With Gareth Rayner in charge of the menu we were pretty sure lunch would be good.

He was named Norfolk chef of the year at the latest Norfolk Magazine Food and Drink Awards.

What I was not prepared for was just how delicious the pie I chose, and the section my husband’s meal I managed to snaffle, would be.

We were eating from the bar menu at The Gin Trap, in Ringstead, near Hunstanton, but I don’t think even the full delights of the a la carte could have dethroned my king of pies.

Great British Life: The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)
It was shaped like a crown – a burnished golden heavy and utterly delicious crown, its perfectly-glazed pastry shining above the richly filled pie itself, packed with succulent chicken, ham and leek.

It was held aloft on a bed of creamy mash and tasted just as wonderful as it looked. Chunks of meat and leek were marinated in splendidly seasoned sauce and that golden, yielding pastry was fit for a monarch..

My husband had meltingly tender duck leg on hash brown with pineapple pickle, all topped with a glossy fried duck egg. The combination of ingredients was imaginative and inspired and the presentation was fine-dining style but in the comfort of the cosy bar.

Great British Life: Chicken, ham and leek pie at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. Chicken, ham and leek pie at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)Great British Life: Duck leg and egg on hash brown with haricot verts at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. Duck leg and egg on hash brown with haricot verts at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)

We shared a dish of green beans with toasted hazelnuts, garlic and tarragon between us. The haricot beans were sparingly cooked with a nice bit of crunch left for us to enjoy.

We were initially slightly confused by the bar menu, chalked on blackboards on the wall, but as befits an establishment which not only won the chef of the year award at the latest Norfolk Food and Drink awards, but was also in the top three across the county for the front of house experience award, the server was happy to explain that the first few dishes on the board were side orders rather than starters. They included fried potatoes with truffle mayonnaise and parmesan, and roast hispi cabbage.

The bar menu also included French onion soup, fried fish sandwich with pickled cucumber and tartare sauce, croque monsieur, moules mariniere with garlic and rosemary focaccia, or beef Bourguignon with mashed potato at prices ranging from £12 to £17. It is served all day, Wednesday to Saturday, and Sunday until 6pm. The Gin Trap Inn has been serving the villagers of Ringstead, and those visiting or travelling through, since 1668. The pretty, white-painted building, with woodwork picked out in deep blue, set back from the village high street, has become a food and tourist destination. Once the pub, set on the ancient Peddar’s Way path (and the new Rebellion Way cycle route too) would have served fishermen, traders and smugglers. Today it has luxurious rooms and cottages, some with free-standing baths or garden terraces, all beautifully decorated and ideally placed to enjoy the food of our chef of the year. But it is still a pub to pop into for a drink too.

Great British Life: A restaurant room at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. A restaurant room at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)

The courtyard garden looks perfect for warmer weather, with good solid chairs and tables and herb-filled planters. Gareth’s menus change around the seasons but on a wintry day it was lovely to step into the cosy historic interior of the inn where a fire crackled in the fireplace of the main bar. Tables were set into alcoves and beside windows. There was a lounge bar with tables too – and the main restaurant where Gareth’s renowned a la carte menu is served Wednesday to Saturdays evenings, Saturday lunchtime and Sundays noon to 6pm.

It pays close attention to local and seasonal, ranging through ‘Cyril’s Brancaster rock oysters with pickled cucumber and iced gin and tonic’ and ‘Tim Loose’s steamed mussels, sea herbs, heritage potatoes, pickled kohlrabi, mussel sauce,’ to a main course of pork loin and belly with celeriac, grilled cabbage, pig cheek, smoked sausage and charcuterie sauce, or aged sirloin steak with bone marrow sauce, plus a vegetarian option featuring gnocchi, roast cauliflower, black garlic and aged parmesan.

Great British Life: The cheese plate at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. The cheese plate at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)Great British Life: Chocolate fondant at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. Chocolate fondant at The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead. (Image: Rowan Mantell)

For pudding we shared a cheese plate, served with particularly fine crackers, and a gooey chocolate fondant with ice cream. It was tempting to take coffees to the comfy chairs beside the log fire and sink into a lazy afternoon. But interested in exploring Ringstead beyond the fine menu we headed out for a quick walk.

Just a few miles from the coast, Ringstead is even nearer to one of the largest remaining chalk grasslands in Norfolk. Ringstead Downs is a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve and the (surprisingly hilly) summer home to around 20 species of butterfly.

The village itself once had two medieval churches and still has a lovely-looking shop stocking lots of local produce. The remaining medieval church is well worth a walk up to its hill-top site. Alongside the traditional medieval to Victorian glories is an intriguing 1970s religious painting by a Hunstanton art teacher, featuring contemporary scientific achievements and social ills.

Back on the village high street the award-winning Gin Trap Inn has its own centuries of history, and those particularly impressive modern achievements making it a wonderfully atmospheric food, drink and hospitality destination.


Our review visits are unannounced and we pay for our meals.

Great British Life: 1760719817607198 (Image: Matthew Potter Photographer and Videographer)Great British Life: David Lamyman, Stuart Tattersall (Sponsor), Gareth Rayner, Sophie Daniels.David Lamyman, Stuart Tattersall (Sponsor), Gareth Rayner, Sophie Daniels. (Image: Matthew Potter Photographer and Videographer)