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Gastro – I feel that this word is rather unfortunate when combined with the word pub, due to its usual combination with the word enteritis. Of course I make no such link with the excellent Gunton Arms, a dining establishment that without doubt comes within the dictionary definition of a Gastropub – “a pub which is well known for serving good food.”
Opened in 2011 the Gunton Arms was created (at great expense) in an attractive lodge on the edge of the Gunton Estate at Thorpe Market in North Norfolk. The restaurant/pub/hotel – difficult to define exactly which it is – has since been met with great acclaim by lovers of good food. The establishment has been reviewed in the quality newspapers and the opinions expressed have been very positive.
The location is exceptional, being at the edge of a large deer park in the grounds of Gunton Hall. The building was originally known as Steward’s Farm and was part of a beautiful estate, in the design of which the landscape architects Humphrey Repton and Charles Bridgman had a hand. Gunton estate fell on hard times during the 1900s and it was almost ruined by selling off parcels of land, ploughing up parkland and cutting down many trees. Help came in 1982 when a partnership of concerned individuals decided to save the estate. This was a great success and the estate and its buildings have since been restored to their former glory.
The Gunton Arms had been trading as a restaurant called Elderton Lodge for several years until it was bought by a wealthy London art dealer called Ivor Braka in 2009. With the help of his wife he embarked on an ambitious project to create a public house with guest rooms that would be unique in Norfolk. By employing the best designers and very skilled builders he certainly succeeded. No expense was spared and the interior is best described as plush, warm and cosy, and very inviting
What makes this building’s interior unique is the numerous modern artworks that are hung throughout. If you are of a nervous disposition you might find some of the works a bit disturbing as they are mainly about sex. The ladies toilet has some surprises for those that linger to study the artwork displayed there. If you are not easily shocked you should view the Tracey Emin painted plates that are placed above the bar.
To divert us perhaps we should get onto the subject of the food. I have eaten at the Gunton Arms on several occasions and all I can say is that I love it. The main focus is on meat dishes – unsurprisingly perhaps venison features on the menu (try the venison mixed grill), and locally sourced ingredients are used whenever possible. If you enjoy a steak, Stuart Tattersall the chef (formerly of Mark Hix’s London restaurant) will cook it to perfection for you on the griddle that is placed over the open fire in the main dining room.
With regard to prices, the mains are not terribly expensive but be warned that the vegetables are ordered as side dishes and this can bump up the bill considerably.
So, to sum up, what will you find when you visit? Beautiful surroundings, a traditional bar area with a pool table and dartboard, scrubbed tables in the main and side restaurants, impressive artworks everywhere and fantastic food. When the place is busy (it usually is) you are likely to rub shoulders at the bar with trendy London weekenders and some cheery locals. You will hear a mixture of public school speak and local Norfolk accents, and there will be BMWs, Jaguars, Audis, pick-ups and muddy Land Rovers in the car park. Enjoy!
Where is it?
The Gunton Arms Public House
Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norfolk.
Telephone: 01263 832010 (Essential to book).
For your satnav: NR11 8TZ