A lovingly refurbished pub with rooms surrounded by a 1,000-acre historic deer park in North Norfolk, The Gunton Arms hit the mark on all counts: stunning location, stylish accommodation, cosy pub, great staff, fantastic food & drink and impressive art collection. It was the perfect getaway, only two hours from Cambridge.
Paulo and I visited The Gunton Arms with our friends Peter and Jenni, who had dined at the restaurant and were keen to repeat the experience in our company, as well as stay on the estate.
The location was a little difficult to find but it added to the cachet of a unique hideaway. We spotted the neon sign to reception where we registered our arrival.
We were directed to the car park and once inside the remarkable inn, staff welcomed us and showed us to the residents’ lounge, the coffee/tea making facilities and our rooms.
We felt like guests in a private house. On the way to our room, we passed by a cosy seating area near a roof terrace overlooking the estate.
Paulo and I stayed in the Parkin room at the front of the pub, which had a gorgeous view of the deer park. The room was spacious with a really comfortable bed. The rooms have no TVs, which suited us just fine, but there is a television set in the residents’ lounge.
The bathroom was as big as the bedroom and quite spectacular with marbled double sinks, a free-standing tub and a walk-in shower.
We met up with Peter and Jenni, who had a room in the adjacent coach house. We enjoyed tea in the residents’ lounge and also popped into the lively bar, complete with pool table. I took the photos below early the next morning.
We admired the incredible art collection throughout the building, even the loos. The Gunton Arms owner, Ivor Braka, is a renowned art dealer and it’s a real privilege to have access to works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Lucian Freud, Paula Rego and Tracey Emin, just to name a few. Yes, some of the art is risqué and controversial… that’s what makes it art. It’s a living art gallery that renders the place so exceptional. There are even sculptures in the deer park, where you can get up close to an Antony Gormley, Sol LeWitt, Anthony Caro and more.
There are a few dining rooms, each with their own décor and art.
We were delighted to be seated in the Elk Room where we could watch the meat being cooked over the large open fire. This room’s crowning glory is the fossilised skull of a Giant Irish Elk, the largest deer that ever lived.
The Gunton Arms is run by business partners Stuart and Simone Tattersall, formerly of Mark Hix’s restaurants in London, so it’s no surprise the food, drink and hospitality were impeccable. All the staff members we encountered were welcoming, knowledgeable and helpful.
The menu, focusing on seasonal ingredients and local produce, featured a good mix of fish, seafood and meat. Paulo’s starter was from the specials board. The herb baked queen scallops, caught by local fishermen, were very fresh and enhanced by the fragrant and flavoursome garlic butter.
I enjoyed the Loch Duart salmon with its tender, silky texture and delightful smokiness from Gunton’s own smoker. The salmon was served with Irish soda bread.
Jenni and Peter chose vegetable dishes as their starter: Spiced roast pumpkin with goats curd & rocket and Mixed beets with pickled walnuts and Binham Blue. Admittedly, these were some of the few vegetarian dishes on the menu, but then again it’s clear that this restaurant is a meat-eaters’ paradise.
Our main courses were meaty ones, spectacularly cooked on the open fire: red deer rump from Gunton’s own deer park as well as sirloin steak and rib of beef from the local herd at Blickling, with the Aberdeen Angus beef hung for 28 days. The venison was served with Rowanberry jelly and the beef with Béarnaise sauce.
Chef Rob Grand, who manned the open fire with skill and expertly cooked our steaks, came to our table to show us the rib of beef’s high quality.
The large amount of fat marbled throughout the rib of beef added so much flavour to the meat, infused with a wonderful smokiness from the fire.
Our dishes were served with Albert Bartlett goose fat roast potatoes. They were soft and fluffy on the inside but super crispy on the outside from being finished off on the fire. We also ordered a side of heritage Chantenay carrots with chervil.
A lovely red wine (Amanti del Vino Primitivo, Salento IGT, Italy, 2018) accompanied our meal. We finished off with excellent espresso, Pedro Ximénez sweet sherry (for me), Noval 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (for Paulo), ice cream (for Peter) and an amazing Amedei chocolate marquise with caramel mandarins, for me because I can’t resist chocolate.
Breakfast the next morning was also in the Elk Room, which was warm and cosy. We could help ourselves to fruit juices, cereals, yoghurts and toast whilst coffee and tea were served.
Paulo ordered the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, the same quality one from Gunton’s smokery.
Keeping with the fish breakfast theme, Jenni had the kippers from Cley-next-the-Sea.
Peter and I both opted for the Gunton fried breakfast, featuring Erpingham House Farm eggs, deliciously smoky bacon, sausage, tomato and field mushroom.
Our relaxing, leisurely breakfast rounded out the whole experience. We could take in more of the art, admire the décor and feel inspired by the surroundings.
I could have easily stayed another day to fully appreciate the extensive art collection, explore the grounds and try more of the fantastic menu. It’s true when they say The Gunton Arms is difficult to find but even harder to leave. We’ll just have to come back!
My stay at The Gunton Arms is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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