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 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How long???!!??

Oh my goodness............ I can't believe its been almost 2 months since I last did a pub blog, and may I say a huge thank you to one of our customers yesterday who prompted me to write tonight.  Can I say secondly, I'm so sorry that I've been tardy in blog writing this year but time is at a bit of a premium these days! 

As I write this I'm hearing 'Crazy' by Patsy Cline on the radio and it must be said that's pretty much how life has felt since the Victoria Inn had it's re-furbishment at the beginning of the year and re-opened.

To say the refurb has been well received is pretty much an understatement....... I remember having a conversation with Jim at the St Austell brewery and saying to him how worried I was that customers wouldn't like the new look pub, and that I was worried whether the new upstairs would be used much by guests.  I remember him saying that guests would be practically fighting over the window seats within a few weeks............Blimey oh riley he was right!!!!  We have become a pub that if you don't book in advance it can be touch and go as to whether you'll get a seat and certainly a table or time of your choice. We try our hardest, but please ring or email us to make a reservation and to be certain of a booking to your choice won't you. 
Oars in the Umbrella stand!! 

This brilliant and beautiful new pub has not happened without creating some challenges for us - but we think (I do hope you agree!) that we have tackled the challenge of increased numbers of customers eating and drinking with us succesfully now after a few teething issues. 

We've increased our staffing by loads to ensure we don't disappoint in terms of customer service as well. Our kitchen now has 2 extra people and front of house has 3. Our summer staff have started to appear and it looks like we have an absolutely fantastic summer crew again this year - in fact about 12 extra summer staff in total!! So I think we will have about 37 staff on at various times! 

We've been working very hard to get our menu's right again this year for the 'season' and have decided to offer a separate Garden menu and serving dinner from the new time of 4.30 to accommodate people coming off the beaches. Chowder comes back and lots of fish of course - but this year I'm determined not to unveil what we're doing until right the last minute so that we're not copied! The new menu comes in next week and will run till the 2nd week of September. 

We introduced a Gin menu a couple of weeks ago and that has been soooooooooo popular -  even WE have been surprised at the reponse! A choice of a premium Gin (double) with a Fever Tree tonic (fabulous) in a beautiful big goblet type glass and garnished with all sorts of things ranging from ground black pepper to slices of ginger, grapefruit or strawberries - whichever is pertinent to the Gin. Absolutely loved by our customers! 

Our summer baskets are in situ at the front of the house - although we almost lost them as we didn't realise that the early heat had dried them out quite as much as they had! But, apart from 2 end baskets they seem to have recovered from their drought of water.......

We are already looking forward by advertising for another Kitchen apprentice, as our 2 boys Aaron and Blake are undertaking year 2 at college to ensure even better skills under their belt.  We will also have a front of house / hospitality apprentice starting with us in September. 

I hope the above shows you why when I have much free time, you'll generally find me slumped clutching a mug of tea staring at the TV - but not really watching it! My brain never really shuts off and on a short break the other week it was day 3 before I realised my jaw had unclenched! But for SOh and I, the Victoria Inn is now a real dream come true and we love every minute of being with her - we hope you do too?!?

I promise not to leave it 2 months till the next blog!

Liz - Licensee X

Monday, 5 May 2014


One of our small guests adding HER touch to our new garden sign
Hello dear reader - sure it must be down to single figures now as for one reason and another I haven't had the chance to blog for weeks!!!  Primarily it has to be said because we have been non stop busy - oh my! The re-furb has been SOOOOOOOOOO good for business. Also, because after thinking I was clear of poorly chest infections after 13 months being fit and well - I was hit by a horrible chest infection and was in and out of hospital over the Easter period, and only the last week or so have I returned to work.  

Anyway - back to the business of the Victoria Inn. As I say the re-furb has been very good for business - guests love the new look and what a difference it's made to their eating habits. What do I mean?? Well, guests are having many more 2 or 3 courses and staying & savoring the ambiance.  I had a conversation with a lady at the weekend who was actually downstairs in the library room - and she said that whilst they've always loved coming in to the Vic, she thought it was all so much more open and airy now - in fact her words were 'not so claustrophobic'!  That seems to be a common theme, but we do have to smile at guests who come in and look at the new stairs as though trying to figure out what the difference is............ but in many ways, I think that's great as it means the re-furb has been done sympathetically and absolutely in keeping with the character of the pub as was! 

The new garden sign has been painted by our friend Mark Fraser (the author and story teller in our garden in the summer) and the little girl is painting HER leaf on the bush, as did several children! Its absolutely lovely and we are lucky to have such a talented friend. 

We're also trying to actively encourage guests to book if they want to dine with us as even though we have a much bigger pub, we still turned many customers away this Bank Holiday weekend as we just couldn't fit everyone in. We've also now added 4 additional Full Time Permanent people to our team - 1 to the kitchen and 3 to front of house hospitality team - such are the demands of all our additional guests and the increased numbers. I also don't want to kill of US or any of our team through working us/them to death!! 

At the beginning of April we went to London for the judging process for the BII National Licensee of the Year 2014, along with 5 other contenders. This involved going in front of 3 panels of 4 industry experts, having photo's taken and a video (yuck - hate those!!) - next thing is lunch next Tuesday at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London to find out if we have won the title.  One of our Chefs and one of our Managers is joining us for this and I expect we'll see lots of people we know when there. I'd like to say I won't be nervous - but I will.  I'd like to say I don't mind if we don't win - but I will. However, having said that, I do realise how well we've done to get through to this stage out of all the hundreds that applied in the first place.

Whilst we were in London I saw this brilliant sign which was VERY pertinent to some of the prices in the pubs and restaurants in London - maybe I should nick the concept???  Not that we are that expensive when a pint of St Austell Dartmoor from sells at £2.80....

Last month we also said farewell to Jim Sloan as our Business Development Manager (change in areas) and hello to Dwayne Peace who's taken over from him. Dwayne is not new to us as St Austell brewery is very much a big family and you get to know most people in one way or another (generally pickled at the yearly Tribute awards!) He's a lovely chap and we look forward to working with him. 

So then, wish us luck for the 13th May and you can be guaranteed to read all about it here at some stage or another!! 

Carpe Diem

Liz x

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Lazy Saturday

Don't make me laugh................ I've almost forgotten what it's like to have lazy days, but trust me we are certainly not complaining!!

Today is at last the day of Tims BIG celebratory birthday (it involves the no 6!!!) so the food orders stop at 2.30 and we close the doors at 4.  Friends and family are arriving from all over: Scotland, Wales, Hampshire, Cornwall etc, etc. 

Tim is immensely popular - not hard to understand really as he is one of life's gentlemen and the nicest, kindest and most lovely man I've ever known in all my life! I just hope that all my hard work at organising this and all the other Birthday surprises pay off! So off to London next week for 3 days and then back to London for the 9th and the judging for Licensee of the Year 2014- my nerves are going to be frazzled by then.

As a business we have had yet another amazing week having been awarded the Taste of the West Gold award.  This is hugely prestigious and awarded because of the local provenance, quality of food (cooking & presentation) customer service and ambience - amongst a load of other things! Last year we were awarded Bronze and I was really miffed (if you look back at old posts you'll see I phoned a friend and opened the wine - in the lunch hour at home!!)
BUT - as always, once I'd calmed down I took the critique on board and we worked hard to achieve what we received this week!

Right, I'm off and unlikely to blog again this week - so be kind to each other and see you soon,

Liz x

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spring is sprung

Great Pic from Scot Baston
And it looks like I've sorted out not being able to put pictures on the blog - it was something to do with Google...............??? I've installed Chrome-something-or other and it seems I've turned into a computer genius!!! Oh I am pleased - blogs are so flipping boring without pictures!! 

So the picture opposite is from a couple of years ago and is from Scot Baston a local photographer who's not only a lovely man but is also very talented and this is from some great shots he did of the pub and garden. 

Talking of which - the garden at the pub looks NOTHING like this yet!!! The benches have been painted, as have the seats we bought from the old Tides Reach Hotel, as has the play area fencing - only the 'Boat-Henge' to do.  SOH has seeded the grass area again, but it gets so much foot fall I'm not sure that short of shutting the pub garden for 12 months that we're ever going to have much success in getting the grass to take any better than it does....????  Planting will start round about May time to ensure we have a nice riot of colour ready for our summer visitors. 

We had a really lovely surprise this week when we received a letter from the British Institute of Innkeepers telling us we are national finalists in the Licencee of the Year 2014 - we are one of only 6 in the whole of the UK!!! It's a massive honor for us, and also for our absolutely amazing team.  We go to London on the 9th April to be judged by three panels of industry experts and from that along with what the two judges have written about us (from their visit to us a couple of weeks ago) they will make a decision as the overall winner which will be announced on the 13th May at the huge annual lunch held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.  All I have to do is hold my nerves in check and remember not to talk to much (steady!!!). 

In the meantime, trade has rocketed following the re-furb and I desperately need another Chef de Partie, full time AND permanent to join our great kitchen team. You will also be seeing several new faces front of house as we grow our team their to help look after all our lovely guests and we have been so fortunate to have great people want to join us. Photo's definitely will follow!

Its a big birthday for SOH week after next and a huge party is planned for the weekend, followed by three days of surprises I've been planning for him for months - of which I'll tell you all about as and when they've happened! 

I'm off now - thoroughly delighted I've sorted out the photo issue on this blog (would have been a nightmare starting a new one on a different platform) and I look forward to being able to blog again more regularly..................... 

Much love 

Liz xxx

Saturday, 15 March 2014

I'm sorry...............

I'm sorry its been a while since I wrote a blog, but I'm having the biggest headache ever trying to get pictures onto this blog - not just professional big pictures, but any pictures at all and I have no idea why!!!! So frustrating, because I have loads I'd love to share with you.

So where on earth has the last 6/7 weeks gone since we opened?? Well, an absolute flurry of activity is the answer! Firstly the 'soft' opening at the end of January was swiftly followed by the 'official' opening in the 2nd week of February with about 100 to 150 people coming through the doors to have a look at this amazing pub, and quite frankly we have barely paused for breath since then.

Our customers seem to absolutely love the transformation and we have had few weekends when we haven't been absolutely packed out and weekdays we have seen a phenomenal rise in numbers of customers - so, if you're thinking if visiting and would like to eat with us, then you really, really must book in advance 01548842604. Mothers Day and Easter weekend we already have a number of bookings!

We have been swiftly recruiting front of house staff and my goodness we've managed to get some great people who have all the key skills we look for, and now we've just decided to recruit another Chef de Partie to come and work in our kitchen. We're also keen to take on another Chef Apprentice this September. Our existing 2 young men have been brilliant, and have good careers ahead of them.

I may not be able to put pictures on here at the moment, but we had some amazing pictures taken for Google - to provide a 'Virtual' tour of the Vic - so hopefully, if you click on the following link, you should be able to see us in all our glory! (Hopefully),-3.767422,3a,90y,173h,90t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1s6YNTkYgifdQAAAQJPpizOw!2e0!3e2!6m1!1e1  I'd love to know what you think of the refurbishment..................???

We have met this week been judged for the national award of Licensee of the Year 2014 awarded by the BII. We have been shortlisted to the semi-finals but I would love for us to achieve finalist standards this time. The process is hugely rigorous and involved a 2 hour meeting in which they inspected the whole pub, then sat down with us and had a Q & A session where they looked at all our aspects of our business. We hope to hear as to how successful we've been in the next couple of weeks.

We have also been judged for this years Taste of the West award. I'm really hopeful we may get better than a Bronze award this year, but I always hope we'll achieve bigger and better every time we enter for anything! 

SOH is out in the garden as I type getting the garden up to scratch in readiness for the looming Easter holidays. Benches are being painted, the garden has been re-seeded and paint brushes are being used! The pub is also quite busy again - so on that happy note, I'll blog again when I can and by then I may have had the whole photo issue sorted out!

Liz x

Sunday, 9 February 2014

We're back!!

And so we are!! After 3 weeks of mayhem and madness, dust and noise, nervousness and downright excitement (mixed with a little/lot of trepidation) the doors of the Victoria Inn are open once again and my goodness, gracious me - we are looking BEAUTIFUL!!!
The whole building has been turned into a totally stunning looking pub - the meetings and planning have all been worthwhile! The architects vision coupled with our requirements for it to remain a traditional pub, not become a theme pub or a W********ons have worked out amazingly. The colours of muted greys, blues and burgundy coupled with wallpapers that are bookcases, travel trunks, maps of the world or Dutch blue plates all lead to a feeling of tradition yet the Vic seems  lighter and sophisticated.  The new Oak flooring upstairs gives a real warmth and depth, whilst the new curtains downstairs give a cool elegance.  The two mirrored walls give an illusion of space and light & just add a certain quirkiness.
The downstairs restaurant area is now rather grandly called the library room, and the upstairs dining area which was only ever used as an overspill is now a stunning space where you can drink a pint and watch the world go by looking out of the windows, sit on the sofas or comfy chairs and play with a myriad of games or just read the papers with a pint, a coffee or a bottle of wine.
Alternatively, you could choose to sit and have a fantastic meal - the ambience upstairs is now phenomenal as you get all the noise and bustle from downstairs and you get the calming views of the estuary or you can sit and look into the garden.  Or if you get the right seat on the sofas you can look down on the bar area............. the choice is endless!!   I will have some professional photos in a couple of weeks - but in the meantime. I hope these give you a flavour of our beautiful Victoria. Next blog will be all about the first couple of weeks and the official opening.
Much Love
Liz x

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