Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Re-Furbishment Plans & Wedding Plans

The 4th January 2010 - that's the proposed date for the start of the Victoria Inn re-furbishment! Blimey, even seeing it written down like that gives me the colly wobbles......... so then what is planned to happen? Firstly - I told you in my previous blog post that we have a certain amount of wet rot in our downstairs restaurant - approximately 40 covers in there.

Until the flooring is taken up in it's entirety, we have no idea to the total extent of the problem - but it's likely to need a completely new floor. So, my military operation planning goes like this - afternoon of the 3rd, strip room completely - morning of the 4th stand with builder as he sucks air in through his teeth and tell's me A) 'oh dear love - it's not looking good' or B) 'oh dear love - thats looking bad'........ either way, I'm working on the principle of expect the worst!! Evening of the 4th - stand quietly sobbing in corner of bar cuddling a large G & T!

All of the fittings will have to be stripped out INCLUDING the wood panelling round the walls (further mutterings about water pressure!) and the alcove panellings then the floor will be dug up, dryed out, new floor laid, damproof membrane put down, followed by new black slate flooring, wall coverings replaced, wood panelling put back! Probable total time to achieve these works - 3 maybe 4 weeks! Ok - have just read that back and that sounds pretty simple - doesn't it?? So, why then am I filled with a deep sense of foreboding?? Probably, because in all my years working for local councils etc I don't think I knew one building project that went through without hiccups in one way or another.......But this is so very different from anything I've done before - this time our own income is at stake here.

THEN whilst all this is going on - the whole of the downstairs bar areas will be re-painted from top to bottom, upstairs restaurant will be stripped (doing a lot of that aren't we!?!) a hole knocked in a central wall for a more 'natural walking space' (that's designer speak!) out with the old furniture and carpet and in with new, decorated in it's entirety - oh yes, and new stair carpet as well............more mirrors, plants, candles etc etc etc!!

Not finished yet - THEN - new slabbing to the paved terrace, followed by the erection of an awning - a 'delightful outside dining experience' (sales person speak!) followed by two bedroom accomodation provison above the cellar! Things to consider - how many days will we have to shut the pub for, how much revenue will it cost by being closed and how much weight am I likely to put on as a result of the stress?? So dear blog readers - rest assured that you'll hear a lot about this re-furb between now and Easter.

As well as all of that, we are really quite busy for this time of the year - SOOOOO busy at the weekend, I had to work behind the bar!! Haven't done that for a little while - well not with any great intent anyway! The Victoria Inn has also been shortlisted for StAustell Wine Pub of the Year so we've been cleaning, tidying, putting up blackboards, re-vamping the wine menu for our official judging in a couple of weeks time and also trying to ensure all staff know what they're talking about regarding wine as we're expected to be 'mystery shopped' any day.

Then there's the wedding planning - got the shoes, sorted out the invitations (at last!) 'done' the flowers and discussed with James our chef the catering requirements for the big day! Just the Order of Service to do, and I'm (well actually WE'RE - SOH has really played a full role in this wedding!!) almost there!!

Lastly - but in no way least, we've also had Rosie to look after and start to learn to live with each other! My good Lord - it has been every inch like having a baby in the house!! But she is just adorable..... absolutely adorable! I love her to peices and SOH is smitten as well, despite his mutterings of it being 'just a dog'....... I'm sure you can see from the photo that she's growing fast, and we have had quite a few people come in to the pub just to see her!! I have never seen anything as funny as her little bottom bouncing up the stairs. Very, very lastly - hasn't it been the most awful weather?? I've never seen swell out in the Estuary as strong as it has been the last few days - and the Lifeboat is still moored out there, rather in it's mooring round the corner, so more bad weather and high winds to come I suspect.

So, lots on the go at the moment one way and another but I can always spare half an hour to write on here!!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Puppy Dog Tales...........

Good morning from a blowy but not too cold Salcombe - a bit of a different story from yesterday when we were lashed by rain and gales and yet oddly enough had one of our best Saturdays trading wise for a few week. Mind you - I say oddly enough, but I guess if you're a visitor in a small town and you've 'done' the shops that are here, then what better than to snuggle up in a beautiful St Austell pub like the Victoria Inn, where we had our real log fire sizzling in the bar, plump cushions to relax against, little t-lights in red holders giving an even better ambiance - fantastic ales, great wines (of yes, and Champagne by the glass!) and hot chocolates that are a work of art!! Something for everyone - perfect!! We had lots of happy customers yesterday who seemed to be enjoying the bad weather..... lots of 2nd home owners were down and it's so lovely to catch up with all our old friends. Everyone loves Rosie - but more of her in a minute............ I just thought I'd open this weeks blog with a picture of the flowers on my kitchen window - they're from SOH, who as we start our fifth year together is still as thoughtful as he was in our early days. You can just see the estuary behind the flowers - and that's our view every single morning (when the tree has no leaves that is!), how lucky are we...............

Anyway - a little more about the Victoria Inn before I go on to coo and ah about Rosie - firstly, I think I told you last time that I'm also writing a regular blog entry for the Good Pub Guide. This guide really should be one of the things you first consult (on-line or hard back) if you're not sure whats going to be in the destination of your choice. I especially like the GPG as it's completely un-compromising and it's not wooed by licensee's - all reviews come from anonymous visits and paid for by the reviewer. So in my opinion well worth a look at. This is my round-about way of saying that there'll be 2 blogs for you to look at now!! So whats going on at the Victoria then work wise - well the week itself was reasonable but Wednesday was dead....... from start to finish! Even now, I still can't settle to the fact that if we have a quiet day - then we're having a quiet day, I always think no lone likes us any more. So a quick trip round the town generally re-assures me we're not alone in being quiet.

Still as I say Friday and Saturday were bumper days, lots of lovely return customers - some on their last visit to their houses until the New Year (so they were telling me). Talking to our guests you can see that even those with what you consider (well I would consider) to be a comfortable lifestyle are feeling the credit crunch - maybe only eating out a couple of times on their visit down and doing more cooking in their home - so it's nice they choose us to come too. Also talking about the sorts of holidays they won't have next year - sounds like Salcombe will be having plenty of people again as they choose to stay at home...??!!

A great meeting in the week with our maintenance manager Graham, the proposed building contractor Carl and our own business development manager Jim - and just me as Tim has been away all week on BII business and other stuff. This kick started our own plans for the Victoria to decorate and update....... firstly - the real bad news - we have wet rot in the restaurant (I might have mentioned this previously). This is a real horror and not only vastly expensive for St Austell, but also going to be a mighty big job to sort out and that's before we even think about re-decorating etc...... I loved this meeting - it took me right back to my local authority days of meetings, negotiating and planning but this time because it's for us, it was important to have as much firm input as possible! We hope to start the work early January - it means our downstairs restaurant will be out of action for about 3 weeks so we will have to be creative in using the bar area and upstairs if needed...... who knows really. Last year January was really quiet - but our figures so far this year are showing a small growth - so it's a bit of a grey area. What we do know is that we won't want to lose anymore trade than is really necessary.

The rot has completely knackered our plans for a lovely wood floor though which is disappointing, but St Austell will make good with a beautiful black slate floor carrying through the theme from the bar and cosy corner area. I think that will look as good - maybe better........

Next thing for us to do this weekend is make decisions about furniture - we have decided (I think!) to invest in all new furniture for our upstairs restaurant - with the planned re-dec, new carpeting etc it means we wwill have a superb up to date additional dining space and function room. We're using H J Berry & Sons of Preston and they have provided us with beautiful sample materials for the seats - I sense great discussion today! We're really excited by the whole re-furb process - but I have plenty of Paracetamol on standby.......

Then last but not least - there's Rosie........ oh my goodness the girl is ADORABLE!! Full of fun and mischief and what is sooooooooooo fabulous is how pleased she is to see you - even if you've only been out of her sight for a few minutes!! Whats more - she's sleeping at night now - HALLELUJAH!!!!!! We've even had vistors to the pub just to see her..... She's in to the lets chew anything that moves stage, charges up and down the garden, launches herself at the chicken wire - they're just not so keen on her! She also snores.....cuddled up on one of the wet and windy afternoons this week she was snuffling and snorting - it was really funny to listen to, and I have to say she is turning in to a bit of a Mummy's girl...... the pic with the blue spool of rope is in our office - the rope stops her chewing the mat!! Just the 'house training' to achieve next though.......... not such good fun!
Thats it for now then - till next time friends, shield yourself from the awful weather we're having - Christmas is round the corner............. X

Friday, 13 November 2009

Prague and Puppy!!

I have so much to talk about I hardly know where to begin, but I just have to start with the most adorable puppy you have ever seen - ladies and gentlemen, readers of this blog, let me introduce you to our new dog ROSIE. She's an 8 week old Cockerpoo - a cross breed of dog especially good for asthmatics like me as they shed very little hair, if at all. As you can see she is jet black with just a tiny tuft of white hair on her chin and just at the top of her tummy - she's already been trod on twice (not hurt - don't panic) as she is a bit hard to see. She's playful and cute and everything that puppies are!! We already love her to bits and though she will never take the place of our old dog Beth, she's a very welcome addition to our household and pub.

Now then - our few days away in Prague - what a brilliant, exhilarating, enthralling time we had. To say we loved Prague just doesn't do it justice, we adored it......... out of all the European capital cities I've been too Prague counts as an all time favourite. I can't say that I can say the same about the flights - I thought flying with Easy Jet was not one of the most pleasurable experiences I've ever had. You don't get given seat no's, you're herded on by group and then it's a free for all as to where you sit! Given the choice, I probably wouldn't fly with them again if I could help it - but I guess it's the old saying of 'you get what you pay for'.......

Anyway - back to Prague, if you ever get to go there you simply must stay at the Hotel Jalta. A great hotel slap bang in Wencelas Square, central for all the sights. The staff and bedroom were first class and the standard of food was absolutely brilliant - far higher than we ever expected. Waiting staff were wonderful and the waitress on our last night - Katerina - was a real credit to the Hotel. We walked and walked and walked some more - not one tram or taxi, and thankfully the weather was kind. Cold and sharp but dry. The picture of us is on my birthday itself enjoying coffee and apple strudel...... Yum!!

We went to a Jewish Synagogue memorial for the dead from the holocaust and the Russian Gulags - it was hugely powerful to see all the many thousands of names, birth dates and death dates - all with Jewish music and a voice speaking the names of the dead. That moved me to tears at mans inhumanities to man, we also saw an actual train truck that had been used to move people to the camps..... just horrid, but important to remember. That evening a few more tears as we watched a ballet - Cinderella- in the state opera house, and I was transported back to being a child in a magical world of make believe.

A huge walk up the hill to the Castle, lots of puppet shops (slightly creepy!) and yes - more coffee and pastry shops. Another coffee stop at a prime tourist location that cost £8 for just 2 coffees, and a quick visit to the local Sex Museum....... naughty and not especially nice!! Lots and lots of tat in tourist shops, but we got a great original Russian hat for a dear friend of ours who collects them - I'm sure the shopkeeper thought SOH and I were into something kinky by my insisting on trying the hats on first!!

Loads of great food and just a little bit too much drink - a visit to a fab Jazz Club: AghaRTA Jazz Centrum. I wasn't too sure about that to start with, but it's funny how a few Gins can make you relax into the music and atmosphere!! :) Visited the monastery where they have a small brewery, ate giant sausages at huge roadside stalls, bought a few Christmas Decorations in the market, read the story boards in the streets about the history of Prague, had afternoon tea in a theatre restaurant where waiters in white aprons treated us like royalty!

All in all - an absolutely brilliantly break - and oh yes, a pair of dazzlingly beautiful diamond earrings from SOH as a birthday pressie........... lucky spoilt lady or what!!!

Next blog I'm going to tell you all about our visit to St Austell Brewery for a food / wine tasting get together this week with other publicans, an announcement from the brewery to us (got you guessing hasn't it!) our trip to Mevagissy and why we were there and last but not least the news that I'm also going to be writing a blog page for The Good Pub Guide.

Have a good weekend from us here at the Victoria Inn, Salcombe where the winds are currently force 10/11 and gusts of 70mph - we stand a good chance of being flooded in the early hours of the morning, so I'll let you know how we get on next time............... X