Features

Five great pubs with fires

Editor Amber Dalton picks welcoming pubs with open fires and great food – just the thing after a bracing country walk

1 The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, Norfolk
At this quirky country-house hostelry in the middle of a historic 1,000-acre deer park, the mighty open fire isn’t just for warming your toes: locally reared meats are cooked over blazing logs below giant antlers in the vaulted Elk Room. Venison comes from the estate and beef from the herd at nearby Blickling. It’s all about the steaks –including a generous rib for two to share – which come with goose-fat roast potatoes and silky bearnaise. Seafood lovers won’t miss out, though: Weybourne crab might feature in an Asian-influenced noodle salad, while pan-fried sea trout could be aired with seashore vegetables and King’s Lynn brown shrimps. theguntonarms.co.uk

2 The Compasses Inn, Crundale, Kent
With its solid beams, fire-warmed bar and Shepherd Neame ales on tap, this 14th-century inn plays the part of a country local perfectly. The simple but alluring cooking takes things up a notch, though. Nab a table near the brick-lined inglenook and tuck into dishes that make the most of fabulous Kentish produce. Expect forthright combinations such as glazed ox cheek with confit egg yolk, crisp shallot and mustard clotted cream. Puds are not to be missed – eggnog brûlée, say, or pear with ginger cake. thecompassescrundale.co.uk

3 Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George, Somerset
In a chocolate-box pretty ham-stone village of tea rooms and listed farmhouses, this thatched pub fits like a charm. Well-worn flagstones, pre-loved furniture and antiques give a welcoming, homely feel. Settle in by one of two fireplaces for seasonal cooking that runs the gamut from a peerless Scotch egg to a salad of roasted heritage carrots with Somerset feta, via Sunday roasts of local sirloin or pork belly. A cracking toffee apple crème brûlée with Pomona ice cream is Somerset on a plate. lordpoulettarms.com

4 The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, Sussex
At this welcoming 16th-century bolthole, locals – and their dogs – wisely head to the atmospheric old bar rather than the bright and airy Victorian extension. Here, you’ll find an inviting inglenook fireplace and a low-beamed ceiling adorned with all manner of pewter and brass. Whichever space you opt for, the focus is on high-quality British comfort food that isn’t afraid to doff its hat to the Continent. A typical meal might see haddock fishcakes with salsa verde, followed by braised shoulder of lamb with crushed peas and red wine sauce. For afters, proudly homemade classics (rhubarb crumble, sticky toffee pudding) are hard to resist. catinn.co.uk

5 The Drunken Duck, Ambleside Cumbria
With glorious views, warming fires, a dog-friendly bar and an on-site brewery producing Barngates ales, there’s much to like at this Lakeland inn. While lunches are all about feeding the holidaymakers (rib-sticking stews, scampi in a basket), dinner is a more ambitious affair. From venison haunch with cottage pie to Japanese-inspired shiitake mushroom gyoza with red pepper broth and kimchi, the brief evening menu is big on flavour. For the full Drunken Duck experience, sink into a comfy chair by the roaring fire in the hop-festooned bar. Even better, stay over in one of the individually styled bedrooms. drunkenduckinn.co.uk

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