Friday, 21 December 2012

Ready or not???

Well then ready or not - Christmas 2012 is nearly here. I sit here at home typing away with my now customary winter Chest Infection hopefully on its tailwind. I think being nearly 30lbs lighter (many, many thanks Slimming World and Jac our lovely leader who's inspired me to achieve more than I've achieved in actual weight loss in many years!) certainly means I'm fitter and generally much healthier so seem to be fighting the bugs a bit tougher. Even so, 2 lots of antibiotics and steroids mean I have stayed away from work this week - to many hospital admissions over the last couple of years have meant I tend to be much more sensible these days. If I'm ill - then I'm ill, and I know I need to rest, take the medication, keep warm and dry!

Work wise - the Victoria has been slightly mixed in trade......... some outstandingly good days but with some that meant as many staff as customers!!  A couple of smaller Christmas parties where our ability to show attention to detail meant that we got it absolutely right and people had a great time. The delivery days for our 'Dray' has meant that SOH has had to be very clever with his ordering of beer etc and hope that we have it right! We are expecting quite a good trade over the festive period starting with the Old Gaffers tomorrow night and then 'Nibbles' for a Bad Taste Jumper party and quite a  number of bookings for Christmas Eve dinner already.

We are delighted that on December 30th at 2p.m we yet again bring something sparkling and new to the Victoria Inn.

We are showcasing a fantastic Author/Illustrator Mark Fraser.  We are presenting an exclusive reading and interactive afternoon for all of you aged 3 - 93!! Its going to be more than telling a story or 2 , its a whole experience with the opportunity to purchase signed first editions of Marks fabulous books.

Here is just a little taste of his great illustrations - but you really do have to see them first hand!! Do come along and bring your 'little darlings' and lets all have a bit of fun!

The Old Gaffers will be with us again on New Years Eve - we have such great times when they're with us. Here is a promo video made the other week with Quba (who also sponsor them) just to give you a taster!  I loved that Christmas Carol first time round..... by take number 6 I wasn't quite so sure!!

Just a heads up to remind you that we are closed on Christmas Day and that we only offer food Boxing Day till 5 ( just doing a couple of bowls of chips a couple of years ago taught us theres no demand!) and on New Years Day we are offering our Home Made Curry Buffet Luncheon  once more this year - only £10!!! Choice of 3 curries including a vegetarian - and you can come and choose as many times as you want!!   

I have found technology a fabulous thing this week as my family in Hampshire and I have found 'Face Time'!!! How brilliant - I can now see my family instead of just hearing them........ I know there's Skype, but using Phones and Ipads is just sooooooooooooo easy!!! My Grandson clearly can't understand why Grandma is on the TV!!

So then - back to my original question - are you ready for Christmas?? If I'm soooooooooo busy that I don't have the time to blog again before the big day, Tim, Myself and all our fabulous team hope that all our friends, customers and all our colleagues at St Austell Brewery have the most fantastic time!!!

Lots and lots of love, peace and good wishes

Liz xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Our 'Thank You' to YOU!

Tim and I constantly look at ways to make the Victoria Inn more inviting to you the Customer. We listen to your comments and we try to work with them as much as possible. 

We know that right now, these are tough times all round, that's why we are delighted to offer all of of our customers - whether its those of you who visit a few times of the year or those who visit every week - a very special 'Privilege Card'. 

Here's how it works: You visit us and have a great meal - that's the first part of a simple process. 

When you get your bill, we will offer you the opportunity to register for our unique 'Privilege Club'.  When you give us back that completed form, you will receive through the post a £10 voucher to come back and use towards your next meal with us! 

When you have completed the registration form you will receive there and then a Privilege Club Card - and for every £20 spent on food you will receive a Gold £20 stamp on that card. When you have just ten stamps on that card - you will receive a £20 voucher through the post to spend on food at the Victoria Inn. 

So, should you choose to join, and you come in with  friends and spend £80 on a meal you will already have 4 Gold Stamps on your card and will be almost halfway to your first £20 voucher!!!

What else do you get with being a Privilege Club Card Member??? You will be told of special deals and any special Privilege Card events that we plan to hold. But, more importantly you have the opportunity to save money every time you dine with us, and we thank YOU for your LOYALTY. 

This really is our way of saying a huge continuous 'Thank You' to you, our loyal Customers and Friends as we enter into the Christmas spirit and the New Year of 2013. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Victoria Inn and its four legged friends!

Burners Victoria Inn 
The Victoria Inn, as it used to be: or as the sign clearly says - Burners Victoria Inn. There's a lovely lady started posted on the Salcombe page of Facebook who is related to the much referred to Eddie Burner, who was a longstanding Landlord of the Vic. She is Sarah Howard and she is Eddies Grand-daughter. Consensus of opinion is that the pic is late 40's early fifties. What I find so incredible is that the frontage has barely altered. Sarah told me that the ground floor of the bar had 2 bars with one of the bars having a dart board, a tap room and of course the famous Bass barrels on the back bar. A lot of the regulars had their own stools and Lord help anyone walking in and sitting on them........... 

I love the Schweppes/Whitbread hanging sign and the fact that the upstairs window with curtains flapping were Eddies living rooms. I have had a medium in our pub a couple of times and she has said that she can feel lots going on in the Vic, so I'm hopeful with a bit more info and some pics she'll come up with some more information and now I'll be able to find out more about the Vic as well. 

We have had some stunning dogs in the Vic this week and none more welcome than Vanity the Cockerpoo - the reason we got our 2 babies! Don't forget we are a truly dog friendly pub and you and your four legged friends are more than welcome! I have to say that this assortment are some of the most beautiful dogs we've had in for ages! 
Guinness a gorgeous Pyrenean 

Vanity - a Cockerpoo

Barney - a Newfoundland

Hudson - a Newfoundland

Kode - a stunning Huskie

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Its that time of year!

Victoria Inn Christmas Tree 2011
It's that time of year when in just a few weeks it will be Christmas and we'll be having a jolly old time - however, in the meantime the shops already seem to be in a frenzy of people walking round (women predominantly - of course!) with shopping lists in hand and that vaguely demonic look in their eyes as they hunt down THAT perfect present for the one they love or in some cases don't! We've all unwrapped that present haven't we - you know the one where in your head you're thinking 'WHAT THE ****', but out of your mouth jump the words 'Lovely - thank you'! I've been known (many years ago - never now of course :)!) to keep gifts I didn't like and then 're-gift' on another occasion............ which is fine, unless you happen to give said item back to person who gave you it in the first place! Which I'm pretty damn sure I did once!!

I drove to Exeter on Monday and cracked the last of my Christmas shopping, and what a lovely shopping centre it is too! For me, it was far better than Plymouth and I enjoyed my contribution to pulling us OUT of recession.................... 

So, where was I...???  Oh yes - Christmas!  Well for the first time ever, we are not going to be opening the Victoria Inn on Christmas Day. We've thought long and hard about it, but because we're not a 'locals' pub in the broadest sense of the word (hardened drinkers propping up the bar every day) and have customers who would expect us to be open (its a tradition) then, no, we're going to shut late Christmas Eve and that will be it. In fact I remember VERY well our first customer last year at about 12.15 coming in and asking if we were selling sandwiches that day!! Most offended she was as well that we weren't!!  First year here we served Christmas lunch to about 50 if I remember rightly, 2nd year the recession had hit and couldn't sell a ticket for love nor money - right up till the week before when we had a flurry of about ummmm 6! 

The following year we were left with 4 blokes who just didn't want to leave (I pity their wives and family when they eventually got home........ Bet the Turkey was knackered!) and kept us there till about 5 and last year I was adamant that we would only be open for 2 hours! Which we did, but neither of us really felt it had been worth it. So this year, not only do all our staff get Christmas Day off, but so will we! Hoorah!! 

I am so excited about our first Christmas Day together in our new home - I've always dreamt of a big family/friends Christmas and this year we have friends and family coming for the day - 8 in total!! Sadly not my immediate family of son, wife and grandchild, but hopefully we'll be able to Skype quickly...??? Oh yes, I've had a technological breakthrough and I am writing this blog on my brand new laptop.  I could have done with a degree in using it though or failing that a computer literate child would have been useful!!!  

Anyway, I digress, we are open straight away at 11.30a.m on Boxing Day with a full lunchtime menu but no evening food service! Talking to Holiday home staff etc we are looking busy for the period after Christmas - which reminds me to say.......... WE ARE ALREADY VERY BOOKED FOR NEW YEARS EVE!!!! Now, that's not a marketing ploy, I promise you. We really and honestly have loads of people booked in! So if you want to eat with us - you must book soon, otherwise don't blame me if you're disappointed .........:)  If you want a look at the NYE menu, go to our website and the Latest News page:  Also, we're doing our famous Curry Buffet lunch on New Years Day and ALREADY people have been enquiring about it! 

Right - now where did I hide the Christmas cards I bought last year.................

Monday, 5 November 2012

The oldest groupy in town

Jack Savoretti
 So last week my friend Clare and I had booked to go to Portsmouth and see this amazing young singer Jack Savoretti ( and actually an equally amazing support artist called Karima Francis!).
I have been listening to this young mans voice for some while now and I find his voice really hypnotic, and
quite powerful actually, so when I saw he was going to be in Portsmouth I decided to combine a quick visit to No1 grandchild AND a concert. Now of course my idea of concerts (at this grand advanced age I seem to have reached !) is a reasonaby comfortable chair in a concert hall! Something in my head should have reasoned that as the concert was being held in a place I remembered to be famous for student type gigs, then this probably wasn't going to happen............
Karima Francis

My worst fears for the evening were realised upon queueing outside the building and realising that I was almost probably the oldest person there............ as I face yet another Birthday tomorrow, this was not the greatest feeling on Earth!! Upon stepping inside to the 'Concert Hall' I realised that not only were there no chairs but it was like the inside of what I presume Men's prisons halls look like!!!  Clare and I swiftly secured our 2 spots at the very front of the stage and I did a quick recky to check A the state of the loos (not that bad) and B) the state of the bar! The latter being small and with staff who looked like they were bored to death before the evening had even started!

The very first warm up act did nothing to quell my fears that I had stumbled into the sort of show that x factor rejects had made up - worst of all he was a local Portsmouth lad (sorry mate!) just not for me I guess..............

I eyed up the bar with a lot more longing and after short deliberation and an exchange (could not be called customer contact in ANY way!) with the bar person a large (tepid) G & T had found it's way into my hand when a certain magic happened........... This shy, quiet slip of a young woman walked on, opened her mouth and sang and she took my breath away! Karima Francis - gentle, unassuming and with the voice of Joni Mitchell/Joan Armatrading type blew away my thoughts of being old and in the wrong place........
Listen to her (and download / buy her album The Remedy) I think she was fab!

Anyway, there I am feeling a lot less old all, quite mellow and starting to enjoy the evening (it really was only 1 G & T) when Jack Savoretti and his group made their appearance.......... all I can say is wow, wow, and wow!!! I just alluded to X Factor and some of the so called singers that they have on there - but my goodness this young man outstripped all of them. Again and a bit like Karima -, he was understated, gentle (well mostly,till he really rocked out some of the songs!) When he played alone, the band having left the stage, he was just so amazing! The talent of this man was breathtaking! His acoustic guitar playing alone was brilliant!

So there we were - glued to the front railing, swaying and dancing and looking like moon struck teenagers at this gorgeous man!! Take me Home and a Soldiers Eyes were among my favourites, but For the Last Time was for me THE BEST!! 

Jack also has a great album out called Before the Storm - don't buy it for me though, I've already got it - but buy it for yourselves............. its fan-tas-tic!!!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Customers - love 'em...........

Customers - love 'em, and we do........... well most of the time! I thought I'd share just a few pearlers to make you smile.

The best one has to be of course - 'Do you have a menu'?? No, we tend to keep all the information hidden just so you have to ask! Or alternatively 'are they the specials'?? Pointing at the board clearly marked Specials.

'Do you have a toilet'?? Now I have to say I've been guilty of this - in Amsterdam many years ago, and I think we narrowly escaped with our lives as they distinctly called us stupid English Bas***ds in Dutch! But in an English pub?? Do we have a toilet? Why?? Do you want to borrow it? Buy it??

A great one is coming through our closed front door and asking if we're open yet?? Umm no! That's why the door is shut!

How about one I had the other day.......... 'I'll have the Scallops' - then customer looking very oddly at me frowning to find them on the till, as they were of course, not even on the menu!

Customers - Love 'em??? To true we do, even those guilty of the above - AND more!!!

Monday, 15 October 2012

We're back!

After last week off, we're back and raring to go again!! We had a lovely few days firstly at a fantastic 700 year old pub in a place called Norton St Phillips - The George, and then a few days at Lainston House in Winchester, the most amazing country Hotel. Beautiful rooms, spectacular grounds including a Falconry (with a new Golden Eagle) their own kitchen garden with the most amazing produce.  Fabulous food (oh God it was gooooood) and needless to say the wine list was extensive (with wines from £45 to many thousands of pounds) with great cocktails as well. Came away feeling very rested, quite chilled and exceedingly chubby!!!!

Whilst on holiday I managed to achieve most of my Christmas shopping (going to have a full house by the seems of it on Christmas Day) as well as doing my bit single handed for the British economy upturn as a whole!

Also, visited a part of the world that I've not been to for many years - Selsey, in Sussex. Phew, what memories that evoked. I'm very blessed to have a Husband who goes out of his way so much for me, I was taking him up and down roads and then back up and down them again in my quest to find my memories! Funny old things memories - are they ever what we think they are???

Selsey was my dear old Mums birthplace and where all her family came from, and its where I had a good many holidays when my Daddy died and Mum didn't know what to do with me during those long summer weeks (!). So I was duly packed off for 2 or 3 weeks to stay with my Auntie Doris and Uncle Edgar for a couple of times a year. I found the house they lived in (I can still smell her big walk in larder with all its dried fruit) )which had changed a little but essentially it was all still there (I wonder if the mangles gone??) but apart from that I barely recognised most of the place............... except for the Lifeboat Station!

As soon as we got there, all of my sensory memories came flooding back with the sound of the waves, the smell of the sea and the footsteps walking along the gangway to the lifeboat station itself.  So many memories of happy childhood times in my swimsuit eating sandy food, playing around on the beach with cousins, enjoying the summer sun (oh yes, we had sun in the old days!). I remembered the Selsey Fete that I went too with a few pennies in my purse, trying to find my Mum something to buy to take home with me. Walking safely around the village (it was a village then!) buying ice creams and cakes and enjoying the company of my own little world............... I really felt quite teary at one stage of this journey.  

I found a cousin - Peter - I've not seen for probably well over 30 years I don't know who was more surprised - him or me!! Well, actually it was him really - in fact I'd go so far as to say he looked terrified to have a woman at the bar in his club enquiring as to if he drank in there!!! :))

He took us to where my Auntie and Uncle are buried and there in the pouring rain I looked at the headstones of 2 people who gave me so much love and such wonderful memories to reflect on now I'm old(er), and I felt so grateful for that..............

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Time flies

Time flies when you're having fun - so they say - and we have been having our fair share of fun!!

Couple of award ceremonies, the first being the BIG ONE at the Hilton Park Lane where we were given the title of Best Tenanted Pub of the West in the Great British Pubs awards.  A first class evening and we stayed on the 24th floor of the Hilton overlooking Buckingham Palace - I swear, I was like a child in wonderment and awe!! Just amazing!! The second was for a more local award - the Torquay Herald Express - where we were pitched against one of the big boys in our area. A Michelin star famous fish Chef with a restaurant in Dartmouth. It was a privilege to be in the top four with him.............. needless to say he won, but we were thrilled to have been there and nominated into the top four Best Dining establishments along the Devon 'Riviera'!

The 'Girleys' went to that occasion and they all looked absolutely beautiful and did the Victoria Inn proud.

On top of that Tim and Chef James have been busy making Chutney's and Jams to sell at theVictoria, along with some one cup Tea Pots (everyone always asks where we get ours!) and some really cute Teddy Bears with T Shirts that have our logo and name - great presents for Christmas!!

Our new home made Ice Creams and Sorbets are going down a storm!! My chefs can't make enough of it right now! Next new menu's coming in tomorrow and SOH is busy putting together a new wine list. So a lot of fun and a lot of hard work right now, but that is what the job of being a Publican is. Great rewards if you work hard and care about your business - which we do!

Thankfully we have a week off next week and what we are going to do I have no idea, but I do know it will involve lots of rest and relaxation!! I'll try not to leave it a month before I blog till then darlings, take care and wrap up warm as the Autumn creeps in X  

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Circle of Life

I've just got back home to sunny Salcombe from having been to visit my lovely family down in in sunny Southsea and a very nice visit it was as well!

Canoe Lake Southsea
But also a bit strange really as I had a sudden realisation about the circle of life and my part in it. I went with my son, his wife and our little grandson James - now six months old. We went to a place in Southsea called Canoe Lake. It really is a small lake not very deep and not really attractive either as the beautiful swans that used to be there along with fish, crabs and wooden paddling boats  when I was a little girl have been replaced by ghastly plastic huge paddling boat swans and a lot of mud and silage! Anyway, I digress............ I sat waiting for them to arrive clutching the most disgusting cup of coffee I've ever had the misfortune to drink from a little lakeside cafe, and I had the most sudden and clear picture of the circle of life and my part in it!

Some 38 years ago I had pushed my little baby son around that very area - I was a young (very young mum!! 17 years old actually) Mum with a tiny baby, a new life as a wife and no idea of the traumas, tragedy's and general stuff that life would throw at me over the years! 20 years after that, older, wiser and sometimes sadder I would be pushing my ailing but darling Mum round there on occasions when I could get her out of her rest home and into a rickety heavy old wheel chair. I cherished those times with her mostly, yet just occasionally it all seemed a bit too much of an effort and often a chore - but she loved getting out and about and we would sit and have an ice cream and watch the world go by for a little bit. Yet, that morning last week, there I was waiting for MY family, to push my grandson round as any proud Grandmother does............ when the realisation of my own mortality and my future place in this grand circle of life swung right round and smacked me hard across the face!!     All I could think was would this memory be a happy one for my family or it would come to be regarded as a duty, a thing that has to be done??  We certainly had a great day together and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of this rare family time together, and I hope that as the years go by and Grandmother Lizzy and Grandpa Tim play their part in James life that there will be lots of happy memories made for a good many years to come!  

Salcombe Estuary on an early September morning
So I'm home again now and although it's still a glorious late summer down here, there is a definite Autumnal nip in the air. Here is a photo I took the other morning quite early when the sea mist was at its worst and before it cleared to be a glorious day. On that note, I'll try to blog again this week before we go to London for our national awards event by the Publicans Morning Advertiser.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

New season........

As the summer season starts to draw to a close so a new season is upon us and new things coming to the Victoria Inn.

Today's been hugely exciting as we've made plans about the coming months and how we're going to operate, and one of the reasons I love my job as a landlady is that we never really stand still! We may well have just won a highly prestigious award and we have another couple in the pipeline - but at the end of the day it's YOU our customers who matter a lot to us. We want you to keep liking us and visiting us and more importantly like what we offer you!

SO - on that note here is whats coming up new at the Victoria Inn from the second week in September:

Firstly - A new menu - that almost goes with out saying. But only a little nod away from the summer menu. We'll still be having 3 great fish specials on our board, but coupled with great Fillet Steaks and other meat specials yet to be firmly decided. New, 8oz Burgers are going on the menu from the same Farmer who supplies our sides of Beef for steaks - we've tried them and they are gorgeous!

Secondly - we're going to be making our own 'Bloody Delicious' Ice-creams........... I use that wording as customers who have tasted the Ice Creams have used that expression on more than one occasion! Needless to say, we won't be marketing them as such!!

The Strawberries above?? Well, those and others like them are being made into Strawberry Jam and we have already made some amazing Orange, Lemon and Lime Marmalade's. Some of the Strawberry Jam we'll be making to serve with our Cream Teas but other jars will be for sale!  SOH has made them and is up to his elbows in peeling fruits as I type!! Chefs are making Plum Chutney, Spicy Tomato Chutney and our Red Onion Marmalade also to bottle and sell.

We're also bringing in a few little Teddies and other bits that epitomise the Victoria Inn experience as a trial and we hope you'll like them.

Lastly, the pub itself and the accommodation will be having a little makeover with some new cushions, candles, vases, etc, etc.  New re-painted boards for outside the pub as well. The staff are also going to be having a makeover with new uniforms and a brand new in-house training course bought in from the Academy of Food and Wine which we belong to.

So exciting times to give us all a bit of a lift after a hugely busy summer which has left us all exhausted, and the pub looking like its been trounced by hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tourists............... oh yes! Of course..... It has!!!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunday or Monday??

I don't know if its Sunday or Monday today............... all I do know is that it's Bank Holiday which means the summer (she says laughing at that quaint old fashioned word!) is almost over. 

One of our best sellers - Mussels from the River Teign
Summer at the Victoria Inn (and I guess for many of those in a seasonal trade such as ours) is very much a double edged sword! We all look forward to the Summer after long, cold and often wet winters - we look forward to it for very different reasons.

We look forward to a successful trade to keep us afloat over the rest of the year - clearly we don't stop trading outside of the summer, but it's nowhere near the figures / numbers we do right now.  The first couple of weeks this summer were a little bit worrying as the weather was ropey, the sun refused to shine, we had the Olympics with people staying at home to watch it and it all looked pretty grim really.

Then the Olympics finished, the sun came out to play a little and suddenly summer at the Victoria Inn was in full swing, and thankfully has continued to be so! Hence, right now we are all a bit jaded to say the least!!

After next weekend, the children will have returned to school with happy memories of their holidays, our student staff will return to university richer but thinner, and we (SOH and I) will breath a sigh of relief that despite all the staffing issues we've faced this season, we've still managed to turn it into one of our best summers ever since we've been here.  

Living by the sea and knowing a lot of the lifeboat crew as we do I always get the shivers when the lifeboat goes out, but you absolutely have to watch this video of a rescue just round the coast from here and with 3 local people crewing the boat: Sam, Matt and Esther. You will realise the bravery of those involved with the lifeboat particularly in the last 30 seconds of the film clip!

Try to remember that when you go on holiday and you think you'll take out to sea in your RIB or on your water board have fun, but remember that the sea is an incredibly dangerous place - and that if you need rescuing, other people are putting their lives at risk.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Raining Cats, Dogs & Children

My goodness aren't we having some strange old weather - drew the curtains back this morning and it was like looking at a November day!! Yet outside my office window now it's bright sunshine.............

We had the Town Regatta in Salcombe last week and the weather was less than kind it has to be said - but it certainly bought the crowds here! It's undoubtedly a very strange season, Salcombe is nowhere as busy as it should be - but somehow here at the Victoria we are managing to keep on top of our targets. 

I say somehow - but I almost do ourselves a disservice saying that. We're doing it because we work flipping hard at what we do and it's not all about the front of house stuff that customers see us doing - the pulling pints and delivering food, its also about the ordering, staffing, menus, finances, social media stuff (we all know I spend hours doing that!) plus loads more that I never knew you needed to do to make a pub work! Now we have our third Chef Stuart we are able to serve food all day long and it has to be said that its proving very popular!! Amazingly we are serving everything from Fillet Steaks to Cream Teas in the afternoon so it's a proving to have been a good business decision. 

Staffing has proved to be very challenging again this summer with young people saying 'yes please - give us the hours' and then unable to complete more than a couple of shifts without not coming back! So luckily our front of house core full time staff have stayed strong, supplemented by college kids; Alex, Honor, Tom and Austin and supported by some even younger people Will, Lucy and lovely Lily. Somehow, we're getting through the summer together. The kitchen is running with a staff of 7/8 and the food coming out has been absolutely first class! I overheard a customer last night say that she's eaten a lot of Mussels - but none as good as ours!

Also, at last we're No 1 on Trip Advisor............... taken me almost 4 years to get there but we've done it!

AAfteAlready we're looking to the Autumn and we will be bringing in our brand new Autumn menu the 2nd week in September and we have lots of new ideas for it as well - so watch this space! Once the summer crowds have gone we shall be spending a little bit of money to freshen up the pub and also new menu and wine list holders, as well as some other bits and pieces to generally spruce us up. Bit pointless at the moment with so many hundreds of people travelling through our pub at the moment. The pic opposite is one of the better tables left after a family had been there......... :)

On that note - it's good to see our children's menu doing so well again this year - parents really appreciate that their children can have the same great quality food as themselves! Perhaps an especially good place to say thank you to our 2 cleaners as well that work hard all year but especially so in the summer - Jackie and Demitrou! They do stirling work in keeping us sparkling clean every single day.

Had some great dogs in over the last couple of weeks - this is one of my favourite dogs: A beautiful retired Greyhound - I think her name is Cat?  
But we've had some other beautiful dogs in as well - lots and lots of Cockerpoos, a smattering of Labradors, my favourite Alsatian Colin has been in as well.  A dog biscuit for the good (dogs are never less than good) and a titbit from the kitchen for the very good!  

I'd have liked to not see any dogs here in Salcombe for the fireworks but some very thoughtless owners did bring their dogs, and needless to say there were a few screaming dogs in town! We ushered one into our pub and shut the door and I don't know who was most upset by it; Us, the dogs young owner or the dog itself. Poor thing was so distressed that it peed and then even the obligatory slice of ham that was proffered was ignored. Still, lessons learnt hard way etc etc.....just a shame the owners of all the screaming dogs hadn't shown their little friends a bit more thoughtfulness.  

So there you go - a quick round up of where we are here in Salcombe - I am personally on a diet to try and get a bit leaner and fitter and of course a posh frock to get into for the Great British Pubs award ceremony in September, but so far so good!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

We're the Best in the West

Ladies & Gentlemen, I'm proud to tell you that we have been awarded the Best Tenanted / Leased Pub in the West Country in the Great British Pub Awards from the Publicans Morning Advertiser - a huge and influential trade paper.

After a little episode of feeling quite down about things business wise this has given us all a great lift to our morale.  We now go forward to the National Finals in September in which we hope that we will be awarded to best in the Country in our Category and the chance to be the Best Pub In the UK!!! This will be a very glitzy affair in Park Lane, London and we'll be taking two of out team with us to say thank you and make sure they can join in the fun and glory of it.

Then today we received a phone call to say we've been shortlisted to be in the English Riviera and South Devon Tourism and Hospitality Awards. This would be a great local award to win and means as much as the national one - so fingers crossed on all fronts!  

On top of that, we have at last recruited our third Chef to work with us! Hooray at last!!!!! Ive been trying to recruit for at least three months now, spent an absolute fortune, wasted time and energy interviewing people who just weren't up to joining us. I am quite exacting in keeping our standards high - we have a big reputation to live up to - so I have been sure to employ someone who can cook to our expected levels and also fit in with our established kitchen team. His name is Stuart and he joins us proper from Friday and it means that from Sunday 5th August, we will be able to do food ALL DAY and EVERY DAY from 12.00 to 9.00 at night................. How fantastic is that! Photo's and more bio about him in the next blog.

So three really exceptionally great things have happened here at the Victoria Inn this week, and suddenly the world seems a rosier place.

Just before I go, here's a photo of some superb veg from our new Rational Steamer / Oven,a mix of Green Beans, Mange Tout, Baby Sweet Corn and Sweet Bell Peppers, they smelt divine as they came out of the steamer and our customers are loving them!!!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Is that the sun???

My goodness the sun was / is in the sky -  well maybe for at least a few hours more! Our Chef James and this fish ( a Monkfish caught off Hope Cove and on the menu not long after this pic!) certainly seemed to be smiling at seeing the sun and at last - the visitors!

Finally, it's been a hugely busy week, although it has to be said, its STILL not as busy as it could be.  Will it end up being enough to help keep us all afloat during yet another long hard winter?? Who knows really........ Work seems to be progressing well on the Harbour Hotel and the bill board outside the place says open Summer 2013, you can also see that the swimming pool has gone, scaffold abounds and generally it looks like a building site. So 2013?? Well we have to wait and see!

There are times I realise what work a HR department used to do when I worked for Local Government  - all the hiring, firing and general sorting out. This week I could have done with their guiding gentle hand as staff came, some went and then new ones needed MY gentle hand as they encountered a brand new job. I realise I took some of the stuff in my old life, soooooooooo much for granted! Just getting up, going in, doing my work and receiving my salary. This week I've had to sort out so much in general terms of having staff work for me, that it seems to have taken up all my working day's - as well as trying to work on the bar and meet customers and be sure we're doing what we should to continue making us a success.

Talking of customers we've had some fabulous people in this week and you realise what a privilege it is to help people have a great holiday - you see just a snapshot of their lives - the young couples so much in love, the family with a little baby on their first family holiday, the older couples who come to Salcombe every year of their lives together and love to tell you about the old days and how things have changed. The families who never spend much time together and suddenly are thrust together for 24 hrs a day - now that can be interesting to watch!!!

I've been doing my usual bits with the children (which I ADORE!!) of getting them to feed the chickens and then taking up lollipops and badges for them! We received a great e mail though:

Just a quick note to say thank you for a delicious lunch on Sunday.  We had canoed over from North Sands for lunch and were so pleased to find such a child friendly pub! The icing on the cake was meeting you in the loos after one of our small people had had a tumble... one lollipop later and there were smiles all round! We will gladly tell our friends about you! Thank you L and B

After that, life and all its day to day trivia this week didn't seem quite so bad!! Enjoy the Olympics readers.......................... X

Monday, 16 July 2012

So you are there!

Ok, ok, ok - I admit it! I was thoroughly depressed and downright bloody miserable when I wrote the last blog post............... 'Should I stay or should I go'! I blame the jet stream and lack of sun, lack of alcohol and most absolutely lack of chocolate (ok - last excuse is an absolute and total lie!) and a few hundred other reasons.

I have been heartened by loads of comments both personally, through the blog and facebook. I've of course had a couple of crank comments - the one from Frank Smith 'Smee' is most definitely NOT from him and he wasn't best pleased at his name being used! Bless him - I don't think he'd even know how to switch on a computer............I know he won't mind me saying that 'cos he's a lovely bloke who I'm very fond of! Plus he gets hunks of Cheese and pickled onions to go with his beer on a Friday! Then there was the miserable sod who wondered if by allowing dogs in the pub I was perhaps putting off people coming in?? Um - No is the answer! Sooner have a dozen dogs in the Vic (in the areas they're allowed of course) than one miserable git like 00Kevin - But, he is of course entitled to his opinion. And, he doesn't have to come in to the Vic does he.........?

Much more valid were the comments I received reminding me how much they liked the blog and especially keeping up with events in Salcombe - so just for you is a lovely picture of the Estuary............ I was also advised to perhaps to talk a little bit more about the real challenges of being a landlady. So how about this:

Right now there can't be a business in the land that isn't having a tough time (except for the automobile business and I helped it ever so slightly last week, but more about that another time) and we are no exception! There is no denying that business at the Victoria Inn is quite difficult at the moment. The weather has played havoc with the industry that we so rely on - tourism!! The local TV station was quoting 25% deficits on the expected norm for this time of year in the West Country and I can well believe it.

Salcombe has no Hotel at the top of its main high street (being re-furbished and due open NEXT summer), so we (and the other business's in town) are missing that extra 60 - 120+ people in town on any given day and the spend they would make. Getting the staffing levels right is nigh on impossible - we're either over staffed or under staffed - and we're either heaving with customers, and rushed off our feet or staff are twiddling their thumbs (time to lean, time to clean is a phrase well quoted at the moment!) waiting for the next customer. The yachtsmen are not here in the droves that they should be, because of bad weather conditions, as are many customers from where there has been such dreadful flooding.

The drop in volumes of soft drinks and the amounts of water going over the counter for children clearly identifies that families are working to tight budgets - as is the drop in bottles of Champagne being sold! However, St Austells great ales, our medium priced wines and our high quality of food is ensuring sales remain stable in that part of our business. Another part of our business holding its own is the accommodation interestingly enough......... a couple of weather led cancellations but nothing to worry about. On that note - a quick mention that we're doing a special deal of £50 a room in Oct, Nov & some of Dec!!!

Where was I?? Oh yes - so what are SOH and I doing about all this doom and gloom (apart from ensuring a good supply of headache pills!)?  Well, firstly - we need to make sure variable costs are kept to a minimum - and that's where Tim is a an absolute whizz in negotiating great deals with suppliers. Staff have had a bit of refresher re-training to emphasise the even greater importance of customer service and we're looking at what times we're offering food and if we can move them/extend them as well as what we're offering.............phew!! All we need now is just a little help from our friend the weather!

Come on sun - you know you want to come out to play really...................

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Should I stay or should I go??

Should I stay or should I go?? That's a well know song title but from whom or by whom I know not! I'm just seriously debating the worth of this blog..................???

I seem to spend an increasing amount of time on 'Social Media', not just for me personally but much more for the business side of things.  By that I mean I write this blog, I 'Twitter' and I also 'do' Facebook. Now I get lots of instant reactions to the Twitter and I've made lots of business contacts and customers, whereas Facebook is more for friends only............ my blog gets anywhere from 20 'hits' a day when I haven't written anything to 60 plus when I write a post. It's all getting increasingly time consuming and frankly, its reaching the point where I don't have the time for all of this.

I started the blog because I thought that when we came to Salcombe nearly four years ago we were probably never going to see civilisation again! I felt sure there wouldn't be adequate forms of communication and that probably I'd have to learn smoke signals!! It was as much a way of keeping in touch with family and friends as anything, and then it developed into a marvellous marketing tool - since copied by many.

I've covered most topics in the blog, there have been many times it's been deeply personal (perhaps too much so - I've pretty much worn my heart on my sleeve), some times I've been controversial and far too many times I've tried to be all things to all people. There is a limit to how many times I can tell you how good we're doing or how poor (right now let me tell you - it's tough! The weather, the recession, etc, etc, etc) what beers we've got on and what food we're serving.

It's been suggested I turn it more into a 'New' Salcombe Blog, with news/views and gossip about Salcombe (but Old Salcombe blogger with all your contentious issues....... where have you gone?).

Has my blog become like an old friendship that's died a death and I can't let go or am I just seeking divine inspiration? Am I just feeling miserable because of the rotten weather or have I lost my mojo - never to return???

It feels stale and almost feels like time to say ta rah chuck...................

What say you?????  If you say at all?????

Salcombe capture by Sarah from 'The Dark Side - East Portlemouth!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Sorry, its been a while

Sorry darlings - it's been a while............. thanks to Her Majesty its been a right busy old time!! Thank you so much your Maj!!

We thought we would probably be busy as it was a long Bank Holiday, but NOTHING could have prepared us for what hit. The weather may well have been poor, but we certainly broke all records in terms of practically everything, but in particular food! I was so proud of Chef and his team in the kitchen.

I also had a brainwave of serving a Jubilee Fizz of sparkling Pink Wine with the champagne glass wiped with a strawberry, dipped in sugar and the strawberry added to the drink and we couldn't serve them quick enough! Everyone was in great spirits and Salcombe was heaving......... really good as the road was closed on the Tuesday so White Strand has stalls etc on it and that helped towards a great party atmosphere.  All of my team pulled together, with lunch breaks going untaken or eaten on the run and we were all very weary come Wednesday - yet still we carried on being busy........ and we still ARE!!! Hoorah!!!! 

The picture of our pub in this blog was taken by another talented local woman Immy Yeoman - I just love it thanks Immy. So many talented local people in so many ways - our Church, Holy Trinity held a flower festival and the flower displays were truly breathtaking.  This picture is of the Lapthorn Window in Church and I'm pretty sure it was taken by Lonija Balgavis whose photographic skills leaves me green with envy!!

SOH and I have not only been phsically busy, but mentally planning for the future of our pub - we never stand still for long, and right now we've bought a peice of kit for the kitchen that will help us with cooking the food and in particular its a steamer so we have already been talking with Chef James about the sorts of different vegetables we'll be able to cook far more freshly - a HUGE investment of capital but we believe it will be well worth it. We've also bought a new fridge for the kitchen and a secret bit of equipment which I'll tell you about next time..............???????

The short videos I put on YouTube have been viewed hundreds of times, and our fantastic new mobile web site has been amazing!!  So huge thanks to Larry at Bespoke Mobile Web -  the 'traffic' we're getting of this new mobile site is amazing!!

Anyway - a large buzz of people coming up from the pub, so I'd best go off back to work... I promise not to leave it too long till the next posting but I am on Facebook!/pages/The-Victoria-Inn-Salcombe/136141733123940AND Twitter both of which I endeavour to update at least oncec a day!!

Phew all this 'social media' stuff doesn't half keep me busy!!!!!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

You asked for it...........

You asked for it...... well you've got it!! I had lots of feedback on my last blog post where I posted the link to a little bit of test video for the Victoria Inn.  We will be putting together a video with much more of the pub, the garden, the fire (!) and a bit less of Chef James boning the meat (!!). The video probably won't happen now till after the summer hols as when you have a professional doing it, it's not a 5 minute job!

BUT.......... I had lots of comments that you would like to see much more about Salcombe as a whole....... So here is the link to my Youtube page

Well at least I hope it is. I'm going to try to load up videos from my Iphone - nothing technical at all, probably quite out of focus and no lovely music, but, I really hope you like them. You'll see there's one of the Old Gaffers, and then some from Salcombe starting from where the RNLI is. When you look at the one taken from the Snapes Point - the noises off screen are my dogs panting - not me!!! Do feedback to me about them won't you.

Thats all for today I'm afraid, but I promise to blog again soon and happy viewing!!

Love & hugs to all of you - Liz x

Friday, 18 May 2012

Video in Progress

2 blogs in one day - please, try not faint! This is where I either show I AM a complete and utter clux at I.T or I prove I can follow instructions.

The video I've put on is a work in progress of what I hope to eventually have for our great pub the Victoria Inn. I'll use it to go on our website - probably towards the end of the year. Put together by our great friends Lisa & Phil Beaney.

I would REALLY welcome all and any feedback!!!! Personally, I'd like a bit more pub and garden and Phil has already told me they need different lighting and for Chef James to be 'miked' up!

Sorry its been a while

Hello all, sorry it's been a while since I blogged... 2 excuses really - the format's been changed for Google blogging, and when it comes to technology I tend to hide my head in the sand. But I've confronted my issues and hey, here I am!!! Secondly, I have actually been very busy with lots of things........... Submitted an application for another award. Trust me, to do it properly they take flipping ages and then on the last page I didn't save the wretched thing properly and had to start again!!!! I yearn for the days I had admin support (in my previous life) who did all this. We've also been busy getting the pub ready for the summer - lots of gardening (SOH), Tidying (SOH), menu planning (ME), ideas (ME) working on the bar, etc etc.both of us!

The doors just being started!
We're currently having the side red gates that lead to the garden painted to look like to barn gates/doors with some pretty roses on the top.  The weather has been against the painter John Aspden of Gallery 5 fame in Salcombe all week, but hopefully it will be finished next week! We've got some fantastic pretty coloured / flowered bunting for the pathway to the garden, and the new scarecrows are up and ready just need the welcoming signage.
Next we had our great friends Phil & Lisa Beaney come to stay for a couple of days - lots of fun and catching up but an ulterior motive of wanting a promo video of the Victoria Inn for our website. As soon as I learn how to do I'll load it up for you to have a look today, its NOT the finished article but it's a real nod in the direction of what I'm looking for, and very, very exciting!!! You can see more of their work here:

The meat coming from Holesome Farm is going down a storm we only get 8 - 10 fillet steaks every weekend (as well as Sirloin Steaks) but they are flying out the door and the gravy Chef James makes from the bones is to die for! As for our enhanced fish selection - well!! Going local has definitely been a move in the right direction........... this week we had Cuttlefish and Chef James made a great Provencal Sauce for it & it was gone almost as soon as it was on the menu - today we have Skatewings, Monkfish, Lemon Sole and tomorrow we have Black Bream in!

Aside from work, we went to London for the annual BII bash and I had the pleasure of meeting two 'Celebs' - Gregg Wallace of Masterchef fame and Michelle Mone - Ultimo Bra entrepreneur. Gregg Wallace has a restaurant in Bermondsey called Greggs Table and we had a really smashing meal - I highly recommend a visit!! Look out for Greggs brother Paul as well - a head waiter and as equally enchanting as his brother!  Michelle Mone was stunningly beautiful and was really inspirational - so amazed that a self made millionairess who is so clever and has such a huge business gets stage sickness! I loved her...........  

We're adjusting very well to living in our home and we've also done a bit of gardening and work here as well - so all in all. I am discovering a love for cooking as well so whilst I may not have been blogging - I certainly haven't been doing nothing!!

I'll try not to leave it so long till the next blog, but this weekend see's the start of the 'season' - albeit only the start, I need to be around.......... so until the next time x

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Its all very exciting

Life is all very exciting at the moment as we concentrate on the future of the Victoria Inn and the route with which we're going to take with her. SOH and I are convinced that whilst we may indeed be very good at what we doing in Salcombe, we have to keep working very hard to stay at the top of our game - so we had our meeting with a business consultant, we've drawn up our aims and goals for the next seven years and we are now on track to make that happen.

When we first came to Salcombe SOH always had the fact in his head that living in such a glorious place he wanted to use only local produce and whilst we try to do that now as much as possible - we both know that we can do so much more. So yesterday saw us and James our Chef going to meet Graham from Holsome Farm (not far from Salcombe) and talking to him about his cattle and what he can do to supply us with meat. Turns out our Chef James is a whizz at boning meat and turning out perfect cuts of meat ............. what a little star! Anyway - I get ahead of myself, after having met his butchers and seen (and bought) some of the meat, Graham took us to the actual farm to see where the cattle graze and how well looked after they are.  The cattle he uses are pedigree British White and they get fed a splendid diet of grass, turnips, hay, home-grown cereals (wheat and barley), this in turn leads to the meat having a succulent full flavoured taste.  Their meat is hung for up to three weeks to mature so that it is succulent, full of flavour and very tender. Graham said that they are inspected by the Meat Hygiene service on a regular basis, so therefore all their meat has traceability and quality is  assured.  Now then, at heart, I am still a City girl and walking in a field looking at cows is not really my thing - but after having been cajoled by the men to walk and have a look at these fine beasts I found myself looking at very fine cows and calves, but one cow immediately sniffed out the fact that I was slightly fearful and made it her mission to reduce me to a nervous wreck by making moves to chase me out of the field....... not once but several times!! In the end Graham had to shoo her away from us, but the men folk seemed to enjoy my discomfort!!! James was quick to tell the staff back at the pub about my sprint!!
So then, we bought some meat which James has already butchered into joint and steaks and once we've tasted we'll decide whether we'll be able to work with Graham on a regular basis.   We also this week got our Licence to Buy Fish from the Marine Management Organisation - so we have a couple of meetings lined up for next week with fish / lobster fishermen and our plan is to really major on fish in the summer and  this wonderful local produce, so, I'll keep you updated as to our progress.   Apart from that we have also been working on a new sandwich menu and from Tuesday we are introducing 'Victoria's Main Brace Butties'..............going back to a local produce theme we are going to be using great bread from a local baker - Jerome - the Frenchmans Bakery! The sandwichs are going to be lovely thick doorstops of bread but presented in a semi open manner - when we start doing them, I'll take some photo's for you to see how good they look...... Watch out for the new Fish Finger one!!

I love bringing all our ideas together and coming up with things to keep us fresh, current and inviting and I hope you do to?!?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Its been a while

It seems to have been ages since I last blogged - but boy oh boy have we had a busy Easter!! I honestly think its been the busiest Easter we've had since we've been here at the Victoria but once today is over and accounted for we'll be able to do the maths and say for certain. But Salcombe was hugely busy, you could have easily be mistaken for thinking it was a summers day............. plus Easter was later last year and the weather was just gorgeous. The weather this year was actually not as bad as we'd been fearing (blooming freezing today though - another bitingly cold wind!)

Wild bluebells in our garden
Thought you'd like to see this picture of one of the clumps of natural bluebells that are in out garden here at the pub - just soooo pretty!

A great shame that the St Austell little sapling planted in celebration of their 100 years in the business was snapped by a 'little darling' during the Easter weekend, but SOH is hopeful of being able to save it...........  I do wonder sometimes about the children (or rather their parents) that come to visit us and their behaviour. It does make me realise why some pubs are so NOT child friendly.  To be fair I guess it's like all things in life - it's only the minority of children (parents) that behave in this way - but it's really hard when you've put so much love and effort into the pub garden to see flowers picked and thrown around and such like being shown such disregard.  But hey ho, I suppose it's the way of the world and we'll continue to encourage children to come into our garden and enjoy themselves but in such a way that ALL children can enjoy what we've done.

Our boat in the garden
Talking of the garden, I think we're going to have something rather wonderful painted on the big plain red doors to the garden entrance and we are very excited about it..... but you're going to have to watch this space for the progress of this!!!

We were so busy  Easter weekend that in the history of SOH being in this business we ALMOST ran out of beer - come the Tuesday following the weekend we had only a little bit of 1 beer left - despite ordering over and above what we thought we'd need.... how amazing is that!! Can't begin to tell you how many kilo's of fish we sold and no's of Burgers coming out of the kitchen.

Just before the Easter SOH and I had a visit to one of Rick Steins places - the Cornish Arms in St Merryn - another St Austell pub.  The great man wasn't there (shame!) but his gorgeous Head Chef Luke was (why are so many Chef's small?? - my Chef says they start off tall but the hard work shrinks them!!) and actually he was pretty easy on the eye (!) and a thoroughly likeable young man.  We went with the sole intention of seeing what we could learn and what we could do to ensure that were doing the sorts of food that would enable faster turn around time in the height of summer.  We came away with a few good ideas, but Luke was very complimentary when told about what we are currently doing and actually we also came away thinking likewise!! 

But we are definitely going to be serving more fresh fish from now on and through the summer and I'll keep you posted over the next few weeks about our new summer menus.  The other thing we are definitely going to be doing this year is opening up our upstairs seating area more.  Our summer staff are almost in place and a couple of youngsters to be doing a bit more of the running up and down stairs.

So then, that was Easter. Hopefully business will start to climb up and up towards the summer now and we start to plan properly for the big events this year. I did a Facebook poll about whether we should have TV in the Victoria for the Olympics and Her Majesty's Jubilee - but got a resounding no! So not sure we shall have a TV, but we are planning our own 'inside' street party for the Jubilee.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Happy Easter Folks

Happy Easter all - well almost of course! But for us here in Salcombe the Easter hols have kicked off! So I thought before the Harbour gets too full with boats, I'd show you a picture I took one day recently with a very inquisitive seagull who didn't mind me being too close to him at all - he didn't move a muscle!! After the beautiful weather the last fortnight we've gone back to really bitingly cold Easterly winds......... I painted the fence at home this week with a t shirt and 2 sweaters on and I was still frozen!!!  It does mean of course that the Victoria Inn has been busy with guests wanting to sit by the warmth of our fire ....Every cloud has a silver lining!! :)

Our spring menu went live this week - here is a link to the website page if you'd like to have a sneak preview:
Its proving really popular and the starters especially so - I can honestly say that the tapenade made by our Chef James is the best I've ever tasted! Its all about the quality of the olives used apparently.  We are moving very much towards having more fish on our menu, so we've applied to the Ministry of something for a buyers licence - this will mean we can buy direct from local fishermen and I hope to be able to tell you more about that very soon. Fish is not a cheap option but we think it's the way to go - we are right by the sea, and although we have to have it delivered from Brixham and Plymouth, we know that our customers like to have fish when they come to Salcombe. We're also going to be looking at fish that you may not have had before, but fish that we know you will absolutely love! So watch this space.......................

What else???? Well, the garden is starting to do well as the warm sun helped make the re-seeding take, so we hope to be able to open the grassed area up for the first May Bank Holiday. The fences at the Victoria Inn have also been painted (NOT by me!!) as well as the flower boxes. We think we're going to hold off the planting till closer to the summer, as our spring plants last year were gorgeous and could have been kept through to the summer but we pulled up and re-planted and they didn't do very well at all.........

I've also run a face book question this week on whether we should get a TV for the Olympics and the Jubilee and so far most people want us to stay a TV free zone....????!/pages/The-Victoria-Inn-Salcombe/136141733123940 

What do you think????????? Why don't you vote and let me know.

Lastly, for those of you who love to come and see them - the Old Gaffers are at the Victoria Inn, Saturday 7th April - see you there??