The Gunton Arms in Thorpe Market, Norfolk has been named the Pub of the Year in the 2013 edition of the Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide.
Set on the edge of a 1,000 acre deer park and once the haunt of Lillie Langtry, mistress of Edward VII, the property has been rewarded for offering a buzzing, yet laid-back atmosphere, combined with a straightforward and superbly executed menu.
The pub has been extensively refurbished since 2009 when it was bought by London art dealer Ivor Braka.
"This pub has got it all", says editor Rebecca Burr. "The welcome will be just as warm whether you're staying for the weekend, you've come for a meal or you've simply popped in for a pint and a game of darts.
"This pub proves that comfort is not always about mod cons. Nothing beats a warm, welcoming atmosphere and genuine hospitality".
Once the second house to Gunton Hall, the property today provides a mix of period furnishings and provocative modern art, with a bar and restaurant featuring a huge open fire, over which many of the seasonal dishes are cooked.
The menu is unfussy and includes the likes of deep-fried cod cheeks with caper mayonnaise or slow-roast shoulder of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, along with specials such as 28-day hung Aberdeen Angus beef or Gunton Estate venison sausages cooked over the fire. Bar snacks include Blythburgh pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce.
The pub has eight bedrooms, which are devoid of technology, except for a Roberts radio. Residents also have the use of two sitting rooms with open fires.
Amongst the 550 pubs recommended in the new guide, 81 are new entries, highlighting the improvement in the standard of pub cooking with more establishments featuring regional ingredients.
In particular, many pubs are rising to the challenge of offering value.: "Chefs are becoming more adept at using lesser-known cuts as a means of creating cost conscious set menus, particularly at lunch", said Burr. "They are also more flexible than in the past, with bar and restaurant menus becoming more easily interchangeable. Some pubs have even started offering breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea."
Burr added that proof of the continuing rise in standards in pub food comes as two more pubs were awarded Michelin Stars this year: Heston Blumenthal's Hinds Head in Bray, Berkshire, and Guy and Britt Manning's Red Lion Freehouse in East Chisenbury, Wiltshire.
The Michelin Eating Out In Pubs Guide 2013 will be available in bookshops and online from tomorrow, priced at £13.99.
By Janet Harmer
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