Friday, 28 November 2008

End of the week...........

Friday! My goodness where does the time go in this business?? Well - it's been a blooming good week actually............ starting with a magnificent 60 covers (thats restaurant speak for meals served / tables taken!!) on Sunday - our week goes from Sunday to Sunday in this business, so that was the most excellent beginning! On Tuesday the BII South West region had their Chairmans pre Christmas lunch with us and everything went absolutely magnificently, and we had the lovliest e mail from Chairman Keith de Bruin thanking us and our staff for such a good time......... and the rest of the week has gone quite well also.

In a planning meeting the other day with Glo and James they both said how well we are doing for customers compared to last year - more locals are venturing in, guests love our new comfy seating area - that has proved to be a real winner - so we are more than happy some 9 weeks in.

I have to say though I am actually quite tired today, but it has been a 'bit of a day' today! Every man and his dog has been in today to do something to the building - the heating engineer for the fourth (or is that the fifth??!?) time since we moved in - but it is apparently all fixed now (!), the builders - who when the velux window was out in our living room and the new one not in - had to cope with a heavy shower which invaded the lounge in our flat and then slates falling off the roof left, right and centre if they so much as breathed on them! The gardeners who pressure washed the side entrance of the pub and removed about three inches of sludge and finally the contractors to look down drains....... So I'm a bit tired, slightly less hypothermic than I was an hour ago, and polishing of the Christmas chocs as I type :( It's the perfect day for a chocolate overdose.........

Very, very pleased to report we're FULLY BOOKED -hoorah- for New Years Eve and about 75% for Christmas Day, so that is quite amazing - particularly as we're not even in December yet and we haven't actually marketed the events (save a chalkboard outside the pub).

Of course, what was not so good this week was the Chancellor's amazing decision on duty tax yet again - so we have a great poster of him on the door telling him he's barred.......... unlikely to venture down here of course - but it's about making a show of unity as an industry, and it's proved a discussion topic for the customers. Mind you - what would we do if he did come down and enter our pub??? Mmnnnnnnnnn.......

I've also been busy signing petitions and taking part in on line forums.......... quite whether that will do any good - who knows, but nice to see our brewery St Austell being pro-active in putting their voice of disapproval behind the rise as well.

Talking of the brewery we had an invite through the post today to their annual Dinner / Awards bash in January in Cornwall...... hoorah - an excuse to dress up and have fun - oh yes, of course we're going... would be rude not to! Tee hee......

Lastly, we have a new beer on - now as you may know, I'm a Rose wine, Champagne or G & T lady - but our new St Austell beer is Black Prince and I love it!! It's a slightly sweet, dark beer and utterly drinkable. So thats the week in a nutshell really - off to wrap up Christmas pressies tonight, and my lovely son visiting to look forward to next week.

Enjoy your weekend my lovely friends................

Saturday, 22 November 2008

How are we doing??

Thought I ought to write a bit more about our pub the Victoria Inn rather than just Salcombe - otherwise you readers are going to think I'm having the life of reilly here .......... well I am but in between all the breathtaking scenery, fantastic shops, great people etc etc - we are actually working incredibly hard! HONESTLY!!!!

I feel incredibly privileged to working with such a great bunch of people..... in a previous blog I wrote about the kitchen team, but now I'd like to introduce you to the rest of the gang. Firstly there is Gloria - Glo - to all and sundry. Glo is the Bar Manager and she is just fantastic........ she makes sure that all the staff are in place on the rota, that everyone knows what they are doing - but more importantly - she makes sure that staff look after customers and that our service is fantastic...! Everyone loves Glo - staff and customers alike - she always has a smile, she works incredibly hard and can always find jobs for the staff to do (great news!!). Glo is very camera shy, so if you want to see her - then you'll just have to come in and see her in person!

Working with her is Karen - she is our Princess Diana person in the nicest sense of the word - quietly spoken, given to smiling shyly from beneath her fringe and a really sweet natured person. When she gets the giggles it's really quite contagious!! Her customer service skills are first class......

Next we have Carol - a red head with a great personality and a really super young lady. Fantastic with the customers - absolutely nothing is too much trouble for her and she is a huge asset to the team. Get Carol and Karen together and you're likely to hear peals of giggles as they discuss boys and goodness knows what else......... Then we also have Fay who works just a few hours for us at the moment - and she's great as well. Lastly, but not least and hugely important is Jackie - our cleaner. We are ALWAYS complimented on the cleanliness of our pub and Jackie can be rightly proud of the work she puts in to ensure that this is the case.

So thats the team so far folks - as the Christmas season dawns upon us, we shall endeavour to give Fay a few more hours to help out and shortly we shall be having a young man join our female front of house team - more about him as and when he starts. All parts of a pub team are really important and if one bit isn't right - then it has a huge knock on effect all round - if the food isn't great, then all the best customer service in the world won't matter one bit - BUT - the front of house service is a vital part of us being a success - I always say (in my very best David Brent mode!!) you NEVER get a second chance to make a first that first smile, that first interaction and the last good bye have always, always got to be spot on and perfect! I think we're getting it right, and we are very proud of all of our staff.

So then - what about the customers............ well they seem to be liking us and our approach! Apart from the obvious fantastic beers, fab choice of wines and of course the utterly wonderful food, there is the welcome board (from all of us - including Beth), the soft furnishings we've brought in to the bar and restaurant, the candles -loads of twinkling coloured lights - for which we have been very slightly teased by some of the locals (and which do cost us a small fortune every month!!) - but they just give a really gentle warm glow to the pub. Then lastly, the soft, very slightly jazzy, middle of the road music we have on in the background.

We have been extremely fortunate in that for a late November we are actually still quite busy and already seeing many repeat visitors such as our lovely guests in this picture: Bally, Mona, Ro & John - frequent visitors from Bristol and enjoying a couple (!) of hours in our lovely newly designed cosy seating area - just in front of the woodburner.

There we are then - 8 weeks into our new life and so far so good - the only way is onwards and upwards hopefully......... Next week, we have a big BII Christmas lunch for the South West region, for which we are fully prepared and both Tim and I are looking forward to hosting this event. But for now, a busy Saturday night beckons - so I'm off to get my gladrags on and get behind the bar to welcome our guests. See you soon with more ramblings my lovely friends..............

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Ahhh - Salcombe by the sea

There are times in our lives when words fail us - and trust me, for me , thats an absolute rarity!! All those who know and love me (!) are nodding their heads in agreement at this point.........

But yesterday was one of those days when my jaw dropped to my bottom and stayed there for some time. One of our customers we are getting to know is a great young man who goes by the name of 'Tricky' - I'm pretty sure that's not because he is (tricky that is!?!) but because he seems to be a very pleasant, genuine and kind young man - and as well known in Salcombe for his lovely dog 'Frodo' as he himself is known as the ferry man to Portlemouth as well as a life boat crew member.

He very kindly offered the other to take me out to sea on one of his ferry journeys (every half hour - on the hour!) and let me see Salcombe from the sea. So, yesterday when the sun was shining and the wind was a gentle breeze, I took him up on that offer - and thats when the jaw dropping moment happened.........

Now, Salcombe from the road as you're driving in is really quite beautiful, but Salcombe from the sea - WOW!!!!! Firstly it stretches far higher and is far bigger than you can see from the roads, but secondly - the scenery around Salcombe is positively breathtaking. Looking down towards the estuary opening there is the most amazing channel for boats to manouvre with some dastardly rocks that would ground an inexperienced sailor in minutes, yet look how fantastic the sun is shining on the water on a mid -November day and just beyond that is the open sea. Close your eyes and smell the sea - try hard enough and you really will!

Around Salcombe on the Portlemouth side of the water I could both see and hear sheep and cows from the ferry and saw a bit closer the luscious, greenest grass that they graze on. Up there somewhere - thats where our vegetables come from on a daily basis.
Then there are the houses - beautiful sea facing houses with big windows and boat houses, and houses that are just dots from Salcombe revealed themselves in all their glory.

Starting to swing round I saw further down the estuary to Kingsbridge - more little boats, huge seagulls and to my greatest surprise - SWANS! Three of them moving gracefully and effortlessly through the water - Tricky told me that they are so tame they can take food off sailors / visitors.

Of course, there are lots of empty moorings / buoys (still not sure of all the technical terms for all the sailing stuff yet!) but dozens of the yachts are parked up safe and sound in the car parks for the winter......... thats another story all together - and maybe a picture as well.
But then we turned round to come back into Salcombe - and thats when the sheer beauty of Salcombe just hits you............ no postcard, no description (and I'm sure my photo's won't do it justice either) can describe the view of Salcombe from the sea -it's just the prettiest place I've ever seen.
You can see some of the fabulous shops along the main street, as well as the hotel and guest houses, scanning the view you can also see the lifeboat on its mooring as well as the fishing vessels going in and out on a regular basis and then of course you can actually see the Victoria Inn from the sea as well...........

There we are nestled in the middle
of the high street, the cream building just behind the cars at the front of the picture - what a great spot eh??! When I get up in the morning to make a cup of tea - I can see all over the harbour from my kitchen window - jealous? You should be!
So there you are - my jaw dropping moment, after the remembrance day service in Salcombe which gave me a sense of community - yesterday gave me a real sense of warmth and love for a place I've only known for a little while and yet I feel like I've lived here for ever already! Salcombe - I'm falling more and more in love with you every day.............

Monday, 10 November 2008

Part of a Community

Now I know that I was going to talk about our new pub and the team etc etc - but I just HAVE to tell you about yesterday here in Salcombe. It was of course Remembrance Sunday, and in common with most of the UK and indeed abroad - the fallen heroes of many wars were remembered.

As a Portsmouth girl born and bred - I have been to many similar services, growing up near the Naval Dockyard it was hard not to be involved in such things. I've seen ships go out to the Falklands - and I've seen them come back, some with men that didn't return and ships that had been damaged in the conflict as well. But in everything that I've witnessed in Portsmouth, I have never witnessed a service as moving as the service held here up on the top of Salcombe town yesterday.

Firstly. it was the windiest day imaginable (although mercifully the rain held off for the service)and the sea behind us was as rough as rough could be - the little boats moored out were bouncing around like corks, the seagulls were cackling and seemingly enjoying the freedom of riding on the wind, and the few trees around were bending as if in movement with the wind.

At 10.00 the street and square opposite the pub was filling with men in uniforms and medals, dignitaries in suits and bowler hats, ladies in their hats. The RNLI was assembling in their mufti as were the Fire Brigade and Police etc. Lots of young children and families as well. There was the most amazing atmosphere - certainly not one of a party but of a quiet pride in the event about to happen. I took my place up by the memorial and was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by people who I already knew by sight. At the appointed time the march past started and up the hill they came - the elderly wearing their lines of pride on their faces as well as the medals on their chests.......... not quite a march more of a dignified walk (its a gentle hill - but I can imagine not quite so gentle when in your 80's!) accompanied by not quite a marching band but music from a radio - and that was the start of the most touching, compassionate, deeply moving services it's been my privilege to attend.

The pride of those taking part was palpable - the air of remembrance held heavy as faces old, lined and weathered looked out to sea and clearly remembered other times and comrades no longer here. The vicar spoke clearly against a howling wind and hymns were sang with as much gusto as possible. Many wreaths were laid - and all sections of the community were represented - but what tipped me over the edge were two things - the maroons to signify the start and end of the 2 minutes silence - the sound of them resonated around the hills and coves......... the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention! Then the fabulous old gentleman resplendent in uniform playing the Last Post on his bugle - barely enough puff to make it - but he did! That was it - tear drops fell on to my cheek!!

Then I realised in one single moment - we are now part of a community........... hardly any holiday makers here at this event- just good, decent Salcombe people remembering their loved ones, and we are now part of that community!

Thank you Salcombe - we love you....x

Monday, 3 November 2008

James and the kitchen team

I'm going to start introducing you to the Victoria Inn proper and in particular the fantastic staff who work with I'll start with the people who prepare, cook and then clean up! Of course - I mean our Chef and his boys.

Ladies and Gentlemen - I proudly introduce our Head Chef James Chapman........... James is singlehandedly trying to make me fatter than ever.......! He is the most amazing chef and has worked sooooooo hard to encompass our vision for what we want our reputation for food in this pub to be. That is good honest food - great products (local where possible), cooked simply and elegantly - with amazing flavours, using great local fresh fish - our cod and chips in our own beer batter just fly's out the door when on the menu, and we've had Skate Wings, Turbot, Dover Sole, etc - just incredible.

We wanted our food to be reasonably priced so we appeal to the townspeople - not just the tourists, and we wanted it to be real British pub food - but cooked to perfection - from that has come the most amazing Steak & Kidney pies, Venison Bourginnon, Pork Fillets - and the Sirloin Steaks are out of this world............ as for the Sunday Roasts and the gravy he cooks up from scratch - well! Don't even get me started on the puds he makes - tonight I had Baked Chocolate Mousse with a Berry Compote and Ice Cream, his homemade Cheesecake is just delicious and as for the baked pears - well!!!! So - the man is amazing - and we are incredibly happy to have him working with us.

As for his team there is the lovely Marcus- 'Sparky' to us and all who love him! He's Sparky because he's a trained mechanic, but took a change of direction career wise - great lad, hugely hard working and very proud of what he does. He looks after the veg, salads and lunch sandwiches - and has the makings of a fine young chef if he wants to pursue his career in this area.

Lastly but not least - the fabulous Gavin! Gavin is the KP, runs errands to the Butcher, the Baker and anyone else for that matter, keeps everything sparkling clean and makes a great contribution to the running of the kitchen. So all in all we have a fantastic kitchen team who are quite rightly giving us a reputation for great food.

In our first five weeks we've had teething problems just like any other new business, but I can count on one hand the people out of several hundred guests who have made complaints - and the others who have been absolutely fulsome and complete in their praise. So that is our fantastic kitchen team - bet you're hungry now.............

By the way all the photo's here are from the magical eye of Lisa Beany Photography when she visited us last week with her amazing array of cameras and equipment to take shots for us - have a look at her website - you'll be amazed -

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Connected at last - hoorah!!

Hoorah - we are at last connected to the internet.............. I was beginning to think it would never happen! Many many thanks to the very kind shopkeepers and coffee shops in Salcombe who let us in to check e mails etc - but finally I'm sat in my new living room in our new home here at the Victoria - Hoorah!!!

So now the hard work starts for me - I shall over the next couple of days start to change and update the website - I'm going to start by introducing the staff, showing the menu's and wine lists. Then I want to start a 'doggie' gallery of all the great dogs that are visiting us, and reflect some of the comments that guests have left on the feedback cards - good and challenging(!).

So lots of things to do - so much I want to achieve - but how do you eat an elephant - a small piece at a time................ here's a photo to start it off then. Looking forward to telling you all about our new life and showing you the pictures to go with it.............