Food review - The George, Alstonefield
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 November 2018
Our reviewer discovers a 'proper' English pub serving food with a modern twist in picturesque Alstonefield
As the days get shorter and the weather colder, there’s nothing better than a traditional cosy pub where you can relax in front of a crackling log fire with home-cooked food – and it would be harder to find somewhere that better fits the bill than The George at Alstonefield.
In the centre of the picture-postcard limestone village, perched on a plateau between the gorges of the rivers Dove and Manifold and just a stone’s throw from Dovedale and Milldale, this handsome 18th century inn exudes rustic charm.
Crossing the threshold is like stepping back in time: old beams, gleaming quarry tiles, soft lighting and characterful features abound in the cosy restaurant and bar areas, where there‘s a sense that everyone knows everyone else – or they soon will!
The relaxed atmosphere is reinforced by friendly owners Graham and Siobhan Penrose-Johnson, who took over the reins in August 2017.
‘We had been looking for a pub just like The George – and then The George came along!’ Graham tells us.
The couple has freshened-up the décor, opened an adjacent Coach House (ideal for private parties and busier days) and kept the focus on fresh, home-cooked food – but with plenty of exciting twists.
The pub’s free-range chickens supply fresh eggs and a kitchen garden is currently in the pipeline, but although seasonal ingredients feature heavily on the menu the creative choices are anything but predictable. Starters range from tempura soft-shell crab with mango and lemongrass jelly to beetroot mousse with cream cheese ‘ice cream’. A main course of pan-seared duck breast is given a modern update with peaches, fennel purée and honey and lavender sauce, whilst classic lamb rump is accompanied by beer-pickled shallots and crispy sweetbreads. There’s also a choice of real ales and a carefully selected wine list.
On the evening of our visit, I began with the twice-cooked Hartington Blue cheese soufflé (£8). Made using the award-winning Stilton produced just up the road, the feather-light soufflé was cooked to perfection and accompanied by an innovative butternut and miso purée, crunchy candied walnuts and tasty charred leeks.
My partner’s starter of devilled mackerel (£8) received top marks for presentation: the succulent fish was surrounded by tasty cucumber ketchup, piquant horseradish and potato mousse and cucamelons – an amazing cucumber/melon hybrid!
My main course of loch-reared sea trout (£17) was equally delicious. Served with a creamy herb gnocchi, baby courgettes, tangy salsa verde, courgette purée and confit tomatoes, it provided a fascinating contrast of flavours and textures with each mouthful.
My partner couldn’t resist the steak and ale pie for main course (£16), particularly after learning that the accompanying reduced red wine gravy took two days to prepare. He wasn’t disappointed: the steak was tender, the golden-brown pastry feather-light, the accompanying vegetable and creamed mash full of flavour and, as suspected, the rich gravy so moreish he declared it the best he’d ever tasted!
By this time, we were so impressed that it would have been impossible to pass on dessert. We relished a plum Bakewell tart (£6), served with pomegranate ice cream and crème anglaise, and an ice-cold white chocolate sphere, filled with lemon curd and topped with tea sorbet, basil meringue and strawberries. Delicious!
It seems fitting that The George is surrounded by a wealth of fantastic local walks where you could work up an appetite – or walk-off a hearty feast – and if our autumnal experience was anything to go by, we can’t wait to return in winter. u
The George, Alstonefield, 1 Church Lane, Alstonefield, Ashbourne DE6 2FX, 01335 310205, thegeorgeatalstonefield.com