Monday, 7 March 2016

The Norfolk Roadtrip

This weekend, we set off on a little road trip to celebrate our anniversary. We felt a trip out of London was a little overdue so decided to head to Norfolk for some beaches, sunshine and a visit to a rather charming boutique hotel. 

We'd booked to stay at The Gunton Arms, just a few minutes outside of Cromer and from the coast. I found the hotel after a long and rather arduous search for somewhere fun to stay, that was charming but not too expensive and that had good food, but wasn't pretentious. For criteria that don't seem to be too challenging, the search was unbelievably tricky so I was delighted when I stumbled across the hotel, and they said they had availability. We snuck out of London on Wednesday evening and headed to see the boy's parents in the Northampton countryside, borrowing the car and catching up with them on the way.

The hotel is truly gorgeous. Quaint and traditional, yet stylish and very well put together. Set in a deer park and a huge area of historic park, we were more than impressed when we arrived to see our four poster bed, claw footed free standing bath, Aspalls on tap and log fires burning.

Opened October 2011, The Gunton Arms is a traditional pub with 8 bedrooms. The chef Stuart Tattersall (ex head chef at Mark Hix) cooks from local ingredients including venison from the surrounding deer park.

Art dealer Ivor Braka bought the Gunton Arms in 2009 and started a major restoration. Robert Kime helped design the bedrooms and interior, Martin Brudnizki the bar and restaurant. Stuart Tattersall and Simone Baker (manager and front of house) both formerly worked at Mark Hix’s restaurants in London: Selfridges, Brown’s Hotel, and Hix Oyster and Chop. They bring with them the Hix ethos of using local, seasonal produce and a style of cooking which is vigorous and ingredient led.

Having visited a couple of the Hix restaurants in London I was dying to try the majority of dishes on the menu - the seafood choices and variety were really great. We decided to first make the most of the sunshine and head to Cromer to see the sea (and sample the local cuisine of fish and chips...). 

Cromer wasn't quite what we expected - a little run down, pretty much deserted and in quite a sorry state in terms of the 'seaside offering'. After a little wander we headed back to the hotel for some chill out time before supper. Which didn't last for very long...

... the very traditional fire in the dining room, on which all of the meat is cooked had caught on fire. Both the hotel and restaurant was evacuated and we spent the next rainy hour in the car park. Questioning why we always get drama on trips way, laughing through the situation and trying to figure out where we were actually going to go for dinner (it was 7pm by this point and I was getting hungry), it was definitely a memorable part of the Norfolk adventure. 

Eventually the three (yes, three!) fire engines left the park and we were allowed back inside. We were met by an incredibly smokey building and a completely closed Dining Room due to the damage.

The management team were absolutely fantastic and neither of us could fault them in any way. They led us through to the private dining room where we were able to eat supper with the four other residents that evening. What could have been a fairly rubbish situation turned into a very exclusive and amazing celebratory evening, with our own team of waiters and perfect service. 

The boy went for the venison and I had crab linguine, followed by an amazing chocolately pudding and washed down with a delicious bottle of Italian white. We moved to the sofas for a final glass before heading upstairs, looking forward to the local breakfast the next morning.

We awoke to sunny skies after a great nights sleep and headed back downstairs for breakfast where the clean-up operation was well underway. Breakfast was an array of local cereals and preserves, bread made on site, fresh juice and a selection of hot dishes. I went for locally cured smoked salmon with poached eggs while the boy opted for The Full Norfolk, both of which were delicious.

We packed up our bags and headed down to check-out. Happy, full and knowing that we would be back to The Gunton Arms for lunch at some point soon to enjoy the Dining Room once refurbished! We were suprised to discover that the team had opted to comp not just our room, but also all of our drinks and food- a fantastic touch that was by no means necessary and truly made us feel special given the circumstances of the previous evening.

We jumped in the car and made our way over to Wells-Next-The-Sea.  Set on the North Norfolk coast, the pretty seaside town is traditional and classic. We spent time playing on the sand dunes, trying not to get trapped in the incoming tide, eating rock, wandering into shops that would have felt dated 50-years ago and eating some more delicious fish and chips (when in Norfolk right?). 

It was idyllic to be out of the city for a couple of days, to have some time to chill out and explore and spend some quality time in the countryside. The perfect refresh. 

Norfolk, it was a pleasure. Thank you again to The Gunton Arms for helping us celebrate our anniversary in such perfect way - and we definitely have some stories! 

Find The Gunton Arms here - I would truly recommend a stay. 

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