Saturday, May 12, 2012

An English Country Inn

Like inns of old, the Gunton Arms is a gathering place for locals as well as a refuge for wayfarers.
Sitting, quite alone, just inside 1,000 acres of Norfolk parkland, on England's East Coast, is a rather special place: the Gunton Arms, a Victorian-style pub with rooms that art dealer Ivor Braka and his artist-wife, Sarah Graham, transformed into a comfortable, refreshingly contemporary retreat. It is as richly decorated as an English gentleman's club, and blissfully without a single sign of the modern-day hospitality industry.
Originally built as a steward's house in 1820, the building is set back from the main road on a narrow, unmarked park drive, giving the impression that a horse-drawn carriage might pull up at any moment for a Heathcliff-type character to go tearing through the 19th-century coaching-inn doors. Inside, this feeling continues. One instantly feels drawn by the wornleather Chesterfield sofa to sit by the fire with a drink....
On Sunday morning, the patrons in the bar could have been hired out of central casting. In one corner sits a man in a mechanic's jumpsuit, a regular who arrives by tractor, chatting with Mr. Kew, who delivers the pies. Next to them, also joining the conversation, is Lord Suffield, with his wife and children. (The Suffields, the original owners of the park, are still part owners with Braka and a third partner, architect Kit Martin.) Most people know one another, and the Brakas delight in this loyal, local clientele.
The menu is English country food, hearty and earthy, and reads like a page out of Dickens, with dishes such as potted goose with beetroot and horseradish. Head chef Stuart Tattersall, formerly of Hix in London, cooks in the dining room at a large open fire on a steel shelf (an idea Braka poached from a restaurant in Paris), where cast-iron pans roast potatoes and specialties of the house—a rib of beef for two, a rump steak. "Stuart has tremendous presence and charisma," says Braka. "He and his fiancée, Simone, have built a genuine team; that's why the pub is such a hit." The ingredients are almost all local: The crabs are from Cromer, a nearby coastal town; the venison is straight from the park; and the smoked salmon is cured in the property's own smokehouse. (Read entire article.)

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