Sunday, 30 May 2010

White Hart Hotel - Modbury

Just a quick blog this morning - more of another newsflash really!!! The fantastic new website for the White Hart Hotel is up and running.............. have a look and tell me what you think!

I hope you like it as much as we's great to see everything coming together at last for the White Hart

Have a great Sunday - think we're set for a very busy one!

Liz x

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Hobbit House Newsflash!!!!!

Calling all blog readers and lovers of Salcombe............
The Hobbitt House will be open for business from Friday 4th June!! Hoorah!!
We will now be the only pub in Salcombe able to offer you accommodation - right slap bang in the middle of town!!
We have had two en-suite bedrooms created above the cellar - one double and one twin. Prettily decorated in shades of green and white to reflect the garden surroundings, both with en-suite shower rooms. Super white bedding and towels with sparkly cushions and throws.
Prices will be:
£70 for the double or twin room per night including breakfast
and £60 single occupancy including breakfast
You'll be given a voucher for breakfast at Captain Morgans - a great Salcombe institution, and also our business - where a traditional full English breakfast will set you up for the coming day!
If you'd like to book a room with us - call Liz, Tim or one of our fantastic staff on 01548 842604
By the way - we call it the Hobbit House because of the quirky nature of the low doorway - so we'll be looking for a Duck and a Grouse to advertise that fact...............

Here's an update of my news

Morning all!! I just couldn't sleep so at 5.00a.m - I thought sod it - I may as well get up, and my goodness I've achieved loads...... so thought I may as well write a blog post as well! This probably means I'll be asleep this afternoon, but hey!

So where shall I start - lets have an update on the business's first shall we.........
First and foremost - the lovely Victoria Inn! Oh I do love my home down here in Salcombe..... it is quite possibly one of the nicest places on Gods earth! As I sit here now, the sun is just rising and shining through my office window, I can hear the seagulls and all is quite perfect (except for the bit that I'm awake and up of course). Business here is grand, you can feel the atmosphere starting to pick up and really buzz, and with all the very hot weather we've just had - lots and lots of red and white stripey bodies abound! Our new summer menu is being VERY well received - I particularly love the Giant Prawn and Salmon Skewers as do our customers and last years favourite of Baked Pork Belly is being snapped up! As always - thirsty drinkers are flocking towards Tribute and Proper Job - but the 'special' ale on at the moment is Wreckers - and very popular it's proving as well!

SOH and I are out later today buying bedroom furniture for the Hobbit House (our new B & B accommodation) we already have bookings and yay the end is in sight!! It's really looking quite lovely - and as soon as possible I'll have some pictures taken and you'll all want to come and stay ........................

Whitsun this weekend will undoubtedly be one of our busiest times in Salcombe this year - so we are all ready for it! bring it on............fingers crossed for good weather.

Now then - what about the White Hart Hotel in Modbury, our latest venture? Well, I am really pleased to say that you can see the business starting to climb - slowly but very surely. This was not like going in to a business that was up and running - this pub had been empty for months and 2 previous owners had gone bust, so it has 'history'! (nuff said!) I guess some of the locals are a bit suspicious of us as 'outsiders' but having the name St Austell behind us is undoubtedly helping - the brewery has a great reputation and that goes a long way.

I briefly mentioned last time our Curry evening - that really was a huge success and showed what we could do a treat - here's a delightful (!) pic of me with pinny on and some very happy customers!!

We did our first wake this week - and again, the customer was very pleased and we got lots of hugely positive feedback - and at least 60 people visited and met us for the first time........... so whilst a sad occasion for the family, we were able to give a great buffet reception for them and help foster and improve our reputation. Two music nights were quite well received, but most exciting is our first comedy night on Thursday 3rd June at 8.30.
3 comedy acts off the national and international circuit; JUNIOR SIMPSON – the ‘New Lenny Henry’ said The Times, CRAIG MURRAY – ‘Hilarious Raconteur of Northern Roots, STUART BLACK – Compere Extraordinaire, and DEBBIE JONES a Local Lass. We have 100 tickets to sell at £10 a go for a good couple of hours live entertainment, so that really should be a great evening!!

This morning we are meeting James Staunton the MD of St Austell at the White Hart - he hasn't seen the pub yet, so we are seeing him at 10.30 to give him the guided tour. Our new chef Martyn is in position now - a thoroughly nice likeable young man who will be working with my Executive Chef James to learn how we like things done and then use all his own flair and experience to get us a great reputation for food!
Lastly - Captain Morgans. Our private business concern separate from the 2 pubs but because of the B & B angle at the Victoria there will be a tie in - as it will be CM's that provides the breakfast! This is a nice little business - it gets all the locals in first thing in the morning - and then the hangover seekers, then the yachties and then everyone else! At last the staff have their new tee shirt uniforms and I'm sure that they will compliment the bright yellow paintwork beautifully!!

One last picture to show 2 of our staff at the christening for their baby - Carol, Marcus and baby Haydn here at the Victoria the other week - don't you think they look a lovely happy family?? The baby was a joy - hardly a peep out of him the whole time.........

So that's about it for now really - except to say a huge thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes (and worried concerns that I'm overdoing things!) for a speedy recovery. It's really gratifying to think so many people read my meanderings on this blog and that so many people care............... so thank you all, and I'm pleased to report that I'm back on the road to good health and seeing 'Reg' next week for as assessment for a personal training plan - more of that to come!

Next time I write absolutely promise to tell you all about our fabulous day on the Orient Express.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shit happens.................

And after last weeks rant in my blog that's exactly what my friend Jim said in a very kindly e mail to me!! You know what? He's right - there are very few pubs/ restaurants that open that don't have a service from hell... we had ours and it's over with now! In fact at our first Curry night at The White Hart last Friday we received loads of compliments both about the curries and our normal menu - also the fantastic new interior. Business is continuing to build - slowly but surely, and tomorrow night we have our first live music evening with Jallion - folkie/blues....... should be interesting!!

A little more staff training has ensured everyone is singing from the same song sheet and a lovely new (very tall) chef is on site; Martyn. He seems to really understand want we want and is delivering beautifully. Web site designers have been urged to get both the Victoria's and the White Hart sites up and running, delayed as they needed text from me and photo's but we are three parts there now. The Hotel bedrooms are almost ready, just a little bit more painting and we have to buy even more bloody pictures..................
Business at the Vic is really excellent - lots of couples enjoying romantic breaks whilst its still not the 'season'. The Victoria's 'Hobbit House' has the carpet laid next week - so only the furniture to buy and we should be good to go in terms of B & B mid June (ish).

There's just one small hiccup at the moment - and that's I'm back from seeing my consultant in Southampton with yet another rotten chest infection, so am typing this propped up in bed listening to a fabulous Leonard Cohen CD. As I said to my GP this morning, over my dead body (not literally of course - far too soon for that) am I going back into hospital - have far more chance of getting better out of those things.............

Now all my life I've never been one too sit back for too long bemoaning my lot without doing something about things - so yesterday in the throes of being crap again I made a conscious decision to make my life better........ big discussion with gorgeous SOH in making sure;

1) We BOTH get a better work / life balance (not 1 day off in 7 weeks like just gone)
2) I use the time management skills that Portsmouth City Council paid for me to learn - and then get SOH to use them as well..................
3) Eat healthier - we all know when we're overdoing the eating and its not helping my chest being so overweight
4) Off the booze again - its all crap calories...... oopps, can I say that as a pub landlady??? lol
5) Get fitter.............. now THIS IS where it gets interesting!!!!!!

Because Reg (not his real name - but he doesn't want to be identified at this stage - just in case I'm his 1st failure!! - I'm joking.....) is my new personal trainer!!! Yes, you read right - I'm going to have my very own personal trainer visit me twice a week and help me get back in shape - that's if my GP agrees I won't expire doing so..........!! So that is why I put a picture of a rainbow at the start of this blog post - Reg is going to help me get to the end of the rainbow - out of the grey sky's and helping me get to the pot of gold. ....................................Carpe Diem!!

Next post I'll tell you all about our fabulous wedding present trip of lunch on the Orient express - what a day!! Till then I'm turning off the laptop - and giving my full attention to the lovely Leonard - might even snooze! Night all............... x

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sleepless nights and Cream cakes.........

I guess the title of my blog post sums up how I'm feeling right now...I think that we've probably had the worst couple of days since we opened at the White Hart Hotel and yet some of the best at the Victoria - so where shall I start?? How about I get all the angst about the White Hart out of my system....... Bear with me dear readers - I'll try to be sharp and to the point. Firstly BT - where in God's name do I start to talk about the horrendous things they have put us through - no phone lines, then they thought that because I now have a new married name that we were a new account and cut off our Internet access!! Therefore, customers couldn't get through to us in any way, shape or form - for either pub!!

After the umpteenth phone call to BT sat in a car park somewhere near Bristol - I thrust the phone at SOH got out and sat and sobbed......... and actually I've done a fair bit of crying this last week - some of it in temper, and some of it in frustration and some of it because I've had moments when I've simply longed for a 'normal' life!

On top of that the kitchen at the White Hart has continued to challenge us all - now currently Chef -less until next week, SOH has been there 14 hours a day - every day! Equipment has defied all laws of normality and thermostats on cookers and fryers have declined to behave in an appropriate way!!!! Modbury Fair weekend saw us horrendously understaffed as we quickly came to grips with the vastness of this little towns fair! 75 plus covers on the Saturday saw SOH knackered out as he valiantly struggled to cope with those 75 covers - with a resulting 2 letters of complaint this week..........

The obscene dishwasher that had been spewing water out all over the floor was finally fixed this morning 13 days after we first opened. We parted company with our Cook of 4 days - lovely lady and a great cook (I had the BEST steak ever off her) but not a pub cook - don't under estimate how tricky it can be trying to balance orders all in at once and getting the food out on good time and looking great as well! She's now going to try her hand at being a dinner party cook - and I wish her love and luck! She said we gave her the impetus to do what she really wants to do!!!

I let 2 members of staff go quite quickly as it was immediately apparent that as bar people they just didn't have IT........ lovely people but not bar people! Oh any thing else........ how about the function that we're doing in a fortnight (can't say what in case I'm sued) where the gentleman today practically gave me a third degree interview before saying OK to using us!!

Then there was the shopping trip to Ikea - £800 later and a whole car full - what should have been fun was actually hard work as we were both tired and SOOOO cranky!! A lovely lunch out together was lunch in Ikea - mmmnnnnn, not my idea of fun!

So back to the White Hart - how do we go forward from a difficult few days...???? Well dear readers, with a smile painted on our faces, heads held high and a determination and resolve to make the White Hart as bloody marvelous as the Vic is!!! A curry night tomorrow has at least 30 bookings...... The Conservative association have booked us for another function - Cheese and Wine evening, a birthday party has been booked with an expected 200 guests. The menu has been torn apart and put back together again, staff have been trained a bit more, difficult conversations have been had with staff to help them understand our expectations and we are off on Saturday to the Orient Express for a wonderful wedding present lunch!! Our first day off since we came back from honeymoon...........

As for my longing for a normal life - well tell me, what would I do if I wasn't working till well past midnight most nights, eating on the run and schmoozing with customers......... as my friend Jim said to me today, I have to learn not to take it all so personally! He's right - I do!!

As for the Victoria Inn - it's my sanctuary and our home - and it continues to grow from strength to strength. A wonderful christening this last weekend for 2 of our fantastic staff was just wonderful, 89 covers this lunchtime (mid week........... and schools are not on hols!!) and a fabulous summer menu released today lifts my spirits just thinking about we just have to show Modbury what we're really capable of!!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Our new pub is born.........

And it's called the WHITE HART HOTEL, and here is a picture of some of our fabulous staff who are going to run it and look after all the hungry and thirsty customers......!! Don't they look great in their 'sunflower' shirts (just a little bit brighter than they looked in the catalogue - but hey, at least customers will be able to see them!)

Staff missing are our 2 housekeepers and cook - hard at work getting things ready for the opening they were....... As you can see in the picture, they are quite a young team - but full of energy and with a huge will to make the business succeed.

It's been a very stressful couple of weeks - with me wailing several times ' I'm never f'ing well doing this again'......, with neither SOH or myself having more than 6 hours sleep a night for a couple of weeks - and eating either very little, on the run or gorging on cakes and pastry from local bakers..... But there's no doubt, the whole experience is a lot like having a baby! You enjoy the news you're having a baby (another pub), it's tiring leading up to the birth (pub opening), the birth (pub opening) and the first few days after delivery (pub opening) are both exciting and terrifying in equal measures, and then in an instant (well, almost) you forget all the pain and trauma and enjoy the experience!! I quite enjoyed pounding the streets of Modbury talking to people about our new pub - and I have so much sympathy for the postmen with the number of times I got my fingers jammed in letterboxes.......
Anyway - and firstly - all of the St Austell building team, designers, planners, cellar services etc etc ALL deserve a huge pat on the back for getting us ready to open - in just under 8 days they took a huge, empty soulless shell of a pub and put doors into walls, built from scratch really beautiful wood panelled settles and window seating, wood panels all round the bar area, opened up a fire place, decorated the entire ground floor, put new beer lines into the building and cellar. The dray men had to bring in every single barrel and bottle needed to open a fully functioning bar (Lord - I hate to think of our first brewery bill!) as well as glasses, pictures and then take away all the remaining old and furniture back to the brewery. Also a massive thanks to Adam, Jim and Dwayne for their constant support and guidance in all things as usual.

Secondly, to Harry (she's really Harriet) and David our new Manager and her assistant who have put in massive amounts of hours organising, lifting and shifting as well. Giving a new slant on things and offering great ideas. To James our executive chef who not only helped get the food ready for the menu at the pub, but also prepared the canapes for the opening night AND oversaw the Victoria Inn kitchen.....
Thirdly, SOH, Tim - for having so been patient (even with BT and other varied workmen from outside the breweries control!!) with me and our 2 puppies, and for being so bloody good at what he does, because without him and his vast experience in bringing it all together I doubt we could have opened in quite the same way as we did on Friday night.

So - to Friday night........ a blooming marvelous start, with well over a 100 people turning up - some even waiting for the doors to open, and they just kept coming...... it was a great turn out, far better I think than either of us was expecting! Lots and lots of mainly local people, a prospective MP, Master of the Hunt, clergy, tourist information centre - many local business people with ideas on how to work together and make Modbury a bit more of a thriving prosperous small town. Lots of food for thought.....

Talking of food, Saturday was our first day of serving food..... mmmn, a little bit fraught as equipment broke down, fuses blew, things that we'd not remembered became important; like vinegar pots, some cooking implements, knowing how to turn on the char grill etc etc etc..... not a great lunch service - a few tears and a few short tempers all made for a lunchtime to be forgotten, but the evening service was a hundred times better - compliments abounded on the food and where there was criticism it was constructive and changes made.

Staff remembered their customer service training - made conversation and TALKED to customers - that's a rarity in a lot of pubs these days - and both staff and customers seemed to enjoy the new look White Hart Hotel.

So, onto the next phase - getting the function room back to looking gorgeous and ready for use. Its actually called the 'Assembly Rooms' and it's a massive light and airy room with beautiful brass chandeliers (real brass - not tin!), not too much to do there actually. I so want to get that marketed and used for functions both by the local community and the wider area - I'm even toying with the idea of getting it licensed for weddings as the nearest Registry Office is miles away.......???

Firstly though, it's getting the website built and up and running - in hand, just needs me chasing it along next week.

Anyway, back to the fab function room - we would have had our wedding reception there had we had the pub then - no doubt at all. It can hold about 100 people and the first proper use is the Modbury Gospel Choir this week followed by a Comedy Club night in early June - more details of that later.

Then the next target is getting the hotel rooms back up to scratch - some minor decorative work there and probably yet another trip to buy soft furnishings - my target for that is third / fourth week of May!

As for the Victoria Inn - well, I've been looking after that mostly - and it's been a great May Bank Holiday. Lots and lots of people about - a smashing Under 10's Rugby evening last night - with the parents having an exceptionally merry night!! I've also been working with James on our new summer menu which comes to life in a fortnight - lots of fish dishes and especially Crab this year - as we are going to be the Salcombe face of a 'Visit South Devon' fresh crab campaign with the celebrity chef Mitch Tonks - again, more of that later...........

On top of all of this chaos has been 9 month old Rosie and 10 week old Archie - continuing to learn to live with each other and giving us lots to smile at as we watch them play and fight and eat and sleep so beautifully together......

But right now - it's a slightly earlier night - and we could both do with an extra hour - so untill the next time dear friends........X