Tag Archives: country lunch

Checking Out the Gunton Arms, Norfolk

Having heard about the Gunton Arms, a gastropub set inside the gates of a private Georgian deer park, we figured we’d pay a visit whilst in Norfolk.  The old building has been fixed up by a London art dealer, who poached two chefs from his buddy Mark Hix’s restaurant in Soho.

The outside is grassy, muddy parkland, home to herds of deer. Chefs bustle from the kitchen to the Land Rover along the sodden path behind the building in muck-splattered wellies, looking more like farmers than cooks. It’s quintessentially British country.

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But once inside, it feels distinctly London – the familiar kitsch of over-exposed contemporary British artists tacked up all over the place. A Tracey Emin neon flickers above the entrance to the dining room, but the owner graciously knows the best place to keep his unsold stock of Damien Hirst dot prints – in the toilets.

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We were seated in the Elk Room, at a table thrilling close to the mondo open fireplace where we could watch our meal sizzling over the flames.  fire

Deep fried cod cheeks with caper mayo

Deep fried cod cheeks with caper mayo

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10 oz sirloin steak, before

10 oz sirloin steak, before…

and after!

and after!

Red deer burger with chips & autumn slaw

Red deer burger with chips & autumn slaw

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plaid4 PlaidAfter our dose of flame-broiled protein perfection, we barreled down a narrow back road to Mundesley Beach for a stroll on the shore before sundown. It was a sullen, overcast afternoon but the beach was clean and bright. We shuffled along through the pebbles in our wellies enjoying the sounds of the waves gurgling up on the sand and subsiding back into the North Sea.

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Another weekend over all too quickly! The next morning, I’ll be a career woman on a Greater Anglia train straight into the clogged heart of London – ready for another week of conquering the city. But for now, I’m just kicking pebbles on an empty beach in Norfolk.

The Only Way is Sussex

Summer is slipping away. The first days of September are upon us and you can already feel it – the sudden bite of cold mist, the crispness in the air. Soon, the first frost will fall, our tans will fade, and all our activities will be ushered indoors – board games by the fire, hearty pub lunches and shopping the holiday sales – all the while bundled in chunky wool sweaters.

Knowing the warm weather days are numbered, this weekend we headed south in pursuit of the last bits of sunshine. Our chase took us all the way to West Sussex, a coastal county of protected countryside, Blue Flag beaches, and its own fair share of castles and stately homes.

Petworth House is the former aristocratic seat of the Percy family, and has since been the family home to a series of titled heirs, along the way amassing an impressive collection of British art – including the largest group of JMW Turner paintings outside of Tate Britain. Bits of the house and a few of the art galleries have been turned over to the National Trust and are open to the public. Here’s my little peek inside:

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The interior of the house convincingly captures the intact details of a bygone era in British history. The outside grounds were designed in the mid 1700s by legendary English landscape architect, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, making Petworth Park a lush pleasure ground to enjoy one of the last days of the fading summer.

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We lunched at The Richmond Arms restaurant just down the road, in a charming Sussex rural village a few minutes outside of Chichester. My salmon was the perfect translucent pink, served over a homemade corn fritter with a dollop of crème fraîche and a delicious summer salsa. My tangy, tropical dessert allowed me to savor the taste of summer that little bit longer.

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Sides almighty!

Sides almighty!

Passionfruit posset & coconut tapioca topped with guava sorbet

Passionfruit posset & coconut tapioca topped with guava sorbet

Homemade honeycomb ice cream & rasberry sorbet

Homemade honeycomb ice cream & raspberry sorbet

The light was fading and the tide had already rushed back out to sea by the time we pulled into West Wittering Beach. The sand was silky, albeit starting to chill, under our bare feet – but there’s something about standing on the edge of an island, so close to Europe we could pick up French radio stations across the English Channel.

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It seems so bittersweet that we can’t prolong the seasons – but I’m happy to celebrate all the adventures I’ve had this summer. Who knows … maybe there’s even a few more sunny days ahead yet! Here’s hopin’.

Ballymaloe House

I’ve never been very curious about my genealogy. When someone asks my nationality, I’m blunt – “American.” Then I moved to the UK, where people can trace their ancestry back through direct descendants to Roman times. Over the holidays, I was invited to Christmas drinks at a country house built in the 1740’s and I jokingly remarked to the host “You have such a lovely historic home – it’s older than my country!” It was then I  resolved to explore my roots a little bit more. As there is Irish heritage on my paternal side of the family tree, I put a visit to the Emerald Isle on my list.

This weekend I took the one hour flight over to County Cork to traipse through the Irish countryside where, generations ago, my ancestors might have roved. Something about the landscape is strangely familiar – the rolling hills, the scent of the sea, the modest main streets. But there’s a certain romance here – a cheeky Irish charm. And you couldn’t help but feel it at Ballymaloe House in rural East Cork.

The ivy-fronted 17th century country house built on Norman ruins is run by the Allen family and listed in Ireland’s Blue Book of historic hotels.

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Prunes & Apricots | Strawberry Muesli | Porridge from Macroom Stoneground Oats

Prunes & Apricots | Strawberry Muesli | Porridge from Macroom Stoneground Oats

Warm Homemade Breads | Rhubarb Ginger Jam & Blackcurrant Jam

Warm Homemade Breads | Rhubarb Ginger Jam & Blackcurrant Jam

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The house is set within 400 acres of grounds – so after breakfast, we grabbed a map and went exploring. We toured the walled garden where the restaurant grows its fresh produce, the algae-tinted ponds in the woods behind the house, and the vast golden-tipped wheat fields that lolled on as far as the eye could see, their feathery fronds bending in the breeze. The scenes reminded me of summers spent scouting through the forests and cornfields of my childhood.

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After a bit of horsing around, we made it back to the house as lunch was being served. The Allen family are known throughout Ireland for their cooking; they have a Cookery School on the premises where you can book classes or just come for one of their daily demonstrations. The first and second course was buffet style – including a carvery with 3 different roasts (pork, lamb and corned beef). Afterwards, the dessert trolley is rolled tableside – but choosing one is the tricky bit!

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Calamari | Fish Pie | Stuffed Mussels | Garden Greens

Calamari | Fish Pie | Stuffed Mussels | Garden Greens

Roast Corned Beef | Red Cabbage

Roast Corned Beef | Red Cabbage

Gooseberry Pie | Chocolate Mousse Cake | Strawberry Pavlova

Gooseberry Pie | Chocolate Mousse Cake | Strawberry Pavlova

Balls of homemade vanilla ice cream

Balls of homemade vanilla ice cream

After a dip in the pool, I’ll claim a little spot for my towel in the grass, read my Kindle and snooze off lunch.

I am really dig the Irish lifestyle already and it’s only day one…

Country Lunch

This weekend took me for a little jaunt to the country – and lunch in the most charming Oxfordshire restaurant, The Mole Inn. Located down a leafy country lane in the rolling hills of Toot Baldon, the inn has stunning English gardens and a cosy dining room with wood-beam rafters overhead.

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The Mole Inn prides itself for its sustainably sourced meats and produce. Fish is caught off the English coast and delivered daily. The cheeseboard is entirely British – supplied from a local cheese specialist in the Cotswolds.

Idyllic Oxfordshire landscape

Bucolic Oxfordshire landscape

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Pan-fried sea trout | new potatoes, samphire, asparagus and carrots in a lime butter sauce

Pan-fried sea trout | new potatoes, samphire, asparagus and carrots in a lime butter sauce

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The meal was so filling we had to take the cheeseboard to go and finish it that evening in the garden. I am a card-carrying member of the UK cheese fan club – the British make delish cheese. Over time, I have become quite the fromage buff – my favorites are Wigmore and Stinking Bishop.

Oxford Blue | Montgomery Cheddar | Somerset Brie | Oxford Isis | Wigmore

Oxford Blue | Montgomery Cheddar | Oxford Isis | Somerset Brie | Wigmore

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As sun sets in the country, I am one happy and sated bumpkin!