Accomplished Padstow-based husband and wife duo Paul and Emma Ainsworth have thrown their net wider with the opening of the Mariners in Rock. Amanda Afiya reports
Surveying his new venture, the Mariners in Rock, Paul Ainsworth couldn’t look more like a proud parent if he tried. “I’ve never gone into anything and felt so comfortable with our identity straight away,” he enthuses. And what an identity it has.
Paul and his wife Emma have transformed the former Nathan Outlaw-run property in Cornwall in just seven weeks. Spending somewhere in the region of £400,000, lead designer Emma, interior designer Eve Cullen-Cornes and the team from build specialists Concorde BGW, led by Richard Wilson, have jettisoned the white, minimal look of the established watering hole and given the Mariners a cosy, lived-in pub feel.
“Looking out across the Camel Estuary with its breathtaking views, so many people say, ‘Wow, you could be anywhere in the world’,” explains Emma, “so it gave me the confidence to bring anywhere in the world into the design.”
A lover of London pubs, she introduced oak panelling throughout to inject a feeling of warmth and character into the property, which the Ainsworths have leased from Sharp’s for 25 years. She clearly adores Mediterranean vibes as well: “I love the colours associated with the Med, and so my starting point was Tuscan tiles. I introduced red, orange, yellow and green and kept some blue as a nod to the nautical theme.”
Outside, the previously traditional white exterior has been enriched with a bold shade of yellow. “When you’re walking along the Camel Trail, you want to look over to Rock and see the Mariners,” says Paul. “It feels like the sun is shining out of this building – it’s welcoming you in,” interjects Emma.
The two-storey property boasts 154 covers, including a terrace on each floor. In the kitchen, a duo of head chefs, Joe Rozier and Tom Dawes, who hail from the Ainsworths’ Padstow restaurants No 6 and Rojano’s in the Square, respectively, oversee the brigade.
Rozier was formerly senior sous chef at the flagship restaurant, while Dawes held the position of sous chef at Rojano’s family-style, Mediterranean restaurant.
“Together, they bring a phenomenal skillset, a wealth of experience and an awesome energy to the kitchen,” says Paul.
Describing the food offer, Paul hopes to have brought the pub back to “those Berni Inn/Beefeater” days with his take on British classics. The à la carte menu is available on both floors and includes small plates, with dishes such as Cornish rarebit on toast (£4), and ‘whitebait Tom Kerridge’ with Marie Rose sauce (£5).
Large plates include pies inspired by pie aficionado Calum Franklin of the Holborn Dining Room), and ‘from the Ox’ is dishes cooked over a charcoal barbecue, such as Cornish-cure bacon chop, fried St Ewe egg, soy-glazed pineapple and triple-cooked chips. The dessert menu – ‘& custard’ – offers golden syrup steamed brown butter pudding with slow-cooked lemon (£6.50) and ‘3 Apples’ pie (£8).
On Sundays the pub serves a roast. “Yes we serve the beef pink, but I want it to be a classic roast dinner,” says Paul. “We’re blanching the broccoli beautifully, seasoning it and serving it with a touch of olive oil and lemon; the carrots have been roasted rather than boiled and are full of flavour; we serve the cheesiest cauliflower cheese you can get, a lovely Yorkshire pudding and proper roast potatoes.”
The average spend per head is currently around the £22 mark. Emerging as a firm favourite is sausages from Philip Warren of Launceston, served with Pommery-mustard mashed potato, slow-cooked onion and parsley gravy (£15).
“People say it’s the best sausage, mash and onion gravy they’ve ever had,” says Paul. “Well, the sausages are from one of the best butchers in the UK – and we’ve purposely had them made bigger. The mashed potatoes and the gravy are the same recipes we use at No 6, but the gravy been finished with a bit of mustard for acidity and cracked black pepper,” he explains.
“It’s amazing how pubs have become so gastronomic, but this is a pub that opens up at 11am and is open all day. I want it to be about all those things that people remember pubs for – whitebait, fried chicken, fish and chips, pies – all featuring locally sourced produce and with the No 6 DNA running right through it.”
From the menu
• Potted duck liver pâté, grilled toast, Cornish Orchards jelly £9
• Cornish Tamworth pork and sage Scotch egg, triple mustard sauce £7
• Half-pint of king prawns, lemon, lime £11
• Ploughman’s, Tamworth ham, three-year-old Davidstow, cassis pickled onions,
piccalilli, Scotch egg, grilled sourdough £13
• Cornish day-boat Thornback ray, potted shrimp brown butter, lemon, parsley £19
• The Mariners burger: aged beef, smoked bacon, Davidstow, ‘our’ burger sauce, baby Gem lettuce, clotted cream bun £14.50
• Spotted Dick made with aged beef suet, glazed in verjus caramel £6.50
• Trifle, hundreds and thousands £8
The Mariners, Slipway, Rock,
Cornwall PL27 6LD