Mandy meets Nik and wife Laura the team behind the fabulous food and warm welcome at the Victoria Inn.
Awesome and booming are words that ebullient, inn-keeper Nik Boyle uses a lot: “Cornwall is booming, the Vic is really finding its feet and life is awesome”, the past year has been awesome and his lovely wife Laura is… awesome. “Just the perfect foil for me, she runs the business, keeps the team motivated and is the warm smile that greets you when you come in.” Nik tells me with a huge smile. The couple married a year ago shortly after taking over the pub.
Laura laughs and says, “I have always loved this part of Cornwall and always dreamt of living here and I don’t ever see myself living anywhere else but over the last eighteen months, it’s felt rather like I was on witness protection… we sold our home and business in Hampshire, moved to this lovely, tiny village in Cornwall, got married and changed my name!” But Laura tells me it has all been wonderful and wouldn’t change it for the world. As from September the ex-ballet dancer excitedly tells me she is dancing again and teaching classes on Saturdays in Penzance.
A year on and this hugely welcoming couple are running a very successful pub and B&B with a reputation for some truly fine food. One of only eight pubs in Cornwall listed in the Michelin Pub Guide, featured in Harden’s and the Trencherman’s Guide, where Nik cooked alongside Jude Kereama from Kota (“my old boss”) at the launch in Bristol. And… Tony Turnbull from the Saturday Times magazine says of their food: “this might be the best pub cooking I’ve had in my life.” The 12th century pub is hugely atmospheric with lots of natural wood and stone, a gorgeous refurbished dining area and pretty walled garden for some sheltered sunshine. Nik continues, “We have a great team here, Laura takes care of front of house, and in the kitchen I have Gary and Lizzie as my second chefs, Gary was here before and Lizzie worked with me in Hampshire; and local boy Jake who has just finished his apprenticeship. Our philosophy on food is still the same: great quality Cornish ingredients cooked carefully with love.” Laura adds: “And the whole team sign up to a very simple motto: we are here for the customers, without them there is no us! We work hard on that with new staff.”
As well as gaining a huge reputation for delicious lunches and suppers, their Sunday lunches have become the stuff of legend; locally cooked meat and produce, cooked with love; they’ve had to extend Sunday lunch hours to midday to 4pm, something I shall definitely be trying. And for their B&B guests, Nik says, “We like to really show off and make guests feel really special. Give them a five-star experience – our breakfast has the works including freshly made pastries and bread; full Cornish breakfast and avocados with eggs, everything you could want… but wouldn’t expect in a little country pub.”
I ask Nik what he cooked first for Laura, he laughs and says, “ it was butterflied lamb at her parent’s house. But the main thing I remember is that it was the first time meeting her parents and I broke her father’s barbeque! Imagine… you invite the chef round and he breaks the barbeque! It got mentioned in my father-in-law’s wedding speech several times!” When I ask what he’s learnt over the past year Nik thinks and grins at Laura. “I’ve learnt to share my toys! It’s always been about me, and my goals. But Laura and I are 50:50 in this, so I’ve had to learn to share, and…” he adds, grinning at Laura, “it has been quite tough at times! But she manages me incredibly well. Oh, and being an innkeeper is truly awesome. I love it!”
As I’m leaving I meet two guests on their way home after a night’s stay. Tina and Geoff Arnold from Kent are thanking Nik for a truly wonderful time. They tell me: “The food is beautiful, friends of ours who are staying locally are coming back tonight for their third meal here in a row. It’s just so nice to find somewhere to eat really well and stay in such wonderful surroundings.”
Good luck for the next year! We’ll definitely be back to this fabulous little pub!