Restaurant review: The Gunton Arms

PUBLISHED: 12:32 16 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 16 October 2020

The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market.
 PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2012

The fine art of running a great pub restaurant is on display at The Gunton Arms, near North Walsham

The Elk Room at the Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market. Photo: Geraldine ScottThe Elk Room at the Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market. Photo: Geraldine Scott

I’ve heard glowing reports about the Gunton Arms over the years – the food, the art, the open fires, the atmosphere, the food again, the art again.

Glowing was definitely what was needed on a drizzle-infused day when even at lunchtime, an early dusk seemed to be engulfing what must be glorious woods and picture-perfect parkland.

Inside, the damp and gloom fell away, replaced by rich colours, pictures on every wall, comfortably aged stone floors, leather sofas and a sense of drama as a series of rooms gradually reveal the intense charm of the Gunton Arms.

Our table was by a window in the elk room – dominated by an open fire beneath a huge elk skull and antlers. Either side of the window framing parkland were two butterflies - the one beside me was iridescent blue and green by Damien Hirst.

Owner Ivor Braka with the artwork, a Cromer crab by Joana Vasconcelos, at the Gunton Arms. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYOwner Ivor Braka with the artwork, a Cromer crab by Joana Vasconcelos, at the Gunton Arms. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Gunton Arms owner Ivor Braka is an art dealer and part of his picture collection is displayed here. It’s a wonderful way to see art – much less clinical than a gallery. And if you happen not to be fond of a particular piece you can turn your attention to the menu and the food.

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Food is served from lunch through into the evening and while The Gunton Arms is renowned for its meaty menu, with steaks, chops and sausages cooked over the elk room fire, there are also vegetarian and vegan menus, plus imaginative and reasonably priced bar snacks all day or sandwiches until 5pm. However, we planned an afternoon walk so needed to gird our loins with three courses, beginning with deep fried cod cheeks with caper mayonnaise for my husband and mixed beets with Binham blue cheese and pickled walnuts for me. The sweet and earthy beetroot came in three colours with leaves in a honeyed dressing, setting off the soft piquancy of the walnut and cheese.

And so to Gunton venison stew with herb baked dumplings. I’ve probably never chosen quicker, and quite possibly never chosen better. Meltingly tender meat, thick rich gravy and dumplings which were a near-miracle of light and hearty. The poor deer, roaming the parkland, were right to fade into the distance when they saw us coming as my husband had red deer rump, cooked over the fire, with roast potatoes and rowanberry jelly. The mixed autumn greens we shared were a perfect accompaniment to both.

Gunton venison stew with herb baked dumplingsGunton venison stew with herb baked dumplings

A carafe of wine to share was ideal for lunch and although the upper reaches of the wine list are entertainingly pricey, there are local beers and soft drinks and the ceramic jugs of iced water were refilled regularly.

With the outside world still waterlogged we stayed for sumpteous warm prune, armagnac and almond tart and clotted cream (me) and sea buckthorn berry posset and a macchiato (him.) I envied anyone staying the night with more chances to roam the menu and the art-filled rooms.

theguntonarms.co.uk

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