Friday, 19 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year darlings

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year darlings from all of us here in Salcombe and what a flipping year its been for us here at the Victoria. I don't know about you but I have no idea where this year has gone to - have you???

I'm going to ask for your tolerance while I just recall a few highlights in our year:

Firstly - there was the much talked about re-furb in January which went really quite well. The decision to put ourselves solely in the safe hands of the designers and team was well founded, although the mood board was well received by our customers I still couldn't help listening to those who said they thought we might spoil the Vic. Our managers at St Austell promised me that all would be well and that EVERYONE would want to sit upstairs............. I should have listened!! Because they were right!! The re-furb was every bit as beautiful as we hoped (and prayed it would be).

Its given us another 36 covers upstairs and the visual impact of the staircase as you enter the Vic is amazeballs!!   The re-furb hasn't been without it's issues though, both physically in terms of having to have shut for a few days recently to have various bits re-done and re-painted and my temper has been stretched once or twice to a bit of a limit because of this, but we've also had to learn as a team how to deal with having another space to manage.

I have to say that our team have risen to that challenge brilliantly! We were able to increase our permanent team and also took on a couple of extra part timers.  Even the cleaners had to adjust to a very different pub to keep clean - but all of them have been amazing.  We have carried on with our management training to ensure we were all equipped to move with the changes, so huge thanks to Guy Arnold.

Our kitchen team also took some advice from a Michelin Chef  Peter Gorton about tailoring our menu to increased numbers - all advice was gratefully received from everyone in the transition phase.

Peter Gorton with the team
Increased seating has led to increased footfall, and this summer was the absolute best we've ever had.  We had probably the best summer team ever who quickly settled in and made such a huge contribution to the success of our summer trade.

Our apprentices went from strength to strength - sadly Blake has left us, but he's gone on to a AA rosette hotel,
Aaron collected a special award from his college and Megan our first ever front of house apprentice is showing huge promise and already receiving plaudits from her college.

There was also more storytelling from our resident writer and illustrator Mark who once again pulled in excited children and their parents who sat enthralled in the summer sun as stories were spun and dreams made.

We were incredibly thrilled to receive the very prestigious Taste of the West Gold award early this year - this was incredibly important to us as it reflects the local nature of our produce as well as our commitment to perfection.

Following on from that Tim (SOH) and I were placed in the top 6 Licensees of the country  - although not winners (and yes I admit - GUTTED!!!) we felt we did really well to get to the top 6. The pic shows us gurning for a selfie - sober!!! You should have seen us at the end of the night!!

Following on from this we also won the Devon Life award for Best Family Friendly pub of the year.  Again, this award was also important to us as customers had to vote for us to get us into the finals, and it proved to us that all our little touches like the A la Bark dogs menu (for which we've raised over £2k this year already) the children's toy boxes and menus (all home cooked and fresh, just like the grown ups) had all worked to increase our popularity.

Having an upstairs space has encouraged more Christmas parties to come to us this year, and we have been fully booked for NYE 2014 for a couple of months now - we even have a cancellation list!!

Somewhere along the line I've also lost well over 5 stone (although a glorious holiday shoved on over a stone and a half !) but no more the fat faced woman as you see in the picture opposite.

So all in all it's been an amazing year, it's not been without it's challenges, there have been times where we've sat and looked at each other exhausted and marvelled at what the Vic has become, but there has been much laughter, some frustration, and a massive pride at what we have ALL achieved.

On that note, Tim, myself and every single one of the Victoria Inn team wish you our customers, all of our friends at St Austell brewery and all of our suppliers every best wish for 2015 and I hope Father Christmas brings you all you ask for.

I hope you'll continue to follow my blog in 2015,

Much love and blessings to you all

Liz  XXX

Sunday, 9 November 2014

What a week!!!

Well what a week it's been.......... another Birthday celebrated by me, a couple more pounds shed (mainly thanks to me catching one of a couple of lurgies doing the rounds here in the glorious South Hams!) but most importantly was our success in the Devon Life Food & Drink awards 2014!

We won the Best Family Friendly Dining Experience category sponsored by Frobishers ( a rather nice drink that we stock at the Vic and as I wasn't drinking that evening I managed some of their very nice Cherry juice!!). We were ( well I clearly was!!) as you see quite shocked by winning as the incredibly embarrassing picture of me with my mouth open catching flies illustrates quite neatly!! SOH has his customary laid back look but even he confessed to me after that he was as surprised as I was.

Now whatever award we enter for, or get nominated for and in this case it was customers voting for us that got us into the top three - we are always thrilled just to be nominated................. I have learnt not to expect to win anything since I was about 10 and always failed miserably at everything I attempted. I was the girl who was always the last one chosen to make the netball team or the one who didn't quite get the marks hoped for............. anyway! Moving on!

We were runners up last year in this category so I saw no reason to think we'd be any luckier this year, and regardless of what I SAY there's always a bit of me that's bitterly disappointed if we don't actually win - so I've perfected the art of that fixed smile and 'well done' to the winners whilst inside being gutted!!!! Shallow aren't I - but honest!!

I had hoped to put the logo on here but haven't been able to today, but I'll play around and see what I can do.  Needless to say, everyone of our team was delighted, especially Jacqui who was one of the team on the night we were mystery shopped and when asked what a Gurnard (fish) looked like pulled a gurning type face!!!!  That apparently was well received by the judge and showed our humour and friendly style.!!

Congratulations also the Church Inn at Churchstow (another St Austell pub) for winning Best Sunday Roast - so pleased for them and their team. It just shows that there are still some great pubs around with excellent offerings if you look a bit further than the obvious mass produced chains.

Pleased to say that we are still really quite busy - quite a few people coming down to take their boats out of the water, close up caravans and a few houses, but still lots and lots of day visitors and the hotels remain full so that's all very good for business! We were apparently very busy last night with quite a few big tables but I was nursing (and still am) a delightful dose of a tummy bug!). 

Remembrance Sunday so SOH tells me saw an unusually large crowd at Cliff House with rowers in the water who raised their oars at the given moment. SOH placed a wreath on behalf of the First Responders and he said how lovely it was to see so many young people being involved.  I watched the TV snuggled up in the warm watching a ceremony on the BBC I've seen for more years than I care to remember, yet it moves me every single year.  

There isn't much else to say right now other than just a reminder that we are shut for three days: 16th, 17th and 18th of November re-opening Wednesday 19th November with a cracking new winter menu.

We have to have a bit of maintenance work done and this was deemed to be the best dates available to us - so I'm really sorry to disappoint any of you thinking of visiting us then. I will try to blog again next week, so here's to a germ free week for us all,

Liz x

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Half term - already??

Can someone kindly tell me where this year is going, because I have no idea where the last ten months have gone!!! I've looked and just can't find them!

So - we carry on being phenomenally busy........... now don't get me wrong I am in no way complaining as in an age where pubs up and down the land are struggling to make a living we are exceptionally grateful that people love us as much as they do - but I do feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for the bubble to burst.....???  However, the re-furb, growing economy, warm weather  et al is ensuring we are still doing ok.

This Sunday just gone was the very first time in our 6 year history that we were fully booked at least 3 days before the day! We also had people sitting in the garden this half term weekend because it was so exceptionally warm.

As for New Years Eve - well I've only just advertised that event on the website and we already only have about a dozen spaces left - so if you're contemplating a visit to us NYE don't leave it much longer to book!!

I just wish I could get guests to understand that even though the Vic is loads bigger its also loads busier and if you don't book for a dinner or lunch reservation you may not get in, particularly if you're a party of 6 or more.

So, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE book or else please don't stand in front of us with pleading/accusing voices and expecting us to magic a table up! We'll always do the best we can even if it means a short (but pleasant) wait at the bar with wine in hand, but booking makes everyone's life easier.

So onto news - well it was very nice to go to a Hotel in Torquay last week to celebrate successful apprentices at South Devon College. We were delighted to see Aaron collect a fabulous cup for getting a Special Endeavour award - seen here pictured with his proud Mum & Dad. He really is a lovely young man and works so hard in our kitchen. He has some great ideas food wise and his palate is very good! He also has a blindingly daft sense of humour!!

Aaron is one of 3 apprentices we have - 2 in the kitchen, Blake is the other one (now on their 2nd year) and young Megan front of house who is our first ever Hospitality Apprentice - already she has learnt so much and all that adds to the overall experience of our pub and what we can deliver in terms of customer service. We also pay our apprentices far more than the national average - which we believe is a pittance (starts from just over £2.70 per hr!!!) and almost amounts to slave labour, so we pay a good wage and we also pay for them to attend college. We get a small grant from the Government for their first year but that barely pays for college, so we believe in the value that they give our business and pay them accordingly.  We both actually feel its quite a privilege to mould these youngsters and try to give them a good head start to their working life.  

What else?? Well SOH and I are off on a holiday of a lifetime at the end of November and so we are very busy getting ready for Christmas as there will be limited time for that when we come home in December. Sorry - did I say WE???? Well I/ me/ myself am writing, wrapping, sorting and SOH is..............???? Answers on a postcard please!!!

As I've referred already the weather is so mild down here that we have still been using the garden so that's not closed down yet as we would have done normally by now, and we shall have a Halloween interactive story telling session on Friday 31st at 6.30 with the lovely Jacob Cracker - our resident author.

Next week we shall be going to Exeter for the Devon Life awards again as we are nominated by YOU our customers for Best Family Friendly Dining Experience - fingers crossed we may win this year but regardless it's fabulous to be nominated into something as prestigious as Devon Life!

So on that note, I'm off - write again in a couple of weeks,

Liz xxx

Monday, 13 October 2014

Sorry (again)

I'm sorry, sorry, sorry  - I can't believe it's been six weeks, yes 6 weeks - since I last blogged. I have no idea where this year is going!!! 

Anyway - the summer board has been dispatched to the cupboard and the new winter board (courtesy of our resident storyteller/author/illustrator - Mark Fraser) stands enticingly at the front of the Vic. The fire is lit, the blinds half drawn, hot chocolate is selling faster again and the woolly pullovers are starting to appear. 

About this time of the year I'm starting to say that the pub is quieter, the nights are drawing in, no ones around......... etc etc. Well only one of the three applies right now...??? Which one? The nights are drawing in - that's which one, because we are certainly quieter than the summer but goodness me, much busier than any other year at this time and as for people around? Well, they're certainly in our pub that's for sure! 

The menu has veered off centre towards more autumnal foods and gorgeous rich Steak & Wild Mushroom pies have replaced salads, and Chicken & Mixed bean warming stews are appearing. Alongside those are fantastic double baked Pork Belly, still some great fish dishes and the introduction of this little beauty in the day menu >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
A hot meat platter! Consisting of Some gorgeous Pork Sausages, Hot cubes of a fore mentioned Pork Belly, and home made Chorizo scotch eggs. Add to that some piccalilli, apple sauce and crusty french bread - what more could you want on a cold Autumn day.  

We were pleased to find out that the Vic has been nominated again this year in the Devon Life Awards 2014 in the Family Friendly Dining Experience section. So we will be getting our glad-rags on and hot footing it to Exeter on the 6th November for the awards evening. 

Talking of awards it was fantastic to see Anton Petrowski at The Treby Arms get awarded a Michelin star this month - a fabulous place to try and visit if you can get a table! 

This might also be the right time to tell you that the Victoria Inn will be closed for a few days in November for a bit of remedial work carried over from the refurb we had in January - those dates are Sunday 16th/Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th November re-opening Wednesday 19th November. I'm sorry if you're in Salcombe on those dates and that this is disappointing for you, but it's the best time for us business wise.   

After that of course we have Christmas & New Year to look forward to (well we personally have a lot more to look forward to, but I'll leave that to another blog) and the menu's etc will be on the website shortly - however.................... don't leave it too long if you're thinking of booking for NYE, because we already (without advertising) have a lot of bookings already!! 

Till next time peeps, hopefully not 6 weeks either!!!

Liz xxx

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Finished! Just like that (as Tommy Cooper would say) !!!!

As quick as it started, emotional goodbyes are being said as our holiday guests (and team) pack up and go home!! I always find the summer holidays amazing as half way through it seems like it's never going to end and yet when the end comes it's always like 'wow' where have they all gone!! Some of the families have become our regulars for this six weeks and its been a delight to see them - all of them so lovely and so happy to have a little bit of Salcombe as there own for a short while. 

The only difference this year seems to be that an awful lot of adults are still here (we were still fully booked last night!) so we foresee this summer going on for a while longer - and of course this morning the sun has come back out! Sunday lunch (today) we are fully booked inside............

It has been an amazing summer for us with many, many, many thousands of meals having been served in this 6 weeks of glorious madness. Our team this summer have been absolutely exceptional! There are always a couple every year who either haven't got the stamina for it or think they've come for an easy summer ride and yes we did have a tiny bit of that this year, but the ones who stayed to support our full timers and us have been totally, utterly, incredibly amazing!!! 

In the top photo are Tom, Lily and Lauren - all three are intelligent, kind, nice, hard working individuals with amazing work ethics that will take them far in life. Lily is at university (middle blonde) already and Tom & Lauren start this year. I think if I remember rightly Tom & Lauren got 5 or 6 A*'s between them. 

In the picture below is George - just 16 and an amazing young man with huge potential. He is one of our 'runners' and again hard work comes naturally to him - in fact we often forget he is only 16. Everyone adores George and despite that angelic smile where there is banter to be had he gives back as good as he gets!!! He now goes back to being one of our weekend team. His older brother worked for us in the same way as George is - as a Saturday lad through to university. 

Then we've had Alex, Jack & Grace all from one family who have a holiday home down here. Also Will & Lucy - another brother & sister act who live here. Ben has been with us so long it feels like he's a permanent member of the team, but he's currently in Hong Kong on university work - or so he says! Then Georgia - lovely, lovely Georgia! Bags of pub experience and she's joining us FULL TIME!!!! Hoorah!!!! 

Between them they've run, smiled, carried, smiled, sweated and smiled some more! They've gone home at the end of shifts more exhausted than I expect they ever thought possible - but they did it! Friendships have been made, a little romance I believe, and lots of laughs. 

I don't think I've forgotten any of the summer team - but Tim & I and the rest of the gang could never have got through the holidays without each and everyone of them - THANK YOU my lovelies. Then of course there is the regular team led by Rob, Glo and James who are far too numerous to mention - but to all the kitchen team, all the front of house team, to our 2 fantastic cleaners - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! 

In the middle of this madness we had a fantastic down on one knee marriage proposal from Steve to Lynn last weekend - both local people and I managed to find a table for them for this great event! Several of us were in tears as it was incredibly romantic, Lynn had no idea whatsoever and they very kindly sent me beautiful flowers for arranging the surprise.  

Then there have been the ice bucket challenges (which I am NEVER EVER doing!!) from SOH and Head Chef James - both of them great sports! 

Then there were the Old Gaffers who NEVER fail to delight our guests - yet again last night there was a fantastic atmosphere and they were loved by all. 

Lastly, Christmas menus are now finalised, letters written to local firms and I shall be out and about next week enticing people to have their Christmas celebration with the award winning Victoria Inn. 

As for the wooden boards in the Sainsbury's trolley?? 
Well that my dears is all part of the secret Autumn menu I'll be unveiling this coming week....... a landladys  life never stands still!!! 

Till next time my lovelies - enjoy the return of the sun, 

Liz x

Friday, 15 August 2014

Regatta Week is here

Yes - it's Salcombe Town Regatta weeks again and that means we're half way through the 'season'. My goodness what a summer we're having as well............ we just can't believe we are as busy as we are!! We knew that with the newly improved Vic we'd see a rise in business - but flip me sideways we have been bowled over by the huge amounts of visitors we're having. Of course, STILL many guests are seeing the Vic as she now is for the first time and that reminds us all how gorgeous our pub is (we're already taking her for granted!) and just how much she means to so many visitors. 

The garden is being very well used of course by families with squillions of children in tow and I re-started feeding the chickens as a learning experience for the kids! That's always fun but I forgot just how much fun it can be - I love to see the look of wonderment in their eyes as the chickens come quite close for their food. So many children worried we eat them when they get old.....??? We don't is the answer. 

The weather has been pretty fair for the Town regatta and it was great to see a little market place in White strand for a few days instead of just cars - we even had a little train! 

I wish we were allowed to have a regular market place there - but I guess car parking gives South Hams council more revenue???  

I have to say that it was also very nice to have Fore Street pedestrianised for a couple of hours - children could run about with no fear of being sent to A & E by cars driving far too fast!! Every now and then it gets talked about, but never seems to get past the talking stage! Of course its a bit of a nuisance for deliveries (especially when our own dray was here for well over an hour Tuesday with a MAHOOSIVE load successfully blocking traffic every now and then!) and also lots of other shops that rely on regular daily deliveries, but other seaside towns manage it, so why Salcombe can't is totally beyond me!!!! 

Anyway - off my soapbox and more about the regatta - last nights fireworks were superb!! SOH and I stood and watched them like a pair of young lovers (aawww) along with hundreds and hundreds of many more people -  young and old oohing and aahhing at the colours and bangs, but it has to be said that this years display seemed particularly spectacular. 

We also had the Kingsmen singers, Panache and Morris Men last night - and then most of them invaded our pub after their performances! The Morris Men sat in the library room and entertained people for an hour - flipping fantastic it was as well.  Whilst the Kings Men sang in our pub the other evening - completely ad hoc and absolutely fantastic.

We've just emptied the charity box for the Hearing Dogs Charity - if you remember we donate the entire amount from our dog menu Al a Bark to this charity and I'm glad to report that since re-opening in February we have raised about £720............ just by selling dog chews etc!! One such grateful visitor of our dog menu was the gorgeous Yogi pictured here. A beautiful mild mannered dog who found my ear canal interesting and tasty!!!! My own 2 dogs were less impressed at his scent on me! 

Anyway, it's our one day off together this week - so I'm off to slump in front of my Kindle (my new found love!) and relax, 

Laters my lovely friends,  

Liz x

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lets re-visit this blog!?

So I was in the shower this morning thinking (where all my best thoughts are thunk) and I thought that I would re-visit this blog and just go back to details about what a Pub Landladies life actually entails. So what follows is a pretty fair description of my average day (SOH's day would take another blog all of its own!):- 

Wake up about 8a.m - cup of tea on the side bought up by SOH
Put on Iphone and check for recent Trip Advisor posts - feel a heavy heart of depression or a lightness of spirit dependant on results of TA
Write a face book post for the Vic and then also update Twitter
Check e mails for anything heart stoppingly urgent
Check voice mails to ensure no staff phoning in sick with bubonic plague! 

Get up, shower and do some housewifely chores
Sit in garden for 10 minutes enjoying my porridge and the peace and quiet of my new tranquil garden space

Today - go into work and water garden, flowers, bushes and say hello to chickens (important part of the day - the chickens!) 
Meet new potential Chef apprentice and spend a few moments making sure he's not quite as terrified as he looks
Speak to Chef and ensure all worked well on last shift I worked with him and that the kitchen is setting up ok for a potentially hugely busy day

Set off for Kingsbridge to get Chicken Pellets (feed for our pub chickens) berating children on bikes in the main street for causing me unnecessary stress by cycling too close to me as I attempt to negotiate round tourists intent on committing suicide by stepping in front of my car! 

Must stop in T***o to buy bag fulls of summer fruit to keep my sugar levels up and stop me mindlessly eating chips in the Vics kitchen (!).  But, every other person in the South Hams has the same idea so a quick trip turns into an hour long journey.

Back at the pub and speak to Rob our General Manager to ensure he has everything in hand - all ok?? Yes?? Phew.......... One member of staff down front of house, but we'll be able to cope I'm assured! 

Check in the office to see if SOH has anything HR wise I need to be doing, or PR enquiries to be answered / worked on. 

Work on bar for a while, but all well under control so home for lunch and then answer e mails and do any admin I can do from home (includes Blog writing - a surprisingly good form of advertising!!) 

Sorting out the website to make it current takes longer than I hoped thanks to a slow connection, but also put a new pub playlist together as team are sick of hearing Mr Buble and Rod Stewart!! 

After an afternoon rest (walking the dogs/ maybe a snooze / bit of gardening) its back to work for the evening shift - starting at anytime after 4.p.m. As we enter the summer season I'm working a lot on the pass (that's the bit of counter between the back of the kitchen where the works done and the front of the kitchen where the food is put to go out - the bit where you see Gordon Ramsey standing shouting orders) I'm (attempting) to orchestrate getting the food from the kitchen to the guests table in 30 minutes or less (more if we're placing an order every 1.72 seconds as we were the other night). So there have been I'm afraid a little bit of raised voice from me every now and then, and when I've said 'Now' the team know I've meant it!  

On top of that, I also get called to the bar to help out as they battle against a tide of empty glasses, customers vying to be served and tables needing to be cleared.  Our biggest issue in this warm weather is trying to keep wines cool and so every half hour or so the shout goes up for 'More Ice Please'.....................  

I also do the 'Hostess' bit checking on customer satisfaction, any complaints (we never said we're entirely perfect!) are dealt with quickly and to everyones satisfaction.  This involves running up and down many flights of stairs many, many times! Out to the garden back down to the bar and round and round it goes. We put a lot of miles in now in this pub of ours! 

Maybe about 9 in the evening we'll remember that we've barely eaten ourselves (even though we've fed the 5 thousand it sometimes seems) so we try to at least sit together for half an hour once in the day. 

About 10.30 I / we start to ferry staff around to pick up their cars from the corners of furthest Salcombe so they don't have long walks after their shifts. 

Somewhere in the day (every day) there'll be a drama - electrics tripping, washing machines leaking through the ceiling and a seagull in the upstairs part of the pub are just a few recently! There will always be a member of the team (or two) that need my time to discuss issues they have. In between things there are regular meetings with Chef to check all is ok. 

Because we have a couple of Managers and a key holder we can generally be back in our house by about 11.30 enjoying a cup of tea and mulling over the events of the day. Both of us find it quite hard to go straight to sleep so generally its gone 12.30 before we turn in. 

I do a last check of Trip Advisor, Twitter and Facebook and then finally turn off my phone.   
I've worked since I was 15 1/2 and I can truthfully say that I've NEVER worked so hard in all my life - but aside from the days when I just want to pack a case and dissapear I can truthfully say that I've never enjoyed a job as much as I enjoy this - but it's so much more than a job, it's a complete way of life. 

If you count on the fact that you will NEVER have the day you think you're going to have, if you remember that you must always expect the unexpected, be prepared to spend time away from each other (even though you're in the same building) and then when you do work together you're likely to want to commit manslaughter - you'll make a fair pub landlady!!!! 


Liz xxx

P.S I wouldn't change a thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

P.P.S _ I'm just off to raid T***o for Ice as we're already out of what we had!!!!!!!!!!!!


Monday, 21 July 2014

So it continues

The warm sunny weather that is! How glorious is it to have all this sunshine, smiling bronzed people, happy laughing children and generally the sun making everyone a bit more light hearted! Personally, having had the gardens at our home re-worked its lovely having a pleasant space to have breakfast in the sun! A great start to what are long busy days. 

Our baskets are looking totally gorgeous this year again, they come from a local firm Potters Nurseries. They always do a great job and every year we reckon they're the best ever - but this year they definitely are! 

The pub is really busy as usual. It feels like we are finally getting to grips with having a three tier pub, and having our summer staff in full swing is really helping.  On that note we have a fantastic team this year who are so willing and best of all really able to cope with the demands of summer! Brilliant, just brilliant! 

Having a separate garden menu seems to be working for the customers and also our kitchen - the garden menu has a limited menu choice but the old favourites of Burger and Fish & Chips are on it as well as great salads which are just flying off the menu! Lobster Bisque is really popular as is the Seafood Plate (or Platter). 

We've also just purchased a new Wine fridge as the other one couldn't keep up with our demands for cold wine - naughty fridge!! This new one can hold about 80 bottles at any one time so we can be sure that we're offering our guests consistently chilled wines. 

We are also having a glass fridge installed - that means that gents can have Lager and Cider in perfectly chilled glasses. Not sure yet if we can put wine glasses in there - but once again, the Victoria Inn offers its customers something extra and special! 

Having a bigger pub has meant that we have discovered a host of challenges! For example: increased demand  for food has meant that appliances in the kitchen are being used more, for example the dishwasher is wprking harder as is the Rationale oven (the best thing we EVER purchased!) As a consequence we had to have the circuit board looked at and elctrical improvements made to it......................??? Its all a mystery to me, but it does mean that the kitchen electrics aren't tripping 10 times a day! 

We've lived with our new look pub for 6 months now and forget that many customers are starting to see it for the first time as they come down for their regular 2 weeks hols, and it's quite delightful to see their expressions as they view our glorious pub for the first time. 

One thing that continues to be a runaway success is our Al a Bark menu and I know we have a guest visiting very soon who has something very special for our pub - I can't wait to see what she's bringing with her and YOU will love them!!! Curious?? I hope so! 

Ok - well the pub is calling me. It's a Monday morning and probably just about anything could happen today - I've learnt to expect the unexpected in this business. Saturday my SOH walked in to find the washing machine door seal had ripped (thanks to a member of staff who left a knife in the washing!) and water had gushed through to the gents down below! In this game there's no such day as a quiet day at the office!!! 

Love to you all, 

Liz x x x 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How long???!!??

Oh my goodness............ I can't believe its been almost 2 months since I last did a pub blog, and may I say a huge thank you to one of our customers yesterday who prompted me to write tonight.  Can I say secondly, I'm so sorry that I've been tardy in blog writing this year but time is at a bit of a premium these days! 

As I write this I'm hearing 'Crazy' by Patsy Cline on the radio and it must be said that's pretty much how life has felt since the Victoria Inn had it's re-furbishment at the beginning of the year and re-opened.

To say the refurb has been well received is pretty much an understatement....... I remember having a conversation with Jim at the St Austell brewery and saying to him how worried I was that customers wouldn't like the new look pub, and that I was worried whether the new upstairs would be used much by guests.  I remember him saying that guests would be practically fighting over the window seats within a few weeks............Blimey oh riley he was right!!!!  We have become a pub that if you don't book in advance it can be touch and go as to whether you'll get a seat and certainly a table or time of your choice. We try our hardest, but please ring or email us to make a reservation and to be certain of a booking to your choice won't you. 
Oars in the Umbrella stand!! 

This brilliant and beautiful new pub has not happened without creating some challenges for us - but we think (I do hope you agree!) that we have tackled the challenge of increased numbers of customers eating and drinking with us succesfully now after a few teething issues. 

We've increased our staffing by loads to ensure we don't disappoint in terms of customer service as well. Our kitchen now has 2 extra people and front of house has 3. Our summer staff have started to appear and it looks like we have an absolutely fantastic summer crew again this year - in fact about 12 extra summer staff in total!! So I think we will have about 37 staff on at various times! 

We've been working very hard to get our menu's right again this year for the 'season' and have decided to offer a separate Garden menu and serving dinner from the new time of 4.30 to accommodate people coming off the beaches. Chowder comes back and lots of fish of course - but this year I'm determined not to unveil what we're doing until right the last minute so that we're not copied! The new menu comes in next week and will run till the 2nd week of September. 

We introduced a Gin menu a couple of weeks ago and that has been soooooooooo popular -  even WE have been surprised at the reponse! A choice of a premium Gin (double) with a Fever Tree tonic (fabulous) in a beautiful big goblet type glass and garnished with all sorts of things ranging from ground black pepper to slices of ginger, grapefruit or strawberries - whichever is pertinent to the Gin. Absolutely loved by our customers! 

Our summer baskets are in situ at the front of the house - although we almost lost them as we didn't realise that the early heat had dried them out quite as much as they had! But, apart from 2 end baskets they seem to have recovered from their drought of water.......

We are already looking forward by advertising for another Kitchen apprentice, as our 2 boys Aaron and Blake are undertaking year 2 at college to ensure even better skills under their belt.  We will also have a front of house / hospitality apprentice starting with us in September. 

I hope the above shows you why when I have much free time, you'll generally find me slumped clutching a mug of tea staring at the TV - but not really watching it! My brain never really shuts off and on a short break the other week it was day 3 before I realised my jaw had unclenched! But for SOh and I, the Victoria Inn is now a real dream come true and we love every minute of being with her - we hope you do too?!?

I promise not to leave it 2 months till the next blog!

Liz - Licensee X

Monday, 5 May 2014


One of our small guests adding HER touch to our new garden sign
Hello dear reader - sure it must be down to single figures now as for one reason and another I haven't had the chance to blog for weeks!!!  Primarily it has to be said because we have been non stop busy - oh my! The re-furb has been SOOOOOOOOOO good for business. Also, because after thinking I was clear of poorly chest infections after 13 months being fit and well - I was hit by a horrible chest infection and was in and out of hospital over the Easter period, and only the last week or so have I returned to work.  

Anyway - back to the business of the Victoria Inn. As I say the re-furb has been very good for business - guests love the new look and what a difference it's made to their eating habits. What do I mean?? Well, guests are having many more 2 or 3 courses and staying & savoring the ambiance.  I had a conversation with a lady at the weekend who was actually downstairs in the library room - and she said that whilst they've always loved coming in to the Vic, she thought it was all so much more open and airy now - in fact her words were 'not so claustrophobic'!  That seems to be a common theme, but we do have to smile at guests who come in and look at the new stairs as though trying to figure out what the difference is............ but in many ways, I think that's great as it means the re-furb has been done sympathetically and absolutely in keeping with the character of the pub as was! 

The new garden sign has been painted by our friend Mark Fraser (the author and story teller in our garden in the summer) and the little girl is painting HER leaf on the bush, as did several children! Its absolutely lovely and we are lucky to have such a talented friend. 

We're also trying to actively encourage guests to book if they want to dine with us as even though we have a much bigger pub, we still turned many customers away this Bank Holiday weekend as we just couldn't fit everyone in. We've also now added 4 additional Full Time Permanent people to our team - 1 to the kitchen and 3 to front of house hospitality team - such are the demands of all our additional guests and the increased numbers. I also don't want to kill of US or any of our team through working us/them to death!! 

At the beginning of April we went to London for the judging process for the BII National Licensee of the Year 2014, along with 5 other contenders. This involved going in front of 3 panels of 4 industry experts, having photo's taken and a video (yuck - hate those!!) - next thing is lunch next Tuesday at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London to find out if we have won the title.  One of our Chefs and one of our Managers is joining us for this and I expect we'll see lots of people we know when there. I'd like to say I won't be nervous - but I will.  I'd like to say I don't mind if we don't win - but I will. However, having said that, I do realise how well we've done to get through to this stage out of all the hundreds that applied in the first place.

Whilst we were in London I saw this brilliant sign which was VERY pertinent to some of the prices in the pubs and restaurants in London - maybe I should nick the concept???  Not that we are that expensive when a pint of St Austell Dartmoor from sells at £2.80....

Last month we also said farewell to Jim Sloan as our Business Development Manager (change in areas) and hello to Dwayne Peace who's taken over from him. Dwayne is not new to us as St Austell brewery is very much a big family and you get to know most people in one way or another (generally pickled at the yearly Tribute awards!) He's a lovely chap and we look forward to working with him. 

So then, wish us luck for the 13th May and you can be guaranteed to read all about it here at some stage or another!! 

Carpe Diem

Liz x

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Lazy Saturday

Don't make me laugh................ I've almost forgotten what it's like to have lazy days, but trust me we are certainly not complaining!!

Today is at last the day of Tims BIG celebratory birthday (it involves the no 6!!!) so the food orders stop at 2.30 and we close the doors at 4.  Friends and family are arriving from all over: Scotland, Wales, Hampshire, Cornwall etc, etc. 

Tim is immensely popular - not hard to understand really as he is one of life's gentlemen and the nicest, kindest and most lovely man I've ever known in all my life! I just hope that all my hard work at organising this and all the other Birthday surprises pay off! So off to London next week for 3 days and then back to London for the 9th and the judging for Licensee of the Year 2014- my nerves are going to be frazzled by then.

As a business we have had yet another amazing week having been awarded the Taste of the West Gold award.  This is hugely prestigious and awarded because of the local provenance, quality of food (cooking & presentation) customer service and ambience - amongst a load of other things! Last year we were awarded Bronze and I was really miffed (if you look back at old posts you'll see I phoned a friend and opened the wine - in the lunch hour at home!!)
BUT - as always, once I'd calmed down I took the critique on board and we worked hard to achieve what we received this week!

Right, I'm off and unlikely to blog again this week - so be kind to each other and see you soon,

Liz x

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spring is sprung

Great Pic from Scot Baston
And it looks like I've sorted out not being able to put pictures on the blog - it was something to do with Google...............??? I've installed Chrome-something-or other and it seems I've turned into a computer genius!!! Oh I am pleased - blogs are so flipping boring without pictures!! 

So the picture opposite is from a couple of years ago and is from Scot Baston a local photographer who's not only a lovely man but is also very talented and this is from some great shots he did of the pub and garden. 

Talking of which - the garden at the pub looks NOTHING like this yet!!! The benches have been painted, as have the seats we bought from the old Tides Reach Hotel, as has the play area fencing - only the 'Boat-Henge' to do.  SOH has seeded the grass area again, but it gets so much foot fall I'm not sure that short of shutting the pub garden for 12 months that we're ever going to have much success in getting the grass to take any better than it does....????  Planting will start round about May time to ensure we have a nice riot of colour ready for our summer visitors. 

We had a really lovely surprise this week when we received a letter from the British Institute of Innkeepers telling us we are national finalists in the Licencee of the Year 2014 - we are one of only 6 in the whole of the UK!!! It's a massive honor for us, and also for our absolutely amazing team.  We go to London on the 9th April to be judged by three panels of industry experts and from that along with what the two judges have written about us (from their visit to us a couple of weeks ago) they will make a decision as the overall winner which will be announced on the 13th May at the huge annual lunch held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.  All I have to do is hold my nerves in check and remember not to talk to much (steady!!!). 

In the meantime, trade has rocketed following the re-furb and I desperately need another Chef de Partie, full time AND permanent to join our great kitchen team. You will also be seeing several new faces front of house as we grow our team their to help look after all our lovely guests and we have been so fortunate to have great people want to join us. Photo's definitely will follow!

Its a big birthday for SOH week after next and a huge party is planned for the weekend, followed by three days of surprises I've been planning for him for months - of which I'll tell you all about as and when they've happened! 

I'm off now - thoroughly delighted I've sorted out the photo issue on this blog (would have been a nightmare starting a new one on a different platform) and I look forward to being able to blog again more regularly..................... 

Much love 

Liz xxx

Saturday, 15 March 2014

I'm sorry...............

I'm sorry its been a while since I wrote a blog, but I'm having the biggest headache ever trying to get pictures onto this blog - not just professional big pictures, but any pictures at all and I have no idea why!!!! So frustrating, because I have loads I'd love to share with you.

So where on earth has the last 6/7 weeks gone since we opened?? Well, an absolute flurry of activity is the answer! Firstly the 'soft' opening at the end of January was swiftly followed by the 'official' opening in the 2nd week of February with about 100 to 150 people coming through the doors to have a look at this amazing pub, and quite frankly we have barely paused for breath since then.

Our customers seem to absolutely love the transformation and we have had few weekends when we haven't been absolutely packed out and weekdays we have seen a phenomenal rise in numbers of customers - so, if you're thinking if visiting and would like to eat with us, then you really, really must book in advance 01548842604. Mothers Day and Easter weekend we already have a number of bookings!

We have been swiftly recruiting front of house staff and my goodness we've managed to get some great people who have all the key skills we look for, and now we've just decided to recruit another Chef de Partie to come and work in our kitchen. We're also keen to take on another Chef Apprentice this September. Our existing 2 young men have been brilliant, and have good careers ahead of them.

I may not be able to put pictures on here at the moment, but we had some amazing pictures taken for Google - to provide a 'Virtual' tour of the Vic - so hopefully, if you click on the following link, you should be able to see us in all our glory! (Hopefully),-3.767422,3a,90y,173h,90t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1s6YNTkYgifdQAAAQJPpizOw!2e0!3e2!6m1!1e1  I'd love to know what you think of the refurbishment..................???

We have met this week been judged for the national award of Licensee of the Year 2014 awarded by the BII. We have been shortlisted to the semi-finals but I would love for us to achieve finalist standards this time. The process is hugely rigorous and involved a 2 hour meeting in which they inspected the whole pub, then sat down with us and had a Q & A session where they looked at all our aspects of our business. We hope to hear as to how successful we've been in the next couple of weeks.

We have also been judged for this years Taste of the West award. I'm really hopeful we may get better than a Bronze award this year, but I always hope we'll achieve bigger and better every time we enter for anything! 

SOH is out in the garden as I type getting the garden up to scratch in readiness for the looming Easter holidays. Benches are being painted, the garden has been re-seeded and paint brushes are being used! The pub is also quite busy again - so on that happy note, I'll blog again when I can and by then I may have had the whole photo issue sorted out!

Liz x

Sunday, 9 February 2014

We're back!!

And so we are!! After 3 weeks of mayhem and madness, dust and noise, nervousness and downright excitement (mixed with a little/lot of trepidation) the doors of the Victoria Inn are open once again and my goodness, gracious me - we are looking BEAUTIFUL!!!
The whole building has been turned into a totally stunning looking pub - the meetings and planning have all been worthwhile! The architects vision coupled with our requirements for it to remain a traditional pub, not become a theme pub or a W********ons have worked out amazingly. The colours of muted greys, blues and burgundy coupled with wallpapers that are bookcases, travel trunks, maps of the world or Dutch blue plates all lead to a feeling of tradition yet the Vic seems  lighter and sophisticated.  The new Oak flooring upstairs gives a real warmth and depth, whilst the new curtains downstairs give a cool elegance.  The two mirrored walls give an illusion of space and light & just add a certain quirkiness.
The downstairs restaurant area is now rather grandly called the library room, and the upstairs dining area which was only ever used as an overspill is now a stunning space where you can drink a pint and watch the world go by looking out of the windows, sit on the sofas or comfy chairs and play with a myriad of games or just read the papers with a pint, a coffee or a bottle of wine.
Alternatively, you could choose to sit and have a fantastic meal - the ambience upstairs is now phenomenal as you get all the noise and bustle from downstairs and you get the calming views of the estuary or you can sit and look into the garden.  Or if you get the right seat on the sofas you can look down on the bar area............. the choice is endless!!   I will have some professional photos in a couple of weeks - but in the meantime. I hope these give you a flavour of our beautiful Victoria. Next blog will be all about the first couple of weeks and the official opening.
Much Love
Liz x

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Home run

So we're on the home stretch (fair wind/fingers crossed etc etc!!) for our lovely pub coming together and what you can see in this picture is the upstairs part of the pub being viewed from new HUGE French doors that will lead you straight out into the garden. Some of the lighting has been put on - all has come from reclaimed ships fixtures and fittings, and when you see the light fitting over the new stairs I promise you will be blown away by it!!

The whole pub is still pretty much a huge building site and as one one workman was heard to say 'There's not a blooming straight wall in the place'!!  But they are working incredibly hard and in shocking weather conditions that has definitely not helped them at all.  But where there has been a break in the weather then the painters have been out there and made full use of the dry weather.

My little peep holes that I created in the windowlened windows have proved very popular, and I think the workmen were a little surprised at all the interest being shown in their work.

Our own team have been in this week painting the Hobbit House as well as painting and cleaning garden furniture. The store room has been emptied and tidied and surprisingly quite a bit(at last) thrown out!!

I am now far from bored (see the last Blog) as things are really cranking up a gear and I suddenly have quite a lot to do, so I am unlikely to write another blog before we open - which we hope to do either the afternoon of the 29th or Thursday 30th January.

So, I hope you'll think of us and wish us all luck as we endeavour to get to our opening date. A bit of good weather wouldn't go amiss either!!!

Much love

Liz x

Sunday, 12 January 2014

I can't believe I'm saying this, but........

The pub with no name - or beer!!!!!
I am bored!!!! Bored!!!! Bored!!!! A whole week we've been shut, and whilst the first few days were nice lie ins and lazing around - NOW - I'm thoroughly and utterly bored!!!

Yes, a whole week we've been shut! On our last Saturday we had very little food but with creativity from my kitchen team we managed to serve 108 meals.......... SOH had worked the beers exceedingly well and we wasted only a little bit of one beer! So that went very well..........

The team turned up on the following day to strip out the pub and the designer and team with 2 small lorries took away every stick of furniture, bric a brack and countless photos, pictures and mirrors. Then, there we were with an empty pub........... very bizarre it was too! In 6 short hours the Vic went from a busy happy pub with bags of character to a cold and pretty unfriendly shell. We meanwhile, went to another pub in town and looked a bit sorrowful!

The builders turned up the following day on time and by day 4 the Vic was completely and utterly under their spell. Wires (dozen of the buggers) appeared from seemingly nowhere causing a not too small headache for Gary the foreman, walls were knocked down and first coats of paint were applied!
Walls were exposed at the back top of the old restaurant showing brickwork that had not seen light for many hundreds of years - some of which SOH has kept for a rockery in the pub garden.

The cellar has had some additional drainage put in so that SOH can clean it easier (bit of a pain its been - but as it's not my part of ship I can't confess to being awfully interested!) but he was like a child who'd experienced Christmas for the first time.

I popped my head in last week and have to say that I was totally and completely overwhelmed - not just by the fact its a massive building site, but that I can already see the amazing potential of how its going to look when it's finished. But apart from a site visit this week I'm going to stay away and you're not getting any more photos because actually I want to feel the joy of seeing it made over and I want you to experience it too. Also, because doing this blog from my home means I am using my new lap top and have not yet mastered art of putting more than one photo on!!!! So, if you really want to look at what's happening have a look at the Victoria Inn facebook. Sorry darlings!

So what else have I done this week?? Well, I've cleaned and tidied our kitchen cupboards at home, we've been out and bought paint etc for the Hobbit House which also has a makeover whilst we're shut - but we are doing that ourselves. We've also visited another St Austell pub; The Cornish Arms, where we had an amazing meal!

We also took the team out for the day on Wednesday.  We went to Plymouth Gin first which was brilliant - drinking Gin at about 11 in the morning was a bit harsh though....... then to Rockfish for brilliant Fish & Chips. An afternoons bowling with me screaming at the top of my lungs egging on the teams (as well as playing) and finally a so so meal at a chain restaurant in the Bowling complex.

We go on a bit of a buying trip for the pub this coming week as well as taking the chance to pop into Portsmouth and see my family. Menu stuff to do, paper to be sorted for printing menus on, staff uniforms to finalise etc, etc and etc...................

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Last day today!

Yep - that's it at last..... after months of talking about it, the day has finally come that we're closed from close of business tonight until (hopefully) the 29th/30th January in order for our re-furbishment to take place.

We've got a few Steaks, Burgers and Fish dishes left for tonight, but sod all else! A little bit of Dartmoor Ale left likewise, but otherwise SOH has been his usual fantastic self and got the ordering spot on!

All of the team is in tomorrow morning at 9 to start stripping out, boxing, sorting and packing with the removal lorries coming at 11 to take down the pictures, dismantle furniture and take everything away. The contractors come in at 7.30 Monday morning and with good luck and a fair wind the work will start.

Its been a slightly fraught couple of days as we came the closest ever to being flooded with the water ending just 7 feet approximately from our front door.............. the rest of the town was not so lucky with pictures of a local RNLI guy sailing his boat down the high street making Sky News!! However, as I say we were ok and received lots of messages asking and hoping that we were all ok!

Wish us well for tomorrow and we'll see you all soon,

Liz x