Saturday, 31 October 2009

Only a few more sleeps...........

Sorry - does that start to this blog entry sound a bit childish?? Na, na na na nah.........I don't care! It is only a few more sleeps till SOH and I set off for a few days holiday in Prague - and am I excited?? Um, YES - just a tad.................................... !!!!

Yes, we're off to Prague for my birthday and our first holiday together since we came to Salcombe. I've checked the weather every day now and it's certainly going to be much colder than here - but very hopefully dry. SOH has booked us in to see the ballet Cinderella on one of our nights there as a birthday treat for me - as an aside, the first ballet I ever saw was Les Sylphides as a small child and as we got in the taxi to come home (I know - there's posh isn't it!!) the driver was talking about President Kennedy being assassinated.... they say you remember all the catastrophic events like that!! and I've booked us in to a jazz club as a treat for him, loads of walking I expect (new - but walked in - trainers at the ready), sight seeing, eating and drinking and shopping - hopefully!! Eating and drinking will be (I've read) not cordon bleu but good hearty stews and dumplings and a lot of pork!?! Oh and lagers and beers....

As with anything we do in the pub it all has to be planned so I've been busy making lists for our
friend who will be house sitting, (you can never - well should never leave a pub empty - insurance purposes - that's another pain in taking a holiday together!) making sure that all is neat and tidy, wages done, beer orders sorted (that's SOH's job) banking and finances left in good order and the list goes on and on and on and on............................... So you can see - you can't ever spontaneously say - 'oh, lets go away for a couple of days'. This will be the last blog for a couple of weeks, so savour every line dear friends..........

Workwise, the Victoria Inn has had a magnificent couple of weeks trading, the half term has been very kind to us. Lots and lots of old friends have been back including Martin, Katie and family and their lovely Alsatian, Colin - have you ever seen such a magnificent dog in all your life?? They say he listens out for my voice - control yourselves oh sarcastic ones!! He is the friendliest most gorgeous dog you could ever meet and I took him for a walk one night -well rather he took me for a walk actually.........and we also did a birthday dinner for 2 of the children in their family - Grace and Alexandra. Twins - but totally different with Grace being about a foot taller than her sister - but gorgeous girls who are going to break hearts!! So we had 12 children for their birthday dinner - and blimey, talk about polite........all the staff and other guests commented on them.

The weather has also been good this week - one day went a bit pear shaped but on the whole it's been good.

Now for some news on the renovations we're having at the pub in January / February - I've been busy seeing contractors and trying to get the best possible prices for all the work that will be done; full painting job through the pub - upstairs and down. New wooden flooring will go down in the downstairs restaurant - but first there are some serious flooring issues to be dealt with - and we'll know the seriousness of that next week. We are also going to have new carpet upstairs........... we weren't, but then SOH said we could just about afford it, so now we are!! New lighting up there as well and possibly even completely new furniture..............we already have 2 new (ish) leather comfy chairs with two more to come from one of the pubs in Cornwall - they are gorgeous and sooooooooo stylish!!

I must admit to getting completely terrified at the amount of money WE will be spending ourselves, let alone the money St Austell will be investing in the pub as well, so, it's really important that all my old values of Local Govt come in to play and we get the best possible value for all of us! On top of that, we've at last begun to work on the wedding proper - with quotes for marquee's, evening hog roast, wording for Order of Service sheets, accommodation for guests - and on and on etc, etc......... is it any wonder I'm not sleeping!

I must just leave you with a little nugget from a conversation that some traders and I were having today regarding the clientele that Salcombe gets. Generally it was agreed that most of the holidaymakers are absolute darlings and no trouble - just here for a rest, a good time and enjoy what we have every day......... but, boy, did this make me smile! It was recounted that one tourist was overheard to say the following............ ' I always knew Salcombe was posh - but look, they even get the boats to face the same way'.

On that note dear readers far and wide (Hi to Mick - Tim's long lost friend in Australia, who tracked Tim down via Google!!) try not to miss me tooooooooo much,

I'll soon be back, Inshallah (I'm flying to Prague - I never take anything for granted!!) :)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Where to start......

Ok - well let's start with the thing that is most on my mind at the moment - a Dog. Fact of the matter is, I miss our dog Beth very, very, very much. Not just a little or every now and then, but a lot!! She wasn't mine to start with she was Tim's, but she became very much mine and I bloody well miss her - in fact even typing those words have put me close to tears......... But the trouble is - do we really want another dog, if so, what sort of dog and when?? What sort of dog is because of my troublesome Asthma, and there's no denying that Beth did upset it.... regularly!

So, if we have another dog we have to have one of the non allergy dogs (think President Obama and what he had to go through to find one for his allergic children!!) and there are 2 things about that ('cos there always are....) firstly, I almost begrudge some of the prices for what are essentially mongrels, but have become fashionable, i.e, Labradoodles, Cockerpoo (!) etc, etc - at £750 plus - they ain't cheap!! Then there are the true breeds such as Schnauzers (too small for SOH) Lurcher type things (too skinny for me) Poodles ('over my dead body' - SOH) or Tibetan Terrier - Bingo!!!! Now there's a dog that ticks all the boxes, but is as hard to find as snow in the Sahara...... apparently there are waiting lists with breeders for a number of years!

So, possibly back to a Labradoodle...... I know there's a place in Somerset where there is a little black Labradoodle with the sign on it saying ' Liz and Tim come and get me' £500 it's not cheap, but the breeder sounds lovely, talked to me about allergies etc etc, and now I'm a bit torn???? They also grow to be about 20 inches high, good temperament etc, so cuddly safe for me and big enough for SOH not to feel a berk walking it! Should we get one now, or should we wait till after our wedding in March??? Decisions, decisions................. and I'm no nearer making that decision than I was a couple of days ago!!!!

Talking of the wedding I've started on the invitations to the chosen hundreds.... (it's starting to feel like that!), we've chosen the hymns (almost), the entrance music for church and now only the exit music to deliberate over. Next comes the discussion over the Bible reading, and a not so traditional 'love' reading. You may chuckle, but SOH and I virtually debate every single decision we make, good fun mostly but tedious (for both of us) on occasions..... we have SUCH differing approaches to almost everything - I'm 'bling' he's subtle, I'm 'grand' he's refined and subtle, I'm 'loud' and he's soft, gentle and yes, subtle!!! He also has a way of making me like what he likes................I well remember standing in a huge store a few months ago trying to find a new rug for our flat. This was our second visit, the first visit we couldn't even decide on the size let alone the colour (!), this time we knew the size and shape, but colour AND pattern - oh God help me! After much arguing (not serious arguing, but gentle persuasion - on both sides) we came away with the one HE liked the most, as always........... know what? The one I really liked would have actually looked horrific! So, lesson learnt, is that whilst SOH is not always right, he's not far off it...........

Almost lastly, a very pleasant evening out this week at a Dinner and Dance in Plymouth, not having done much dressing up in my life, I love the fact I'm making up for lost time now. One of the highlights for me was a drum corps from HM Royal Marines who marched us in to Dinner and then did a 'routine' for the assembled diners. They were brilliant - a tiny slip of a young girl in the group as well and what a great bunch they were - took me right back to my Pompey naval roots and made me realise I do actually quite miss Portsmouth on occasions.

Now, absolutely lastly, we've had a bit of excitement in Salcombe this week as there has been a film crew in town!! Primarily German, and conflicting stories on quite what the storyline involves - but it took an awful lot of people to film one man walking past the Victoria Inn, peer through the window, take a picture with a small camera and walk great publicity for our pub, as apparently it's a film for German TV based on Rosalind Pilcher stories and attracts a good few million viewers! They filmed inside our pub and outside, and it was certainly interesting to watch them. Enjoy the pics.........I like the one of the 2 (yes 2) make up women trying to make the stars hair stay in place on a hugely windy afternoon!!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Hi Meg............

Hi Meg and all your friends and David, Jackie and all the other lovely people who have been into the pub over the last couple of weeks and said 'Hello, I/We've been reading your blog'! I still can't quite get used to complete strangers saying that to me and realising they know all about me/us/the Victoria because of my various ramblings...... but I have to be honest and say it gives me a bit of a thrill as well, particularly when they usually say how much they enjoy reading the blog!!
So then, what shall I talk about this time - well, lets start with business. Firstly, we have now started to see a drop off in the day time....... but evenings continue to be quite reasonable 30 - 40 covers most evenings and weekends pretty much fully booked, with 60/70 covers on a Sunday lunch hour still. Our Sunday roast stills seems to draw the customers in and we've decided to keep the price at £9.95 - that's a choice of 2 Roasts, usually Beef and 1 other - Lamb or Pork generally, homemade Onion pudding or Yorkshire pudding and a gravy that James starts to make about the middle of the week....everything goes in it and by the time Sunday comes it's just absolutely delicious!! As well as the roast we also do a selection from our 'ordinary' menu, and it's really interesting watching people decide what to have on the Sunday. We've also introduced a fabulous Carrot Cake and Coffee or Tea as an alternative drink / snack and blimey, that's going really well - hoorah!

This time of year bring is bringing really great customers....... many remember us coming to the pub last year and still being in the 'settling in phase' - needless to say I haven't remembered many of them, but they've been most gracious about that fact! Talking of which the new winter menu is doing really, really well - the Steak & Kidney pudding in particular selling very well....suspect James our Head Chef may be sick of them by Christmas..... :) But it proves all that I thought - customers like good traditional home cooked pub food - and our winter 'British Classics' reflect that.

The Victoria is still without it's huge roaring fire as the fan (draws the smoke up and out - means the pub stays a smoke free zone! lol) is still waiting to be fixed.... but as I sit here typing this afternoon, there are two chaps drilling and muttering, so I know that once that's fixed and the fire is up and running that will encourage visitors to come in and then stay in!

The Victoria Inn website has been re-vamped over the last couple of weeks for the Winter and the young man Daniel who has done this for me has certainly not found it to be straightforward, but with his perseverance and my nagging, he's done a great job. Do have a look at the dog friendly page - there is a video montage of some of our favourite dog visitors on the page. Talking of websites, I was thrilled to see we've had a couple of recent comments on the 'Beer in the Evening' site, saying we're their favourite pub in Salcombe......... all of those sorts of things are free advertising and help increase visitors to the Victoria.

We had a visit this week from Catherine of the wine department at St Austell - a fantastically enthusiastic lady, who certainly knew her business and was very complimentary on our wine list (SOH's choices - he knows his wines that's for sure!) and our back bar display, and she is going to do some training with us all before Christmas, and she had some great ideas for a couple of alternative wines which I think we'll use. Out of that meeting has come one of the few wines we sell by the bottle going to by the glass as well - a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so it'll be interesting to see how that now sells, and although she liked our display we've just had a little change round, and also re-typed up the wine menu to reflect some of her comments regarding ease of reading. So a short meeting gave us a lot of food for thought!

Our very best friend Mark came to stay for a couple of nights - one of those nights he and I managed to do a fair bit of damage to a bottle of Gin - for which I paid the price for at least 2 days! Mark has very kindly agreed to give me away for our wedding next year (He reckons he could have got a good price though!?!) so naturally enough there was a lot of wedding talk - I'm now mildly panicked as I realise there is still a lot of organising to do.........although, we have booked our honeymoon - a few days in the Calvados region of France.

We are planning for Half Term starting the end of next week - we have a huge under 13 Rugby team booked in for 1 of the evenings, so that will be great for us and them - I love those sort of functions. Traditionally, this October half term is seen as being quite busy as many of the 2nd homeowners come down and it's the last big break before Christmas..... so staff rota's to do next today! In between then and now SOH and I have a dinner / dance to go to next week - and I'm really looking forward to that. It's in Plymouth at a nice hotel - so should be a good bash!

Before I finish this post - have a look at the photo here. Yet another water problem in Fore Street, just up from the Victoria, only a fortnight after the last burst - this time a water stop cock blew its top - literally, and we had our very own 10 foot high Trevi Fountain in the then where did we put our wellies...????

Sunday, 4 October 2009

What a Birthday celebration......

What a Birthday celebration and in fact what a great few days we've had altogether really..... after trade dying off quite suddenly around Tuesday / Wednesday - come Thursday, pow - back to being really, really busy, amazing!

Anyway - back to the beginning.........Thursday was just incredible. As usual with these sorts of things the evening started off fairly quiet and I did the usual 'no one's coming' routine.......but of course they did, and not only did our friends turn up so did a complete restaurant (and then some) full of customers. I don't know if it was the balloons or the general party atmosphere - but we never expected to be as busy as we were. Of course we had launched our new winter menu that day as well so that had a bit more impact as well I think. Here are a couple of photo's of the Victoria Inn and some of our lovely friends helping us celebrate the 1 year event in style! Here's to the second year..........

Now then, although we eat quite often from our menu, this Friday, SOH and I became 'customers' to test out not only the new menu, but also young Damian who is training up to be able to cook for when James our Head Chef is off. He also who wants to become a fully fledged Chef - so we are supporting him with training and much more importantly the experience and confidence that this will then bring to him. Also, doing this 'secret' tasting, mean's that we get exactly what the paying customers should be receiving - not any thing extra or different because we're 'the boss'........ plus, it gives us the opportunity to sit and listen in to the comments of other diners!

We swore the waiting staff to secrecy and had the order put through the till just like any other customer order........... Scallops simply pan fried in a light Garlic dressing to start - wow, cooked to perfection! Scallops can go a bit rubbery if you overcook - but these were fantastic, and bursting with flavour. Next, Devilled Kidneys for SOH and Marinated Steak for me............ oh YUMMY is all I can say - constructively - the sauce on the steak could have been a fraction hotter, and the sauce with the kidneys a fraction less - but overall a fantastic 9 /10 - and my steak cooked EXACTLY as I like it! Pud for me only - but I chose our new Lemon Syllabub with crushed Amaretti biscuits.........oh my goodness! It was sublime..........just delicious.!!
We were SOOOOO proud of young Damian - and it wasn't as though we were quiet - we had almost 70 covers for his first night! he handled it like an old timer - took it all in his stride (including the critique!) and since then did another similar service Saturday night and an even busier Sunday lunchtime today...... I think he'll go far!
So yes, the new menu has been well received - my idea of a classical British Pub menu is going down very well - the slow roasted half shoulders of Lamb are selling probably the best and the marinated Rib Eye Steak a close second, with the home made Steak and Kidney puds not far behind - and with nothing more expensive than £15.95 - I think great value for money as well.
What else..........??? Well, our lovely area manager Jim paid us a visit on Thursday to talk about some planned maintenance and improvements to the Victoria that we shall hopefully be starting in January - I promise to talk a bit more about that in the next post. We've had various contractors coming in to give us quotes for pieces of work - so that's been quite interesting, and then it will be sifting through for not only the cost but workmanship as well.
We both realised today that since we lost our Beth we hardly go out any more - at least with her we had the excuse for a walk - so today while the sun was still shining we sat down by the lifeboat and had ice creams and generally watched the world in Salcombe harbour drift by for a little while - and very pleasant it was as well (although SOH has the cold I had!). There's no doubt about it Salcombe is best in this season, and the customers are mostly older or young with families and really just delightful! Now it's a little quieter as well, you can give a much better level of personalised customer service, and I don't mind being in the bar all day every day when it's like this....
For now though - I have to go and watch one of two shows I just can't miss - X Factor......... who gets through to the final 12 and who doesn't!! I think I can already predict the winner.....!
Have a great week my lovely friends - I'll post again next weekend.... X