Wahoo, we’re all allowed back into the pub. And, given the freezing rain, lightning, thunder and hailstones thrown at us on Magic Monday it’s a darned good job.
We found ourselves at The Unicorn in Marden sharing the front bar with a Fisherman’s Friend - seriously, the weather was so atrocious one fellow came into the pub dressed head-to-toe in a yellow sou’wester. Not sure why he kept in on though?
I was convinced I’d visited this pub in a past life and it was called something else, but knowledgeable barman Steve says it’s been named after a mythical horse with a straight horn since 1842, so I’ve clearly mixed up my pubs, my villages or my memory’s even worse than I thought.
In any event, even if you’ve missed the magical, pastel-coloured wallpaper at the back of the pub, the ‘in-your-face’ multi-coloured cushions on the chairs at table 9 will leave you in no doubt where you are.
And, in case you’re colour blind the staff’s smart uniforms are generously emblazoned with the mystical beasts, shirts, aprons, you name it, they even had them on the front of their masks.
Given a selection of three beers on tap I passed on Master Brew and Harvey’s to choose a Doom Bar instead. The drinks only took a moment or two to arrive and my pint was a lovely amber colour with plenty of well-balanced flavours, definitely a good example of this Cornish offering.
We’d decided to sample the food and having noticed the paint selected during the recent facelift (that pseudo posh, indefinable shade between grey and olive green), I wasn’t shocked by the figures on the menu.
Have you noticed how a pub’s prices rise dramatically if this colour is selected?
For its first night back to ‘normal’ the place was reassuringly busy without being jam packed so we were offered a table in the bar, rather than the popular dining room.
The music was being played at a sensible level and while we waited for our food my antique ears first recognised a tune from INXS before being treated to St Elmo’s Fire and finally Wet, Wet Wet’s biggest hit.
At £13.50 for sausages and £15 for fish and chips it has to be said the meals are not cheap. However, when the food arrived it was absolutely superb and worth every penny.
This is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. My bangers were brilliant, the vegetables were cooked to perfection and the chips, sliced into special scoop shapes, were excellent.
This might be pub food, but it’s pub food of the highest possible standards and Mrs SD’s fish and chip supper did not disappoint either. NB. Scoop chips are also perfect for nicking mushy peas.
Good as the main course was, I’d had a tough day on the tools so I was always going to take more than a glance at the blackboard of desserts.
Having chosen chocolate pudding, sadly my appeal to the waitress not to listen to my lady’s request for a second spoon fell on deaf ears. As it turned out, given the richness and scale of the pudding, it was probably a good job I did share. Again, it was beautifully presented and tasted divine.
Unsurprisingly most of the pub is laid out for dining and it does feel as if it’s more set up for food lovers as opposed to those popping in for a swift ale.
This said, a couple of blokes did venture out for a pint and were given a table each.
One local, who shall remain nameless, said he’d lived in the village for 60 years and talked fondly of the days when it could boast seven pubs. He was determined to make the point that as the number of houses in Marden has risen dramatically the proportion of pubs to households has plummeted.
Apart from the quality of the food, I can also report both the ladies and gents’ toilets were impeccably maintained and, thanks to the recent rules on outdoor drinking, smokers at The Unicorn, like many other pubs, now have better facilities than they’ve enjoyed for years.
The staff all wore their masks 100% of the time and every time a customer left each table was meticulously sanitised - it might feel a little strange for a while yet, but The Unicorn has made a great start to welcoming its customers back.
The Unicorn, High Street, Marden TN12 9DR
Decor: Whether it’s the soft furnishings or the staff’s smart uniforms, you’re left in no doubt about the name of the pub. The latest refurbishment has been well done and everything is smart and tidy. ****
Drink: There were three beers available on tap and I enjoyed the chance to try a Doom Bar for a change. The wine was described as ‘perfectly pleasant’. ***
Price: A pint of guest ale cost £3.90 and a large Montanas Sauvignon Blanc £6.50. The food is more expensive than the drink, but is definitely good value for money. ***
Food: Superbly cooked and presented, this may be pub food, but it of the highest possible standards – compliments to the chef. *****
Staff: Steve was the main man on duty and ran the bar very efficiently but the waiting staff were also friendly and attentive. ****