Sunday, 30 October 2011

Afternoon all!

Afternoon all - blimey the first day after the clocks going back, and already at just gone 4 there is a familiar gloomy darkness settling over the estuary. I have to say that the Autumn early Winter is a time of year I quite like, except that next weekend I'll be yet another year older.. :( 

I hope you like the photo on the side of the Victoria Inn in all her summer glory. This photo was taken by a delightful woman called Sam Appa who is a professional photographer and here is a link to her website:

I get lots of people taking pics of the Vic and most of the time we never get to see the finished article but true to her word Sam sent me a CD with some images on and I chose this one because I like the angle, it shows off the window boxes and frontage of the pub really well and I just think it's a great photo - so thanks Sam.

I'm aware that I'm not blogging as much as I used to and I think that's 2 fold - firstly we've been pretty consistently busy for almost the last 5 months (hallelujah) and secondly, its becoming just harder and harder to write about new things. I don't want this blog to become just a repetition of previous blog posts and despite having a couple of people ask me to talk more about Salcombe - that could also be difficult as I don't want this blog to be associated with 'gossip' - because God knows there's enough of that in this town!

So then - we've been really busy again since the end of the summer hols...... talking to James our Chef he was saying that before we took over here you could pretty much say that at the end of the 'season' and after the last half term trade virtually died until Christmas - well, we're pleased to say that doesn't happen any more and that if you want to be sure of a table with us if you want to dine at any time of the year now really, then you must book. This last half term we had quite a few disappointed would be diners and I hate turning trade away when I have a great restaurant upstairs that could seat customers - but sadly, I don't have the staff to facilitate that choice.  Said it before and I'll say it again - getting good quality staff for the Victoria Inn is not always easy, and we are remarkably choosy as well!

Talking of staff, Tim & I are very very proud of 2 of our team who undertook 4 days training at St Austell Brewery in Cornwall - Jessie Day & David Gravitt. They can now hold their own personal licenses and learnt loads about various functions of running a pub and will get a certificate to prove it! Training staff is such an important part of running a successful business such as ours and you have to be prepared to put in the time, money and energy into your staff to get the best out of them. They also came back bubbling with enthusiasm about their new found learning.

But on that note we have 2 delightful e mails this week from very happy customers and here is a little text from them:

Having just returned from a short break in Salcombe, we would like to respond to a wonderful evening we spent in your restaurant, Tuesday 18 October.  You were very busy but made us welcome and provided us with a table.  We were not disappointed.  Everything was excellent-the food, the staff were very attentive and worked hard to ensure our needs were met .  We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and it was one of the highlights of our stay in Salcombe.

We have just spent a couple of days in South Devon revisiting places from holidays of a few years ago, enjoying the scenery and sunshine. The Victoria was recommended to us by a friend so we called in Thursday (20th) lunchtime to have a drink and book a table for that evening. When travelling around it is usual for us to try different places to eat and we had intended to go elsewhere on Friday. However we felt that it would be difficult to better the time we spent at the Victoria hence our easy decision to return and we managed to get a table at a moments notice. The reason for this mail is to compliment you on your pub and to ask that you convey our thanks to all your staff for being both professional and very welcoming.The whole experience was a total pleasure due to the staff and enhanced by excellent food and drink.  Next time we are in the area you will see us again and we will recommend the Victoria to anyone we know visiting the South Hams

I always print off any e mails such as these so that all the staff know the good reports that they, their service and the food receive - it more than makes up for some of the smaller niggles we sometimes get!

Now then, what else??? Well the Hobbitt House is shut for a few days to allow a bit of repair work on them - some new flooring in the en-suites, re-doing the sealants round the showers and then a good Autumn clean. They have had such good use since we opened it's no wonder we have got give them a bit of an overhaul really.

The garden is now shut as well - SOH has re-seeded the grass (vaguely resembles a war zone at the moment with mud, mud and more mud as far as the eye can see) so that it has the Autumn/Winter to repair itself, and get all beautiful for next year!

We have decided our opening and closing times for Christmas & New Year and what we're going to do food wise - this year we are doing our normal menu on Boxing Day lunchtime and NO FOOD in the evening. Last year we only sold a portion of chips! Then New Years Day we will be serving our legendary Curry Buffet! The Old Gaffers will be here Christmas Eve doing Christmas carol stuff and then we're going to have a party with them on NY Eve!!! And we have loads of NY bookings already!!!

Christmas - can you bear to hear that word yet??? Now then, where's my Christmas pressie list........

Till later friends...................

Sunday, 9 October 2011

It's Autumn - the fire's lit!

Not lit large yet, but certainly alight and taking off the chill thats just started to be in the air!!  It's no good I absolutely love the Victoria Inn at this time of the year - I know I should like it best when it's the height of summer and we're really busy, but now when it's all the regular people coming in (Holiday homes / regular visitors/people from the top of town) it's just like welcoming back old friends and I absolutely love it!!

In fact can I just share how happy I am with life on the whole at the moment - business continues to be blooming excellent and our new Autumn/Winter menu is going down a storm as well as our new approach to the Specials menu.  Now, EVERYTHING on our specials menu is just £10.95 - lots of fresh fish, and that all depends on what our suppliers have on THEIR catch menu. Some great winter warmers like Chilli and Curry, as well as home made pies etc.  We no longer have the IPA on our drinks list but we now have St Austell Dartmoor - a fantastic alternative and still only £2.40 a pint! A couple of the local men have been in to see me and they want their annual Christmas bash at the Vic this year so thats great news as well! We'll shut the pub just for them for a lunchtime and give them a pre-Christmas party to set them up a treat!

A couple of days in Portsmouth last weekend and I do love going to see my family in Portsmouth but I hated driving in such a busy town, and yesterday I was driving through our luscious countryside with my little dogs and with cows and sheep looking at me and passing tractors and people who smile at you and I just thought....... My God but I'm lucky to live in such a beautiful place!!!! My first chest infection of the season is slowly (very slowly) passing and it just feels that all is well with the world!  

I've been inspired by the 'Great British Bake Off' programme with Mary Berry (she's been in the Vic!) & Paul Hollywood and the last couple of days have seen me making Bread, Cakes and Flapjacks as well as main meals.......... My chef James is being used as my own personal tutor and I'm determined to prove my worth in my own kitchen!! The staff seem to like my offerings as well............ But you're ok general public - shan't unleash myself on the real world of paying customers!!! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Last part of France and Duncan Bannatyne

Blimey this has turned into a mammoth blogging post.......... sorry dear readers the Victoria is still really busy and I have been hit with my first bad chest infection of the season, so not getting on to do my tasks as fast I would have wanted.

So where the heck was I???  Ok yes, in France. We did a huge tour of the De Castelnau winery and saw thousands and thousands of bottles Champagne being filled, stacked, stored. saw the library where bottles go back to the 1940's - absolutely fascinating. The process from start to finish is highly complex and I understand now why Champagne is the price it is - but I honestly think I love it more than ever! We had the most amazing Michelin Star 'packed lunch' that you could ever imagine and with yet more Champagne............. everyone at the winery was so welcoming and friendly and Pascal the MD shook hands with every member of staff he met! A great lesson in staff management! What was even more amazing was that a member of staff knew about our 'Man Creche' sign at the Victoria as his family were in Salcombe in the summer.. how cool was that! So ended our Champagne tour and our biggest thanks to everyone who made it so special for us.

I will gloss over our second night in Reading and move on to the next part of our road trip - 2 nights at Charlton House Hotel - part of Duncan Bannatynes group (him from Dragons Den who doesn't tolerate fools with no business plans!!).  There's no doubt that because of who he is (and I do Twitter with him) that this influenced our decision to go to Charlton House in Somerset, and I am soooooo glad we did because what a great experience it was.

Right from the centralised booking system where I was guided through a maze of deals to the right one for us right up to the warm welcome we received at reception - we knew we had booked well! We were upgraded to a super four poster room with a claw bath situated right in front of huge windows, fabulous shower room and a private balcony area. Food and service was first class and we both enjoyed the pampering at the Spa that we received..... although I wasn't so keen on the flotation thingy - but I'm assured I wasn't the first to say STOP!! Get me up!!!  Girls in the spa were lovely - no snideness that you sometimes get and they seemed to genuinely want to do a great job.

Food and service was excellent but a couple of diners left a lot to be desired on the first night as they discussed birthing plans loudly during dinner despite a few coughs/splutters from me coupled with a filthy look - no hint was taken. Time and place people, time and place or at least keep your voices down!!!  Barman made a great Hendricks G & T - almost as good as me I may say!!

Beautiful grounds and noise from the road was minimal - thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the massive four poster bed with a large glass of wine imagining this was how I always spent my leisure time!!

I'd just like to say a word or three about Mr Bannatyne (I respectfully call him Mr B) - several people have said how he comes across as a bit of a git on Dragons Den, and maybe he does (and is!?) but he actually has a huge heart of gold and does an awful lot of charity work that like a lot of famous / wealthy people goes unsung. He works a lot with Harry Mosely and his family.  Harry has a brain tumour and is the sweetest little boy going - please do what you can to support this cause:  Mtr B also works with our injured armed forces personnel from conflicts abroad - a thoroughly nice bloke!!!

Moving on, the 2 days at Charlton House flew by and our last port of call was North Walk House in Lynton, North Devon. A delightful B and B run by Ian & Sarah majoring on Organic produce. Lovely rooms overlooking the Bristol Channel with home made flap jacks to accompany your tea and coffee! Dinner was round a large table and you shared it with complete strangers - yikes!! That's a bit of a challenge to English reserve, but it was actually very entertaining and interesting. The food itself - well, absolutely fabulous and as for Ian's porridge in the morning? Yum scrum!! Give it a try if you're ever in North Devon:

So there we go - and t last we're back to normal here at the Victoria - visitors are still here in big numbers thanks to the glorious weather we've had and we start to think of winter..... yuk, what a depressing thought!  But I have lots of exciting things in the pipeline which will be shared with you in due course!!!!