With views across the bay over to Padstow, The Mariners has been one of the most beguilingly located restaurants in Cornwall since Nathan Outlaw launched the site in partnership with local brewer Sharp’s in 2014.
Now it’s been taken over by another Cornish star, Paul Ainsworth of Number Six fame, who with his wife Emma has transformed this little piece of the north Cornish coast into a cosy pub serving up nostalgic plates to hungry holiday makers and locals alike.
Upstairs there are views across the water, while at ground level a welcoming bar and more casual seating offers walk-ins a slice of the action. On sunny days it would be remiss not to enjoy a few small plates and a pint on the terrace out front.
Aside from the views, the team here are the first identifier that you’re perhaps not down your local. Fast-paced, professional and to the point, staff understand how to cater to an upmarket crowd and know their way around the globetrotting drinks list and British-led menu in minute detail, quick to offer recommendations. There’s an attention to detail that hints at experience (and perhaps a knowledge that the owner might pop in at any minute; Ainsworth was at the pass on our visit).
The menu reads like an essential guide to classic pub grub: pies, sausage and mash, oysters and fish and chips. While the dishes haven’t lost their comfort-food factor, as might be expected from Ainsworth, they have been given a refined edge.
Crispy squid is presented in a silver half-pint chalice, and a garam masala batter and chipotle mayonnaise brighten up succulent fried chicken thighs. Elsewhere things are taken up another level by way of a raywing cooked on the grill and served underneath generous amounts of butter, shrimp and capers.
For afters there is a concise dessert offering showcasing a syrupy steamed delight and apple crumble before ending on one special sweet: the glorious trifle. Without shifting from expectations too entirely it’s like a really good version of your nan’s Sunday special. There’s jelly, there’s custard, there’s cream; but you might be surprised to find that instead of the promised hundreds and thousands your pud has been sprinkled with popping candy. That’s one way to end the meal with a bang.