Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, restaurant review: Delicious food at a quirky pub set in a 1,000 acre deer park
- Credit: Geraldine Scott
Owned by London art dealer Ivor Braka and his wife botanical artist wife Sarah Graham, The Gunton Arms in Thorpe Market promises to be more than just a normal foodie pub. Geraldine Scott found out what could be done with enough style, taste, and money in the Norfolk countryside.
The Gunton Arms doesn't really make it fair on other eateries.
Set in a 1,000-acre deer park, beautifully decorated, and walls adorned with works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and Paula Rego - it's not really your average pub.
But then again in many ways it is.
Regulars fill the bar, playing pool, dogs by their feet, and with a good selection of beers and friendly bar staff this could just be any other local.
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But as you are taken through to the restaurant it soon becomes clear you've ended up somewhere special.
Head chef Stuart Tattershall, poached from Mark Hix, commands the eatery's Elk Room - an impressive flagstoned dining room, packed with tables, and featuring a centrepiece 16th century French fireplace, topped off with gigantic elk antlers from which the room takes its name.
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It is almost a production in itself to see the meat, locally sourced, cooked on the fire before being served up to eager guests.
We took our seats at a cosy table at the back of the room, surrounded by pen and inked Paula Rego's of women in various states.
The menu itself is extensive, with a heavy focus on local produce such as Blicking pheasant, Cromer crab, and Blythburgh prok.
A lover of seafood I opted for the prawn and crab salad with cucumber noodles and saffron aioli (£9) for my starter, while my boyfriend Josh chose the Blicking pheasant sausage with sweet and sour red cabbage (£8).
My prawns were juicy and tender, coming apart easily and bursting with freshness. There could have been more crab and it felt a bit like death by rocket - but then I suppose it was a salad.
For Josh, his pheasant sausage was nicely presented and tasty. 'But it was a little on the expensive side for the amount you got,' he said.
It would have been wrong to go to the Gunton Arms and not sample the delights of the Elk Room fire, so for main I went for the Blythburgh pork chop (£16.50), served with goose fat roast potatoes and Bramley apple sauce.
The pork fell apart in your mouth, while the goose fat potatoes were perfectly crispy, probably due to being finished off on the fire.
Josh went for the Gunton venison stew with herb baked dumplings (£16), which he said was 'a very tasty and hearty stew'.
He said the flavours were lovely and rich, with beautifully-cooked dumplings.
Supplemented with cauliflower cheese and chips on the side (£2.95 each).
We managed to find room for dessert - somehow. I don't have an overly sweet tooth but for Josh he said the baked Alaska with raspberry (£7) he said it was one of the nicest desserts he'd ever had.
'Amazing soft meringue, delicious ice cream, and very nice raspberry coulis to give a bit of sharpness along with the sweetness,' he said.
For me, my Amedei chocolate marquise with caramel mandarins (£7) was tasty and rich - a nice end to a delicious meal.
Overall The Gunton Arms manages to make an old and quirky pub feel like a treat without being overly pretentious.
It's difficult to not be impressed by the Gunton Arm's surroundings, set in a beautiful deer park. The Elk Room in particular is very impressive.
It manages to be both chilled and relaxed but also feel like an upmarket treat at the same time. Regular punters playing pool in the bar and a dogs allowed policy make it feels like a proper pub but with a posh twist.
Very friendly and welcoming, knowledgeable about the dishes and not pushy on time - even when we slightly overstayed our booked slot.
A good selection, I'm easily pleased as long as there's a reasonable white wine - which there was. My boyfriend is a bit pickier when it comes to a selection of beer, but even he was impressed and enjoyed a pint of Woodforde's Wherry (£4).
Could be difficult but seems to be plenty of space and accessible to most.
Some.. ahem.. adult art in the men's prompts plenty of giggles and the ladies' the same. Apart from that modern, clean.
The spot has a a large car park but it does fill up quickly, such is the popularity of the place.
This is not a cheap night out, best saved for a special occasion. For the two of us with drinks, and three courses, we paid £92.
A visit to the Gunton Arms really feels like a treat, being tucked away in the Elk Room it feels like somewhere you could spend hours while enjoying truly sumptuous, local, food.
Not just a meal out but an experience in all senses of the word.
Three dishes to try
1. Rib of beef to share (£65) - Based on the other delicious offerings from the Elk Room fire, I can only imagine this to be a showstopper.
2. Farmhouse chicken, bacon and leek pie (£14) - Having tried this on a previous visit it was creamy with perfectly crumbly pastry.
3. Blickling pheasant sausage with sweet and sour red cabbage (£8) - A starter which sets the tone of locally-sourced produce.
Value for money
From £7.50 for starters to £65 for the rib of beef to share.
If you like that, try this
1. Green Dragon Tavern, Wymondham - Much like the Gunton Arms this is a proper drinkers pub but with exceptional food to match. If you're thinking about making a trip, that's the thing to remember: its speciality is craft beers and ales.
2. Ciscoe's Sushi and Asian Restaurant, Norwich - This is another eatery which takes risks, which often pay off. It's another one of those places you have to go to.
3. The Fritton Arms, Fritton - Owned by Lord Somerleyton The Fritton Arms is another pub with good food backed by money. That's not a criticism - it does it very well and offers a great night out.
• This is an independent review. For more food reviews, click here.