The Mariners at Rock, Near Wadebridge
Cosy up in the pub post-beach walk for a winter Sunday lunch, or for a summer sundowner on the terrace. The Mariners is a favourite with locals and visitors alike for the food as well as the view.
Can we really be into the last two months of the year? We might be craving those endless summer days but we also love spending a winter’s afternoon eating our body weight in lovely food. Walk on the beach before or after purely optional – at this pub, you can have the best of both by bagsying an upstairs table with a view.
The Mariners boasts one of the best water views in North Cornwall on the waterfront of the Camel Estuary. An institution in Rock since the mid-1990s, not perhaps always for the same reasons, for the last few years The Mariners has been firmly on the map of North Cornwall culinary destinations for both locals and visitors thanks to the pub’s previous partnership with Michelin starred chef, Nathan Outlaw.
Continuing where Outlaw left off, The Mariners was taken over and revamped by husband-and-wife team Paul and Emma Ainsworth in Spring 2019. It is their fifth site in North Cornwall (the others are all across the water in nearby Padstow). The Ainsworths relaunched the next chapter of the 130 cover pub with a new look, feel and menu.
Sharps, the local brewery, with whom the partnership continues, lead on the beer. Think Doombar and Atlantic – both can be seen from the windows of the pub (the Doombar is the sand bar that lies in the estuary between Rock and Padstow). The majority of the food is local and the well thought out pub-style menu benefits from the Ainsworths’ years of experience in local foodie partnerships.
The Mariners is found on the one road in Rock, the inventively named Rock Road. Like most of the rest of Rock, it is neither pretentious nor what you’d expect if it is your first visit. The road goes nowhere, ending up eventually in a carpark, and the pub is a modern yellow building you might not give a second glance to if you didn’t know what you were expecting. Turn to look at the estuary though, and you can see why people return here again and again.
Inside, the oak panelling and maritime theme give a more sophisticated air than the outside might suggest, with a bevy of staff all in chinos and braces. For those old enough to remember the white interior and pool tables this is quite the change.
The menu is the same upstairs in the restaurant as it is downstairs in the bar. The view from the upper balcony is the best, with the restaurant window seats a close second. You can take your chance turning up for a table in the bar downstairs, but you’re most likely on a hiding to nothing in the holiday season. In keeping with its pub roots, the outside seating area is busy, loud and allows dogs. The place to be seen in Rock perhaps, or just the nearest beer to the water.
This being Rock, the clientele is mainly people on holiday, although don’t be fooled into thinking that this means that they aren’t regulars, alongside a smattering of local foodies. Families return year after year to Rock and its surrounds and there is a significant proportion of second homes here. During the day the unofficial dress code is, as with the rest of Rock, sailing chic.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Local pub food with a Michelin starred chef twist is the name of the game. Both times I visited, once in June and again in August, I ate sausage and mash, although that was down to a desire for coziness in escaping the Cornish rain rather than lack of choice. The sausages were from renowned local butcher Philip Warren and the mash was typically Ainsworthed and extremely smooth. It was exactly as pub food should be – hot, arrived quickly and delicious. My only gripe was that it was served in a bowl, which made using a knife and fork harder than it needed to be, and the lack of peas, but it didn’t stop me ordering it again on my second visit.
My fellow diners had the Cornish battered haddock and triple cooked chips and as you’d expect when world-class oysters are farmed on the beach outside the window, Porthilly Oysters featured. Puddings are listed as “& Custard” as a nod to Paul’s nostalgic childhood menus. I shared a brown butter golden syrup pudding with my daughter which came with vanilla custard so good she asked for another jug.
The wine is functional with plenty of choice under £35. Local fizz, the Camel Valley brut, was also on the menu alongside the usual gins.
OUT AND ABOUT
The Camel Estuary is famed for its blue seas and white sands, and the beach is right outside the door. It is rather heavenly just walking along the white sand, or among the dunes, and gazing out across the water over to the Padstow side.
If shopping is your thing, you can follow the road along the water’s edge where you’ll reach a handful of boutiques including White Stuff and The Beach House (and the RNLI one too, depending on your tastes).
This is mainly waterside holidaymaker territory though, with the beach and all its water-based activities the main draw, (the sailing club and ski school are both adjacent). If you’re seriously in need of some retail therapy, try taking the ferry (or water taxi) over to Padstow where you’ll have more choice.
St Enodoc’s Hotel is nearby, as is a multitude of self-catering accommodation if you want to make a night of it.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good For: Almost every casual occasion including a pint in the sunshine after a day on the water, or the beach. De rigueur for family meals on holiday and great for lazy Sunday lunches.
Not For: The food quality is high but it is pub food so not for those who prefer formal dining. Large groups may not make it the best place for a romantic dinner date in August, although quite frankly if you get a night off from the kids, you’ll probably be very happy regardless. The view is what makes the place, so the ‘garden’ is just the tables out the front. You may need your raincoat – the pub has no parking so you’ll need to walk from the aforementioned carpark.
The Damage: Decent mid-priced pub food: my sausages and mash were £15 and the fish & chips £17. Sunday lunch is £16-17 for a roast and all the trimmings.