Set in a private deer park just 10 minutes' drive from the coast and 18 miles from Norwich, The Gunton Arms is a pub with eight rooms and a restaurant. But it isn't just a pub with rooms; it is a little gem of a hotel.
A modest flint-clad building with a swinging gallows-style pub sign, The Gunton is understated and relaxed and so was our warm welcome. After a long drive we were hungry and were happily shown straight to the buzzing restaurant (with its huge open fire), without the need to sign in or the tiresome formalities that so often greet you.
Our dinner was a sign of things to come — local crab (Cromer is just four miles away), a fallow deer mixed grill served with rowanberry jelly and fish and chips were all absolutely delicious, as were the puddings of proper baked cheesecake, a shot of sloe gin jelly and a chocolate tart with honeycomb.
After dinner we headed upstairs to our lovely room with its stylish country house décor (that manages to be cosy, uncluttered and not at all chintzy). A chaise longue in the corner and a plum leather-clad digital Roberts Radio next to the bedside add to its relaxed feel. There are no televisions or tea-making facilities here, and the rooms are all the better for it. A guests-only drawing room downstairs has a large TV, while a pantry next to the pub's kitchen has all you need in the way of tea-making facilities.
The fantastically comfortable bed deserves a special mention, as does the stunning marble bathroom with its huge over-the-bath showerhead and underfloor heating. The rooms are a wonderful mixture of luxurious touches and classic comfort. We were given two adjoining rooms so our six-year-old could sleep in her own bed — and luxuriate in her own bathroom (something she did more than a few times over the weekend, practically swimming in the big metal freestanding slipper tub).
Breakfast was a delight and the short menu made a difficult decision slightly easier — we opted for a full English, pancakes with bacon and scrambled eggs with top-notch smoked salmon. Served in the smaller dining room, cereals and toasts are also on offer as is coffee, tea and juice.
One of the things that make the Gunton unusually special is the contrast between the pub's authentic country pub ambience (the bar was full of locals and serves a great selection of local ales) and the incredible collection of art on the walls everywhere you turn — the proprietors are art dealers and it shows. Team this with the smell of the open fires and the outstanding service and you really would be hard pressed to find a better rural retreat.
The food is really top notch — worth the trip alone. A must-try is the rib of beef cooked to your taste on the dining room's open fire.
The comfortable bedrooms with their no-tech extras — a refreshing change.
The art on the walls — something new catches your eye at every glance.
The not so good:
Some may not enjoy the noise from the popular bar — but that's what you get with rooms above pubs.
The perfect getaway and somewhere you could take anyone: a lover, a grandmother, your children or just yourself.
Double rooms from £95 including breakfast. Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norwich NR11 8TZ (+44 (0)1263 832010; theguntonarms.co.uk).