The Gunton Arms

Norfolk, East Anglia, United Kingdom Book from £95

Reviewed by Cat Martin
Personality-packed rural pub with 8 rooms, stunning food and contemporary art, on a historic estate in north Norfolk
The Gunton Arms is a cross between a well-heeled private house and a supremely comfortable pub. The world-renowned art dealer Ivor Braka and his artist wife Sarah Graham used to call it their local, until they decided to make the arrangement a bit cosier, and bought it. After a lengthy and impressive renovation, it reopened in November 2011. The pub remains popular with locals, the restaurant is outstanding, and the 8 bedrooms are comfortable and characterful; best of all, the whole show is run with a very generous spirit.

Over your inspirational supper, cooked expertly by Stuart Tattersall, former head chef at Mark Hix's London restaurants, there’s so much to talk about that your conversation will never run dry: from the Damien Hirsts and Gilbert & George canvases lining the walls, to the ancient elk above the fire. Come here for everything you didn’t expect from Norfolk - a dash of high society, controversial art themed around sex and death, and foodie heaven - which perfectly complements the ravishing scenery, historic park and quiet beaches nearby. Don’t tell everyone, but this part of the UK is fast becoming our secret hotspot.

Highs

  • A gloriously peaceful setting, adjacent to a 1,000-acre deer park
  • Fabulous food in hearty portions, locally sourced if possible. There's venison from the estate and Cromer crab, and the steaks are excellent. Well priced, too
  • Charming rooms, with extraordinary attention to detail
  • We loved the provocative art, and the fact that there's a Tracey Emin in the Ladies'
  • Full of character: Persian carpets, battered leather armchairs and open fires

Lows

  • A few teething issues (staff are more used to running a big restaurant than a small hotel), but we're confident they will settle in time
  • Dogs are allowed in-rooms; a low for some
  • It's not a hotel, it's a pub with rooms (the emphasis is on the food rather than providing service for those staying the night)
  • No twin rooms, and rooms above the bar are a bit noisy (Superior Doubles Langtry and Harbord)
  • Hard to find in the dark - but new lighting and signage is planned

Best time to go

Norfolk is great to visit at any time of year. In the winter it’s frosty and flat and perfect for wintry walks; in the summer it’s warm and the nearby beaches are a big draw, and in spring and autumn the countryside is in bloom or in leaf and lovely to see.

Our top tips

  • Take your own dressing gown or robe. The pub doesn't provide them but you'll need one if you want to go downstairs to make an early morning cup of coffee without getting dressed first. The staff are relaxed, so no need to be shy! 
  • When you arrive, go to the Residents Only door on the left hand side to check in
  • Great for...

    Foodie
    Great Outdoors
    • = Makes the grade
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Pub with rooms
    • 8
    • Restaurant (open daily)
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Pool Table
    • Dart board
    Room:

    Rooms

    There are 8 rooms: 6 Superior Doubles, 1 Double and 1 Small Double. Two of the Superior Doubles can also be booked together as a 2-bed Suite.

    Named after local characters - including gamekeeper James Ellis, who can often be found propping up the bar - the rooms were exquisitely designed and decorated with the highest attention to detail. Nothing is standard or rolled out en masse - it’s all been carefully chosen. You’ll find Chinese bedside lamps, pretty patterned wallpaper, prints of butterflies, hunts and fishing, mahogany side tables, marble bathrooms and cheery antique runners on soft grey carpet.

    The Small Double and Double have shower bathrooms, the Superior Bathrooms have rolltop baths, and a couple have showers too. All bathrooms are stocked with luxurious Cowshed products.

    Ellis and Parkin were our favourites overall (Superior Doubles): both are quiet and a good size with good views and a bathroom with a window, and Ellis has a kingsize 4-poster bed. Thurston (a Double) and Ward (a Superior Double) are also peaceful and a good size; Langtry and Harbord (Superior Doubles) have good views but are noisier, being above the bar.

    Extra beds and cots are available in the larger rooms, and well-behaved dogs are welcome in all rooms.

    Guests also have the use of The Stamp Rooms, 2 private sitting rooms downstairs, along with a private dining room, where you'll find an original Lucien Freud on the wall.

    Features include:

    • Wifi internet
    • Phone
    • Radio
    • Wifi internet
    • Central heating
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Toiletries
    • Hairdryer

    Eating

    As well as being a fully functioning pub with a selection of local ales on tap, the excellent restaurant, presided over by ex-Mark Hix chef Stuart Tattersall, is the main reason to visit. There are 2 restaurant areas, both designed by Martin Brudzinski. The main one sits under a grand elk's head; the second acts as more of an overflow area. The private dining room, which hotel guests can use on request, seats 8. All are warm and characterful with wooden furniture and open fires.

    The pub itself is a curious place, collecting a mix of people and furniture including a 13th-century coffin table, modern pine, 17th-century wood panelling, silver plated cutlery and outlandish modern art. All the more to talk about over dinner!

    The menu is seasonal, changing with a focus on local food. They smoke their own venison and salmon here, and if food miles are an issue, you'll love that the Gunton Venison has travelled under a mile, and fish is from the coast 4 miles away.

    The menu includes the likes of nettle and leek soup, linguini with Brancaster mussels and clams, a mixed grill of Gunton Fallow Deer and steamed treacle sponge plus a shot of sloe gin jelly. The portions are vast and there's an extensive wine list.

    For breakfast, you can help yourself to toast and cereal from the pantry or otherwise order off the menu (included) which has some local delights: double fried duck eggs as part of the Gunton fried breakfast, and drop scones with Swafield cured bacon and Alby honey.

    During the day, guests have use of the tea and coffee facilities in the pub (there are none in rooms). There are bar snacks and sandwiches available all day, including a Gunton venison sausage roll and parsnip crisps.

    For a change of scene, The Vernon Arms is recommended, a local village pub. And a great little find is Cookies, a crab shack on the coast road heading north.

    Features include:

    • Restaurant
    • Bar
    • Organic produce
    • Vegetarian menu
    • Children meals
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Enjoy the views of the stunning Gunton Estate, with its big herds of deer

    • Head to Cromer, a traditional Victorian seaside town with a pier and sandy beaches. Mundesley is also lovely

    • Visit the stunning 18th-century Holkham Hall near Cromer, or the stately home and magnificent 5-acre walled garden of Houghton Hall, former home of Great Britain’s first prime minister

    • Blickling Hall, once home to the Boleyn family, is now a large National Trust estate with a magnificent library and Second World War history. Or visit stately Felbrigg Hall, one of the finest 17th-century houses in East Anglia, now run by the National Trust

    • Take a trip to the Sainsbury's Centre of Art in Norwich, which includes work by Henry Moore, a silver Inca llama dating back 500 years and a wonderful bronze Degas dancer. Check out the lovely cathedral while you're in town

    • Kids might like Amazona Zoo, a South American-themed zoo on the outskirts of Cromer with flamingos, jaguars and monkeys

    • Go seal watching at Blakeney and Morston quays. Boat trips run regularly during the season (April to October), to visit the colony on Blakeney Point

    • Play golf in Cromer, Sheringham and Mundesley

    • There are tennis and squash courts within 10 minutes’ drive

    • Hire a boat and cruise the Norfolk Broads for the afternoon

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Kids activities nearby
    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Golf
    • Hiking
    • History religious
    • Museum
    • Plantlife
    • Tennis
    • Wildlife
    • Pool table

    Kids

    Children are welcome. A rollaway bed or baby cot can be added to larger rooms; there's a supplement charge for 4+ year olds.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    The 2-bedroom Suite is the best bet for a family. Unfortunately these are the 2 rooms situated above the bar so what you gain with space you might lose with a little noise in the evenings... You can also add a rollaway bed or baby cot to the Doubles and Superior Doubles.

    Children's meals:

    The pub has highchairs and a kids' menu, adapting dishes from the main menu where possible but with simple dishes like bangers and mash and roast chicken and vegetables too.

    Kids Activities nearby:


    • Cromer and Mundesley beaches, both sandy

    • Amazona Zoo near Cromer

    • Seal watching tours from Blakeney Point are great for kids

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    8/
    Rooms
    9/
    Food
    9/
    Service
    8/
    Value
    9/
    Overall

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