Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

Just a very short blog from Tim, myself and all of our fantastic team. You've made 2013 another incredible year for us here at the Victoria Inn and as we start to look forward to our amazing re-furb starting on Monday we are filled with excitement, slight nervousness and a sprinkling of trepidation!!
But we just know that we are going to be offering you a fantastic new pub in which you are going to love spending even more time with us. It will retain the best of the best features and some amazing new ones including; comfy seating upstairs, window seats for you to watch the Salcombe world go by, easier access to the garden and a new refined menu along with some great little surprises!
I'd like to take this opportunity to also say a huge thank you to our brewery St Austell for having the faith in us as a business to afford us the opportunity for this re-furb and in particular to our friend Jim Sloan, Business Manager who supports us at every opportunity and is always there with guidance, ideas and enthusiasm.
Our team never fail to delight us with their passion for our business and their commitment to customer happiness is key in everything they do. So to Glo, Rob, Jess, Karen, Craig and Jade - our front of house team - Thank you so much and keep going the extra inch. To James, Tania, Stuart, Adam and our two apprentices Aaron and Blake - without the high standard of your cooking and presentation we would have no customers, so huge thanks to you all!
To my lovely Tim who puts up with my passion for our business showing itself in a myriad of ways including temper tantrums, exhaustion and sheer delight when it all goes swimmingly - I love you!!
So that's it - the Oscar speech for 2013 is all but done, other than to say we close the doors to the Vic at 10.30p.m on Saturday 4th January - we shall probably be having a food sale with some great prices on that Saturday and maybe some reduced ale prices as well. We then hope to open for business on either the 29th or 30th January.
I'll blog, face book; https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Victoria-Inn-Salcombe/136141733123940?ref=hl  Twitter; https://twitter.com/Victoriainnsalc  and you-tube (put in Victoria Inn Salcombe in the search part)  wherever possible to keep you all updated on the works progress.
Lastly, and by no means least a huge THANK YOU to YOU, yes YOU our customers for your loyalty, friendship and business.
Liz xxx

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve.........

Its Christmas Eve 2013 and I was so pleased that Father Christmas kept his word and visited the Victoria Inn last weekend to see 65 girls and boys who came to tell him that they'd been good children and whisper what they hoped would be in their stockings or round the tree on Christmas morning.  Some of us found it quite emotional with the very small children as it ignited many personal memories of Christmases past.
The stall holders turned up and had a fairly good trade - some more than others, but generally I think everyone did ok and we raised £186 in total - which is not to bad at all! Those proceeds will be split between the Salcombe First Responders and Egremont Trust Charities.  
The weather has been absolutely awful and has had a huge impact on trade throughout the town, so we are desperately watching news bulletins and hoping and praying that our visitors WILL be able to come down.
The Carol Service round the tree was transferred to the Church last night because of the weather and we had 2 large parties cancel - however, despite all of that, we had a great night and the pub rocked!!
We are pleased to say that we are fully booked for New Years Eve unless anyone wants to eat early, and we have just a few tables for tonight.
So, can Tim, Myself and all the team take this opportunity to wish all of our customers, suppliers & colleagues at St Austell Brewery a Very Happy & Peaceful Christmas!  
Love to you all,
Liz xxx


Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Fayre

This weekend - Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd at the Victoria Inn - our first ever Christmas Fayre!! From 11.00 till about 5'ish............. Father Christmas has agreed to come and visit for the two days and there will be lots of craft stalls, pictures, photo's, produce, antiques (no - not me, cheeky!!), books, decorations, cakes (Sunday) and lots, lots more!!!
Entrance is just £1 to see Father Christmas and lots of hard work has gone into this, so I hope you'll come and support the event.  All monies raised will be split between the Egremont Trust and Salcombe First Responders.  

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Its the last Christmas........

As were putting the decs up this week ( I say WE in the very loosest terms!) I realised that this was the last Christmas our pub will look like this! As in less than a month now the sledgehammer will go against the wall that's coming down and gorgeousness will begin.

The tree will no longer stand where it is now and only in our individual minds eyes and the eyes of our architect can we dream about how beautiful our Victoria will shortly look!  

As usual the team have made Christmas a reality in our fabulous pub and the minute you walk in, you're treated to festivity, lights, candles and the smell of mulled wine wafting through the air - alongside a range of home made special vodkas and a couple of cocktails - Long Island Mint Tea being thoroughly, wickedly, lovely!

I think we are all of the mind that we are ready for this re-furb to start now - we seem to have spent ages and ages talking about it, but the lighting man came out to discuss with us this week about the lighting we'll be having and I felt the first real frisson of excitement as I actually saw in my head how beautiful this pub of ours will look.

We have the new menu's ready to go, with some prices actually reduced - particularly the childrens meals - the wine list is re-vamped and the new team uniforms are here.  Some new discount cards as well - more of that to come over the next month or so.

The only slight disappointment so far is that in the middle of the newly re-furbished upstairs of our pub it looks unlikely that we'll be able to have a log burning stove so we are desperately seeking eye catching centre piece ideas............... if you have any thoughts (clean ones please - not involving pole dancing or naked chefs) then do let me know! I fancy a large Ships wheel or copper divers suit (properly lit of course) but it seems the world and its mother have differing ideas, so that's a real work in progress!

See you 21st & 22ndDecember at the Vic!
But before the re-furb comes Christmas and New Year with NYE bookings coming in nicely and this year we have also secured a couple of Christmas parties which is always nice to get every one in the swing of the festivities.

A shortened trip to my family next weekend (sadly one night only) and then we have our Christmas Fayre here at the Vic on the Saturday on Saturday 21st and  Sunday 22nd - 11.00 to 5 ish. 

Father Christmas has very kindly agreed to come and say hello to all the children here in Salcombe for those two days before he jets off across the world. Lots of stalls lined up - from decorations to cakes, jewellery to children's books, sweets and jams, so lots of fun for everyone!  

Got to go now - so very, very busy.................

Much love

Liz x

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Our 'journey' has started

Yes, we're off!!! The re-furbishment started yesterday with a pre-contract meeting at the Victoria Inn and as you can see I was in the company of a lot of very nice men!! We learnt yesterday (and met) the firm that are going to doing the works and bless me if it isn't a Portsmouth firm (remember I'm a Pompey girl!!) so that was a great start. Cummings & Pope are the contractors - people that our brewery St Austell have used many times and have a fantastic reputation for the work they do. Gareth the boss was there and we met Gary who's the foreman - they were really great and explained the how, why and what will be happening. Adam Luck and Jim Sloan from the brewery were there, along with Nigel from the maintenance dept. Ricci our very talented architect from Hollington Architects was there, as was Matt (who has a great eye for detail) down South company Trading Spaces, Sam who's project manager, a H & S chap, a structural engineer and  us!! Phew...........but a starting point of Coffee and cake was a good beginning. Although a pint of Tribute was suggested - but may have been just a little early.
We will be closing from Sunday 6th January 2014, and we hope to be re-opening a little over three weeks later on Wednesday 29th or Thursday 30th January!! The trouble is of course that we are a listed building and whilst it has had a whole load of knocking about over the years they will not know what is behind walls until they start knocking them down........... Gareth was really honest about this but still incredibly sure they will be able to do the works within about a three week timescale. Adam decided yesterday that it would be appropriate to do external decorations at the same time - so can I ask you all to start sending thoughts out to the universe for good weather in January!!
I hope you will be able to see the 'mood board' on the right of this post - and some of the colours and styles we will be using in this re-furb. Beautiful fabrics, muted colours, mirrored walls - sensational! We are absolutely and resolutely keeping to the fact we are a great traditional pub - there is going to be very little change in that - but we will be bigger, and I absolutely guarantee that the window tables with their magnificent views being planned for upstairs will be FOUGHT over!!!!
The meeting went on for hours yesterday and my head was spinning - now my head is spinning today for having over indulged in Champagne last night!! Hey ho!!!
On top of that I'm planning a Christmas Fayre at the Vic for Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd December along with Father Christmas........... I've received incredible support from local people looking to sell all sorts of goodies - so that's going to be very special. 
At the Devon Life awards last week, we were disappointed not to win (of course) but LOVED the evening - they threw a great bash! Paris last weekend was amazing and my SOH gave me a weekend to remain in my memory for ever - but phew! How expensive was some bits of it!! One board we saw said that an average day in Paris was about 120 euros. The weather was reasonable but Saturday afternoon was awful, absolutely fantastic meal Saturday evening and our Hotel was just round the corner from the Arc de Triumphe.
I've also this week been to a Taste of the West (we hold a Bronze award from them!) networking event at Burts crisps just outside of Plymouth. Great to see how they make the crisps and I was so impressed at how pure their product is - a distinct lack of additives, and also to see how great their staff are - and also when you see the name on the back of the person who fried it, that's who they REALLY are!! http://www.burtschips.com/ Came away with a few goodies as well as words of praise from the man who helped start up Burts about our lovely pub.    
Apart from a quick trip back to Portsmouth to see my family before Christmas for a day or 2 visit, we now have a fairly packed diary of meetings, fact finding visits to other excellent St Austell pubs to look at good practice etc, the Christmas Fayre to prepare for (300 gifts to wrap!!) menu's to think of for the re-opening of the pub etc etc etc............ phew!!!!!

I hope to keep you all informed of the re-furb as it goes on through our Facebook page

Our Twitter account https://twitter.com/Victoriainnsalc and maybe YouTube as well.

Liz x

Monday, 4 November 2013

Head spin

Most of our great team after some Customer Experience training!
I am literally in a head spin at the moment - it is one of those times in the business when everything is coming together at once!!  So literally in a head spin that I managed to fall over my own feet in the middle of Fore Street and land face down prostrate in front of the Post Office!!! I swear not a drop from behind the bar had touched my lips........
Anyway, moving swiftly on  - we are certainly managing to pack quite a lot into our days.  Last week saw us going to a Marine salvage yard outside of Exeter - a place called Dunsford. Wow!! Who would have thought in the middle of this luscious green space their would be three hangers full of ships (and aircraft!) artifacts!!!! Do you know its about NINE weeks till the re-furb starts........???? Jeepers!!! Anyway - back to the matter in hand - the refurb!    Here are two types of tables we can use for the comfy seating areas that will be upstairs in the Vic; 1) Beautiful wooden chests (although there was one that was really old and a bit tatty that I really fell for!) and glass / riveted tables. Which one do you like best (Yes, YOU dear blog reader).
Alongside that we had a totally amazeballs Halloween.  Our resident Author Mark Fraser http://walkthelines.info/author/markfraser/ did a fantastic book reading of his new Halloween book. not once, but TWICE!! We were inundated with children of all ages.  We reckon somewhere between 120 to 140 - it was total and utter chaos!! But huge fun.......... Which meant of course that the pub was packed to the rafters, and even if I'd had a pub twice the size I think we would have still been full!  
Then we also as a team had a Customer Training session with our Management Coach Guy Arnold on Saturday at 9.a.m.  So hard to try and get everyone together, but we managed it all bar just 2!! We had lots of fresh cakes and pastries from our lovely French Baker Jerome, and all in all I think we took something away from the session to help us give you the customer a better experience when visiting us. That Saturday also saw the end of a very busy half term (which we were all very pleased about - the business, not the end!).
Then to top it all, we've decided to hold our own Christmas Fayre on Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd December upstairs at the Victoria Inn.  We'll have our very own Father Christmas and I've got some great local people coming to sell pictures, jewellery and 'Crafts'.............. It should be great fun!! More of that to come in the next couple of blogs!


Monday, 28 October 2013

What a night..................

If you're anything like us, I bet most of you don't give a thought as to where or how the food gets from the menu and onto the plate?? So, I thought it would be interesting to share with you a picture from Kingfisher of Brixham who supply almost all of our fish. This was sent to us today by them, (along with prices for the fish on sale) and is one of their day boats at sea yesterday............... unbelievable isn't it, the danger these men put themselves in to ensure that we have fish on our menus. That's why, when we get the opportunity to support the Fishermen locally and across the world we do so wholeheartedly!!
Talking of Fish, at the moment we have our great seafood sharing platters & Haddock & Chips on the menu as well as a great Fish Pie, and then specials today are Turbot pan fried with a tomato, courgette & aubergine Herbes de Provence dressing and served with a delicious creamy spring onion mash, as well as Mussels from the River Exe.  Chef is sautéing them with ginger, garlic & spring onions (spring onions must have been on offer with the Veg man!!) finished with fresh coriander, flat leaf parsley and white wine. Two of our chefs - Stuart and Adam went to the Rick Stein Cookery School last week to do a day on cooking with fish so I think these specials are their creation. 
Back to the 'storm' then.......... we 'battened down the hatches' last night, storing everything that could blow around or safely stowed away, the chickens were put away early and all noticeboards in with side entrance doors securely shut!  Luckily, Salcombe had little to show for there having been a massive storm other than some flooding in the street and effluent in the street - yet again!!!  Here at the Vic we are indeed fortunate to be just above the level in which other places seem to flood, but it was still pretty nerve wracking last night as gusts of around 115mph whipped round the buildings.  I drove out round South & North Sands today and their were lots of surfers enjoying the bonus of surfing waves!
So all in all, thankfully, the great storm didn't really seem to affect us and in actual fact I think it's given holiday makers (of whom there are lots here at the moment) a taste of living somewhere so beautiful when it wild and windy and at one with nature. Thankfully, we don't fly to Paris until next weekend in which time hopefully, the weather will be a bit calmer!
Till next time - stay warm & dry,
Liz x

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Exciting times

Gosh it's all happening at the Victoria Inn at the moment.......... Firstly we have an awards ceremony to go to at Exeter Chiefs stadium on 7th November as we have found out that we're shortlisted for an award with the highly prestigious Devon Life magazine in the 'Best Family Friendly Dining Experience of the Year' category. We are delighted at being nominated for several reasons - firstly we've been voted for by YOU our customers and friends, secondly its great that its for something local! So think of us on the 7th - just in case I don't blog again before that. After that - SOH is whisking me away to Paris for a weekend birthday treat - how very lucky am I!  

Next on the barometer of excitement is the planned re-furb of the Vic on January.  We understand that the tenders for the work are now back, there'll be a bit of decision making by the brewery chiefs and then we're anticipating a meeting late October/early November and a pre-contract meeting in December. We've had the plans and the mood board downstairs in the entrance of the pub and it's been great to see the excitement they've generated. Customers are as excited as we are and our next bug step in conjunction with the lovely architect is to decide colours............. SOH wants to keep a traditional red or green but I'd like to go with something a bit more contemporary. Our aim is to keep the traditional side of our pub, but just that bit more contemporary! Farrow & Ball paint charts are sitting waiting to be poured over............& no doubt argued over!!!

Trade at the Vic whilst obviously quieter is not dreadful by any means - but erratic! It's really hard to tell from one day to the other at the moment just what that days trade will be like. We're back to No 1 on Trip Advisor (yay0 always a nice place to be, but as long as we're in the top half dozen I'm happy. 

SOH and I are having some great Management Coaching from a lovely chap called Guy Arnold who assists business's in ensuring they're growing their business in the right way and to help achieve excellent customer service and reputation. http://www.greatorpoor.com/ It's working as well - he's helping us look at things from different angles, and working through the millions of ideas that we both have - particularly, in light of this re-furb.

Scallop starter with Cauliflower puree

Lemon Sole with Scallop Sauce

We've had some great fish on the menu again this week - none more so than the fantastic Lemon Sole pictured here with Asparagus! As the colder weather creeps in so we go back to winter warmers such as great
 home-made steak & ale pies, fish pie and some lovely stews!! As well as some of the prettier more delicate dishes such as the scallop starter.

Amazingly, our Mojito cocktails are still really popular - in no way are they proving to be a seasonal drink at all.

I too have had a bit of a makeover - I responded to an advert on Face Book for hair models - didn't know if old & grey was any good?! Surprise, surprise it was - and I have to say that (with no offence to any of my hairdressers past or present - and they've ALL been lovely!) this was an amazing experience at the Sarah from the Hair Advice Centre in Kingsbridge  http://www.hairadvicecentre.net/ It was fascinating listening to
Sarah teach her apprentices Fiona & Emily  and also to hear a little about the great Vidal Sassoon with whom she has worked with. I am delighted with the cut and the colour and just loved the whole process.............

So all in all, it's proving an eventful time here at the Vic and only 10 weeks to Christmas - or so I'm told!!!

Liz x

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Life gets VERY exciting!

Oh My Goodness!!! Life is getting very exciting one way and another............. Just back from a fabulous 10 days in the sun and straight back into work.  But you know what - I'm so ready for it now!!
SOOOO here is the very exciting news I've been hinting at for a little while and it is that the Vic is going to have an absolutely fantabulous makeover in January 2014!!
Ever since we came to the Victoria Inn almost 5 years ago (My goodness - where has THAT time gone!!) we have done our best to make more use of the upstairs restaurant (yes, there IS one) and had all sorts of ideas. 
I always wanted to turn it into a set of 3 or 4 very fancy bedrooms to compliment the Hobbit House - but our brewery St Austell were never really in favour of it. I see why, because of course bedrooms do not sell beer - food does!  So, we also looked at a real Italian Pizza oven to sell our own authentic Italian Pizza's - but we just couldn't make it fit logistically. We have tried every which way to make more use of the space as a function room - but because of lack of parking etc - that never really took off either.
So in the last year or two as our business has got bigger and bigger, we have opened it up, almost as an overflow from the main pub and the garden (when the weather was poor) and it's started to become really accepted as a good extension to our offering - BUT -  always with the feeling its' a bit upstairs / downstairs.  Customers either like it or hate it - many have said it's too isolated, and with little or no atmosphere.........aargh!! To get to the garden you either have to know where the stairs are (despite signs) have staff point the way (can't tell you how many times a day in the summer we say stairs are that way Madam!) or else customers go 'Oh they're packed' and walk away!! It's all been most frustrating at times.
So, a couple of months ago SOH, myself, Head Chef James & Bar Manager Glo visited a pub in Cornwall with a spiral staircase and it was James (we will never be allowed to forget this!!) that said 'That could work well in the Vic'!
One phone-call and a couple of e mails later led to a meeting with our business development Manager Jim (from the brewery - St Austell) who thought we had the starts of a great idea.  But that actually, we were probably thinking a bit too small.................???
This led to a meeting with an architect, surveyor et al who agreed that a spiral staircase was not the answer - but that a whole approach to re-furbing the pub was!  How amazing that our brewery have the faith in us to think that big!!
So (pauses for breath!!) the long and the short of it is this;
  • We'll close on or around the 6th January (to be confirmed) for 3 weeks
  • A staircase will be put in from the entrance at the front of the pub right up and through to upstairs - with a bit of a mezzanine floor going on
  • The upstairs bar and a cupboard will be knocked out
  • Upstairs will have a reclaimed wood floor - not the existing carpet
  • A wood burning stove with comfy seating
  • Great new lighting
  • Lots of arty stuff with pictures and mirrors
  • Huge glass doors to the garden
  • Some really high end garden furniture for the first terrace and finally;
  • The whole pub will have a paint job
It's all going to be absolutely stunningly beautiful - and if you're in or around the area we have the plans and mood boards (see, I've got the architect language already!!) for you to look at and discuss with us. We met today with Matt from Trading Spaces about utilising furniture we have but making it 'shabby chic' (NOT shabby s**t!!) and I can't remember the last time I was this excited about any sort of project.......... (oh yes - getting married - but hardly a project!)
Already, we have had great feedback on this re-furb but there seems to be an over-riding fear that everyone's beloved 'Vic' will turn into some sort of corporate chained pub............. well let me tell you here and now that this won't be the case! 
We're simply going to make our Victoria Inn even more beautiful! I absolutely guarantee that you will be blown away by this re-furb - watch this space for more news as it happens over the next couple of months.
Liz x

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Autumn? Really?

Yes - I think Madam Autumn is knocking on the door............. and with such a storm over Salcombe the other night!! I can't remember the last time I heard a storm like it - we didn't realise it was hailstones till we woke up the next morning to find pockets of ICE on the garden!!! Scarey as hell it was too with one clap of thunder seemingly directly over our house!!

So on the basis that all the children have cleared off back to school, the car parks are quieter and an influx of 2's and 4's have hit the streets - it must be time for Jam making and the introduction of new menus.
Seafood Platter

 So here's a link to our website where you can see for yourself the new menu's - which incidentally the main ones will change every FORTNIGHT now and  specials will really be special and change daily.  http://www.victoriainn-salcombe.co.uk/Great_pub_food

We're also offering Sunday lunches cooked and carved straight from the oven alongside a 'special' roast - this week the special will be lovely plump Chicken legs. Last week we could not get over how many Sunday roasts we served.......... Cauliflower Cheese is new on with the roast as well as stuffing balls, and SEASONAL veg.

SOH is busy making jams and I'm busy packing as I hit the shores of Menorca at the end of this week for a well earnt break (don't worry - SOH has his when I come back!)

This morning the new chimney fan has been installed and is ready for the first fire of this season to be lit -  judging by the weather out of my office window, that moment is not too far away!

So, its adiós de mí durante un par de semanas - cuidar - see you all in a couple of weeks

Liz x
Strawberry jam in the making

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Almost over and its goodbye to.........

 Yes - the Salcombe Summer Silly Season is almost at an end and its goodbye (for now) to the Dragon and the Snow (you had to be there to see it!) to the choices of Hot Chocolates and Chips (and why not??) and summer Strawberry Pavlova's (as we shortly change to fortnightly menu's and a bit of an Autumnal twist)

As we say goodbye to hundreds upon hundreds of children who've whooped with delight at seeing the playground in the garden and the many who screamed as they were carried out who actually wanted to stay all day and all night!

To all the parents who were glad of respite and enjoyed a long cool drink whilst their children were entertained by Mark Fraser ( and occasionally SOH ) who read his stories and generally made a great space for performing art right here in our stunningly beautiful garden.
Its also goodbye to so many of our fabulous young summer staff who carried, lifted, shifted and cleaned up after a record breaking summer. To Honor, Aussie, Rachel, George, Harry, George 2, Lily, Will, Lucy, Ed, Blake, Aaron. Those who now go back to start sixth form, or university with a whole new set of skills under their belt.  To our fabulous full time staff who took the summer in their stride and are now knackered - you all did a fantastic job!
To our customers who loved us and came back in droves - thank you...... We're so glad you liked us enough to return time and time again.  Many of them have stayed down here for most of the summer (the weather has been so glorious) and firm friendships have been made yet again.
On the occasions when we were so busy that waiting times were longer than we would have liked - I'm really sorry............. we will look at the way we work and try to do better next year.  But you know, how ever hard we work to get enough staff on our rota absolutely NOTHING can factor in that on Bank Holiday Sunday we were 2 members of staff down through sickness! Despite a couple of us doing morning till night shifts we still weren't able to work as fast as normal with absolutely record breaking numbers of customers.
Here at the Victoria Inn we hope that all our customers are going home refreshed, re-newed and rested - if so, then Salcombe will have worked it's magic!
Liz x

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Trials and tribulations!

This is going to be a very honest blog today, I often use this blog to 'advertise' the Victoria Inn and there is no doubt that a blog is what many people use for just that purpose! However, when I started this blog almost 5 years ago, it was very much about MY journey as a landlady and the trials and tribulations of a career change (at an advanced age).

As an individual I've always been highly competitive and have always held high standards in my working life, and I like to think that it's mostly a good trait - certainly many customers over the years have said what 'a tight ship we run', how 'well organised the pub is', and certainly the growth of the business to much extent gives those remarks credence. 

So it was something of an upset when we received our Taste of the West award the week before last. As you can see, I've proudly put it at the top of the page (it's also now on our website) but actually at the time I was totally and utterly gutted!! I fully expected us to have been awarded a Silver at the very least................

Do you know how upset I was - I went home, wailed on good friends shoulders and then opened a bottle of wine! In the lunch hour!!!! Jeez!!
But once I'd had a day or two to digest the news and read the report for the umpteenth time and re-read the accompanying e mail for the 20th time, I realised we'd actually done quite well on our first attempt - but you know what? Quite well doesn't cut it for me.

So after a period of reflection, staff avoiding eye contact with me (!) and soul searching talks with each other and our valued members of staff we've instigated a number of plans to ensure (hopefully) a Silver next year in the TOT awards as well as more success in any other competitions we enter. But also to ensure complacency in the business is vanished, customers will hopefully appreciate our commitment to achieving the best for them as well as challenging ourselves and our staff to succeed and succeed and succeed.

We acknowledge as a business in Salcombe and in the pub business generally, we do extraordinarily well (particularly in a business where pubs are still closing every single day) we have many loyal customers (& now they are friends) who come in every time they're on holiday or visiting their holiday homes) often many times a week or so, we have a good following of locals - particularly in the more mature / couple bracket, and this summer we've once again broken all existing records for meals cooked and people served (with very few complaints!).  We are still No 1 on the dreaded Trip Advisor, and feedback from customers is usually very good, but, like any feedback, this TOT Bronze Award has given us the opportunity to look at our business and make changes where we think best.

This week has seen torturous meetings with the Chefs (trust me, NO-ONE in the entire world hates criticism more than Chefs!!) and a bit of a reality check.  But, once ego's had been lovingly restored and personal issues were extracted from the mix, then as usual my guys (& Gal) stepped up to the challenge.
  • From the 10th September we will be introducing fortnightly menus, and those menu's will be reduced by about 5 items - this will give Chefs the scope for their growth in cooking - not just cooking the same dishes week in week out, but also more importantly it will give our customers the opportunity to enjoy really great food but still at reasonable prices   
  • We will also be changing our Specials board to be more 'Special'  - that DOESN'T mean more expensive - it just means more what I've said and there will be changes made almost daily according to what Fish is available. We will only have 4 specials a day with 5 at the weekends
  • We use fantastic local West Country produce and we want to turn the spotlight back on to the X-Factor of great fresh produce with great flavours and beautiful presentation 
  • We're going to put the 'WOW' back into Sunday lunches but still keeping them at £10.50 Watch this space!!
  • SOH and I are engaging a management consultant to help us look at our business through fresh ideas and help coach us to develop even stronger as a business - we've done this once on a one off basis and it really helped, so we're excited by this!
  • We're also employing a 'Mystery Shopper' at regular intervals to ensure our quality, consistency, customer service and VFM is always at a high level (almost anyone can be a mystery shopper - so if you fancy it, contact me, the broader scope of the customer the better)
So all in all, achieving the Bronze standard for Taste of the West IS a great coup, I am grateful to Taste of the West for having been awarded it and I'm equally grateful that it's given us the opportunity to review our aims and aspirations for the business and we both feel re-vitalised and excited by changes we are putting into place on the food front for the Victoria Inn.

In terms of the business itself - planning permission has been given for HUGELY EXCITING changes to the building - and when I know more about the whys, how and when - then I'll tell YOU!!!

I hope this blog post has been a bit of an insight for you and I'll write again shortly...................

Liz x

Monday, 5 August 2013

Summers Days (and nights!)

Fresh Plaice delivered to us by Kingfisher in Brixham
Well - the silly summer season of 2013 is finally here, schools have broken up properly and of course - the rain has arrived as well!

Every year since we've been here and every year we all (Managers and ourselves) sit down and try to figure out staffing levels based on what has been in previous years and how the year has been so far - bless me if every year we almost get it right!!  

Almost of course being the operative word.......... last year we lost three staff for various reasons in the first week of the season, which left us desperate and pining for wine from an early stage, and this time a key member of staff was unwell - leading to unparallelled limits being reached by several members of the team!! (ourselves included) because actually Salcombe at the moment this week looks and feels like Salcombe used to look when we first came down here nearly five years ago!! The streets have been wall to wall people and the sun has (until late last week) been shining and generally giving a feel good factor. So any variance in staffing levels is not good news for anyone.

As usual, guests visiting a pub in a seaside town expect to see fresh fish on the menu and this year is no exception - beautiful fresh Plaice from our supplier Kingfisher in Brixham http://www.kingfisherbrixham.co.uk/ has been on the menu alongside beautiful Sole, Hake, Cornish Sardines, Mackerel Fillets etc. and of course our award winning beer battered Fish & Chips. Steaks (Fillet & Sirloin) are as popular as ever as is the Double Baked Pork Belly.

Drinkers have been going for the Tribute, Proper Job and Dartmoor  - as strong as ever from St Austell, but Rattler Cider and Devon Northcotts Cider making a good showing! Ladies are loving the Pinot Grigio and new for us this year we've been making Mojito's (jugs & glasses) of which I can safely say are the cheapest in town at only £3.80! Again - hugely popular and alongside Pimms great summer drinks.

I always find this summer rush such a double edged sword (I think we all do actually) because we are pragmatic in understanding that it's this short sharp boost that helps support us massively in the rest of the year (although the Victoria Inn does now have a good all year round trade) but its just so exhausting keeping up with the constant demands of it. Yesterday for example, we were fully staffed up and it was looking like a usual 1st Sunday of Regatta week here in Salcombe - but the rain came and within minutes we were 4 deep at the bar and ended up serving well over 200 lunches............ quite a lot more on the entire day than last year, and today has been similar - yet this afternoon...........??? Dead as a dodo!!

James, Tania & Stuart - our 3 great Chefs!
But. back to our brilliant staff and this year again we're being supported by young people, some of whom have never had a job in their life - but their work ethics are amazing and they are doing incredible jobs of clearing, tidying and running the length and width of our garden delivering food and smiling strongly!

Most of our staff are local people but a few of the University guys are of course from far and wide - but right now, we are giving employment to about 20 local people (local in terms of the South Hams area) not bad is it...???  The wages sheet for this week shows 27 people relying on us for income (as much as we rely on them) an awesome responsibility I often think.  

So - almost time for the evening rush - a pretty full booking sheet reflects tonight could be hairy.............. laters darlings!

Monday, 29 July 2013


I read a lot of blogs similar to mine and some that are totally different, but reading another pub blog who's story is so similar to an experience I had a couple of weekends ago in the Victoria Inn I just had to share with you.

This is how the exchange went with the customer almost word for word (I remember it well);

Me behind bar (Red faced hot boss- RFHB): Good afternoon & how are you?
Lady customer with somewhat steely gaze (LCWSSG) Hot!

RFHB - Well what can I suggest in the way of a drink to cool you down? A nice glass of Sauvignon a G & T or something longer......? (Smiling kindly at LCWSSG)

LCWSSG - Water - tap. With ice.  And Lemon
RFHB - Certainly Madam (thinking don't suck the lemon, you'll shatter the glass!) and how about the gentleman - what would you like Sir? A nice pint of Tribute!!

LCWSSG - He'll have a half!
RFHB - Certainly Madam (making eye contact with the Husband and smiling almost in sympathy with him)

RFHB  - Would you like to see the lunch menu Madam? We are also serving local Sirloin of Beef or local Pork.............
LCWSSG - We'll have the Chicken
RFHB - Chicken? (CHICKEN?? Did the words Chicken come from my mouth when I said what we had??) Chicken?
LCWSSG - Yes - the Roast Chicken
RFHB - Ummmm, (mumbling slightly and looking for signs of a hearing impediment) I'm sorry Madam we don't have any Roast Chicken - Its beautiful local Sirloin of Beef or local Pork

LCWSSG - (She sighs deeply! Customer not me - I'm a professional!) Hurrumph....... (yes, really - hurrumph) then we'll have Lamb. Twice.
RFHB - (Lamb!! Lamb - is the woman a bloody mystery shopper sent from hell!!) Lamb madam?? I'm awfully sorry but we don't have any Roast Lamb or Roast Chicken - we have........ (I'm not telling YOU lot a third time!!)

LCWSSG - Oh really - you had Chicken and Lamb the last time we came!! (By now more sour faced than she was 5 minutes before & husband looking to die - quickly!!)
RFHB - Heavens (speaking far  more shrilly than I should at this point, but hysteria was settling like gangrene does - swiftly!) how long ago was that then Madam? (in a teacherish sing song voice)

LCWSSG - Goodness - (turning to dying Husband - clearly giving permission to speak) how long has it been since we were last in saaaaaaalcombe??? (Not waiting for husband to answer) LCWSG said: about 6 or 7 years ago I believe!!
RFHB - Ah (says I at the light dawning on wanting Chicken or Lamb) well before our time Madam, we're just coming up to our 5th year

LCWSSG - Well we had a delightful Sunday carvery then - I jolly well hope your Sunday lunch will be as good..............Beef, Twice!!

I subtly dropped my pen to the floor before surfacing with my best customer face back in place........ I swear, I'm writing a book when I retire - because in the words of a certain Sun journalist - You couldn't make it up!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Loving my job!

When I started my new career as that of a Licensee nearly 5 years ago, I never thought for one moment that it would involve visiting farms and looking at cattle............!

I thought it would be all pulling pints and making small talk. Wrong!!!

But the more we source our food from local suppliers, and the more successful we find our pub becoming, then the more I find myself doing just that! Visiting Farmers, talking about sustainability and generally learning loads about food!!

We're still getting our local beef from our local Farmer Graham who we started working with last year, but its getting more and more difficult for him to keep up with our ever growing demands for Beef that's been hung for 21 days or more and also we get through 3 or 4 sides of beef a week, so we're looking to widen our choice of suppliers whilst keeping Graham very firmly as our main supplier. Tim & I are very keen to keep on having as much true local produce as possible, so last week we found ourselves having a trip to Greenwell Farm - up on Dartmoor.

Matt Cole, who is the Farmer we met, is part of a group called the Dartmoor Farmers
a collection of farmers who have put themselves together as a co-operative company set up in 2007 with the support of Prince Charles.

The company comprises around 50 hill farmers working together, to promote quality beef and lamb produced on the moor in a move away from commodity-driven supply, to the supply of a unique premium brand.

Hence, our visit last week to Matt and a whistle stop tour up, across and round his land to look at his cattle in an old land rover! Oh my goodness, it was more fun than being on a roller coaster, and I'm sure I sounded like a child who's never seen a cow at close quarters!!! Oooohhing and aahhing like a delighted 5 year old!!
First of all of course, we had to find this farm up on the moors and after the obligatory squabble consisting of - 'why aren't we using the bloody sat nav' and the countless wrong turnings - which resulted in me getting VERY crotchety because we were a little late (my absolute pet hate!!), we did however at last find ourselves driving up to this glorious farm set in Dartmoor and seemingly a million miles away from a very busy Salcombe.

Matt farms South Devon & Galloway cattle as well as Lambs, and showed huge pride and enjoyment in his job - just like we had seen with Graham when we did our initial visit to his farm last year. He talked of the vast amounts of paperwork he has to do and the fact that every single Cow has a 'Passport' to show who, when, what injections etc, etc for each and every animal! He talked about the rising costs of his farm and the loss of subsidies that is making life difficult for Farmers. We talked mutually about how whilst having good business's, costs were rising and life is not easy at times - whatever business you're in!

Me stroking only the 2nd Horse in my entire life!!
But back to the cattle and our visit, I am so much more pragmatic nowadays about life in the country and the natural food chain that exists, but I admit to a little pang in my heart when looking at some of Matt's beautiful calves.......and I also understood a lot better the issues of farming in todays world.

I constantly wonder at how my life has taken me from a suited and booted woman who had a career in Local Government that regularly lead her to meetings with Councillors, MP's etc and who enjoyed browsing round shops on her day off, to this country (ish) person who actually likes tramping round farms and County Shows, and has totally gone off shopping in big cities!!  Matt asked me how I'm enjoying my relatively new life and I have to say that I guess Tim & I are living many peoples dream...??!!

Anyway, all we need to do now is have another meeting to try to agree prices and we could see ourselves doing some business with Dartmoor Farmers. It's all about cost at the end of the day for both parties and I'll let you know how that goes.

The Victoria Inn was heaving with customers this last weekend - the end of Merlin Rocket week saw many of the private schools breaking up and coming down here and lots and lots of lovely customers coming back to say hi and let us know that they're around for a few weeks. It's so lovely welcoming back our friends - some of them come in looking so tired and harassed from their busy (many of them high powered executives) lives and who find it hard to leave their cares in their suitcases, but so lovely to see them unwind and relax as they get more and more into their holidays!

Of course, we've been blessed with stunning weather (in fact, dare I say a little too hot!) so the sun has bought a smile to everyone's face. A lot of fantastic fish on our menu at the moment, and coming on today - Mariners Medley an assortment of fish and scallops - last time we had that on the specials board it flew out the door!


Saturday, 13 July 2013

Publicity work

Hello from a stunningly gorgeous Salcombe day....... I'll bet you're wondering why I'm on the computer and not working if it's so gorgeous?? It's because right now all of our lovely guests are out and about on the beach! We are actually quite quiet apart from day trippers - but from 4.30 this afternoon it will all change and full booking sheets reflect that!!

So apart from the obvious things I do as a pub landlady, one of the things I'm principally responsible for is the marketing and advertising for the Victoria Inn. Every morning when I wake up I sit in bed with my cup of coffee and up-date Facebook, Twitter and check the Trip Advisor reviews for new ones.

I do that routine twice or three times a day (not TA - I'm not THAT paranoid!) just to make sure our social media profile is kept high.

I also put us in for awards or competitions and this week has seen me bashing out a submission for a regional award - but they limited answers to 100/200 or 300 words and for that's really challenging - as I'm a wordy type person.

To go with the awards they always ask for supporting evidence and pictures so my David Bailey hat has been on and there are a few of them here just to show you.

We are taking on two Chef apprentices this year and one of them - young Blake (16)  - has just won the under 55kg WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in Taekwondo!! How fantastic is that............

I went with girlfriends this week to the 02 Arena in London to see the gorgeous Michael Buble and what a fantastic evening that was. His concert was everything I hoped for and then more on top. He is every inch as good live as he is on TV or Radio. Hospitality suite was out of this world and I'm pleased to say we all went back to the hotel in a fuzzy glow - hence I'm now on the wagon for a few months!!


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

This is for you!

Short and to the point; this is to the Man (or woman) who keeps commenting on this blog as Frank Smee of Salcombe. I know you're not our lovely friend Smee, your comments are not remotely amusing or intelligent.  You are in fact upsetting him and his wife by posting comments using his name and I WILL NOT NOW, OR IN THE FUTURE publish those comments. I have just deleted the last couple, but now you really need to know it's time to stop! Please feel free to comment as yourself or even anonymously.
Genuine comments on the content of my blog are always looked at and welcomed whether good or bad, and I appreciate readers taking the time to contact me either on the blog or by e mail - so thank you to my highly valued followers for your continued support.