salcombe is..........?? Salcombe is what? Well a lot quieter this year than anyone expected.  I've spoken to few traders (large and small) who are saying the same thing. 

However having said that, our day time figures have risen considerably which indicates many more day trippers, but evening stats are not quite so good.  Whilst there are no car parking spaces to be had in the streets of Salcombe up and around, there are more often than not spaces in the car park at Whitestrand in the evening. 

Now some of this is around the fact that the garden has not been so well used this summer yet due to the absolutely dire weather we've had and continue to have tonight as I sit writing this blog! 

Luckily we've not had as many young people on our summer staff as we have had in the past so we've not had to let any summer team go, so plenty of shifts for all of them so they have a bit in their bank accounts for when they go back to University. BUT the weather for the end of August looks to be perking up a bit! Hoorah! August Bank Holiday could well be dry AND sunny!!! 

Picture from Colin Nightingale at Salcombe Brew 
The Salcombe Regatta last week was (I think) a huge success - there certainly seemed to be a fair few people milling around. As usual there was controversy about Whitestrand car park closing for a few days and  concerns/grumbles from some shop owners that it was adversely affecting their business.  I'm not sure it does - granted it can make trying to find somewhere to park a bit of a pain, but it's only a few days once a year and it's such an institution that it would be a shame if  it ever stopped just because of that! 

The local people who volunteer to run the event are a great bunch and put so much effort into it, planning for it goes on most of the year and it's a shame when people moan and groan so much about parts of the event. It can't do their morale any good! 

Official handover of the new First Responders Car

The fireworks were great as usual and for the first time in our 9 years in Salcombe, SOH and I watched the entire fireworks spectacle from Cliff House where I hosted a table as a new Rotarian for a charity fund raising event.  

I'm so proud to be part of this amazing group of people.  There were some fantastic auction prizes and I bid (of course) on a super 1 night stay in a top hotel in London and a meal in a Michelin star restaurant - something to look forward to next year! 

Salcombe Rotary are an amazing bunch and work very hard to raise money for local charities, through things like the Crabfest event and a case in point is they supported a new car for the Salcombe First Responders.  

The Victoria Inn as a business also contributed a substantial amount too, but without Salcombe Rotary they definitely would  not have got this lovely new car (that means SOH can now actually get out of 2nd gear!!!) But in all seriousness, this new car is just that - brand new, spacious, mobile phone, blue tooth etc. 
Salcombe Rotary President John Sampson, Jill and Tim 

It makes a tremendous difference that SOH (Tim) or Jill (fellow first responder in the bottom photo) are able to get to a 'shout' swiftly and safely - and this car will make a huge difference. 

So to all of the people who gave money at any Salcombe Rotary fundraising event, and on behalf of Tim & Jill, Salcombe First Responders - THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Social Media - The Power of!

Well forgive me if I never write agin how gorgeous the weather has been! Because ever since the last blog where I talked about glorious sunshine etc, etc , etc it seems we've not had a day where it hasn't poured down with rain! Oh and Thunder...... and lightening... and gale force winds! So my humblest of apologies to you all! 

I have been smitten by a chest infection yet again for the last couple of weeks so everything I've done has been done from the comfort of my sofa, and actually social media wise I've been kept busy! However, I did venture out one lunchtime to treat myself and more about that later!                                                                                                
Me!!! In full Blog writing mode! 

Social media consists of so much for us as a business nowadays - we have a huge Facebook site with well over 3,000 likes, a Twitter account with almost 3,000 followers and an Instagram account I'm building up slowly but surely standing currently at 520 followers. None of that has happened overnight and every day my routine is this; 

Firstly! Cup of tea in bed (bought by SOH) check Social Media Accounts. Always check Trip Advisor (currently No 1) to see if any new reviews in - a lot of my days mood will depend on the fact we've had good or not so good ones! I always answer all of them regardless. 

Next, I check all media accounts for comments, actions to be taken, e mails to be answered, any bookings that come through the accounts.  For the pub team we also now communicate through a private Facebook group; Rotas are sent, discussions had about previous services, any queries or ideas etc.  Sometimes just a bit of well placed banter or a private whinge!  It doesn't stop us meeting as a team but it's a useful tool and it's nice and informal! 

All of this and more can be done on my iPhone (shameless plug I know - but they might send me a free upgrade when it happens!). So it's often nice to check in and say Hi, pass on compliments etc to the team. 

But to write blogs or articles for magazines I always fire up my MacAir (Yes, another shameless plug!). I can sit for hours tapping away on this thing and thoroughly enjoy it, but I would say updating all of the social media accounts takes me about 2 hours a day - more like 3 if I write a blog like tonight. But you cannot underestimate the power of SM - and any business that doesn't use it to it's fullest potential is missing a trick! 

For example - the photo of our rudder advertising our Taste of the West award 2017 attracted over 600 views on FB, over 1800 'impressions' on Twitter and 60 likes on Instagram! Do you have any idea what sort of cost that would be to advertise formally!!?? 

So, just because you don't always see me in the pub, I am not sitting around painting my nails! 

Today I've been kept busy as we featured in the fabulous Devon Life as one of top 16 Dog Pubs in Devon to visit and one of my fab team; Sam Inch recently thought about water in the garden for our doggies and came up with this absolutely fantastic and innovative idea!!! Don't you just love it???

Anyway, I've been a poorly bunny again as I said, but I did go out (on my own!) the other (only) sunny day for a spot of lunch. 

Now, I think we're VERY  lucky to have some really nice eateries in Salcombe - I have a couple of personal favourites - but it's always nice to try something new, and there's currently a bit of a buzz about The Wardroom. At the back of Crew Clothing (Oh Lord how I love that shop!! Especially stocking up on SOH shirts and tops when they have their sales) 

The young man causing a bit of a stir is Jamie Lee Burnard and he's been a MasterChef quarter finalist as well as also Young Chef of the Year for the whole of the SW. 

We've been talking on FB (social media again) so I took him up on his offer to try his food (all of which I paid for - apart from the pud which was his get well gift to me!) I had a super seat by the waters edge and the food was as good as I've tasted in some top London restaurants! 

I truly think he is someone to watch and I personally wish him all the love and luck in the world in developing his menu and the business. 

It's so great when you see new talent emerging and I'm sure we will hear big things about Jamie in the future. It's also excellent news for all of our visitors as it gives yet another option for them.  

Talking of new talent, we are delighted to have another apprentice starting with us in September. This is Nick - Nick had been with us a KP (Kitchen Porter) for a few months now and a nicer man you couldn't hope to meet. KP's generally get the shittiest jobs - the humping, lifting, shifting, cleaning, fetching and carrying jobs! 

But Nick has really shone in all that and he asked to be considered for a Chefs Apprenticeship! He'll get paid a decent wage and learn a trade and we are very, very pleased that he wants to do this - so well done Nick, we're happy to give you this opportunity.  

Our Chefs are currently working on the new Autumn menus (they will start mid September) and the NYE menu (for which we literally have a dozen spaces left!) is going to blow your socks off you lucky people who have booked with us. 

Just a quick mention about 2 local happenings before I close down for the night; The Berry! This is still rumbling on!!! Ominously so! There is a Facebook page if you want to keep up with events;

There's also been an impassioned plea from Ben Sherring who runs a small family run business at South Sands called Sea Kayak Salcombe - might just be worth a read and a comment if you feel so inclined;

I think that will do for tonight, seem to have been on here for ages - let me just remind you dear readers, that all comments, musings and meanderings on here are MY OWN thoughts and comments. Everything I write is in the interest of Salcombe, our town, our traders and our visitors! 

I hope you enjoy reading this blog tonight and continue to support me in my witterings for a few years to come, 

Much love

Liz x