About Time You Met: Siobhan Penrose-Johnson, Co-Owner of The George, AlstonefieldBy Angelica Malin
The George, located in the Peak District village of Alstonefield above Dovedale, serves proper British food with a relaxed fine dining twist. Evolving from a rustic pub into an award-winning restaurant (recognised in The Good Food Guide since 2009 as well as Michelin and Sawday), their ethos is centred on tranquillity, unhurried and understated elegance. We chatted to co-owner Siobhan Penrose-Johnson about taking over the pub, what to expect, and her love of the Peak District:
What inspired you to take on The George?
My husband! Clichéd – but he has/had such a vision for creating something special, and we used to visit here ourselves – it was our sanctuary away from the previous pub Graham ran and general busy life. We loved it, so when it came up for sale it made complete sense. Quite serendipitous.
Do you have input into the menu at The George?
I do, and I bring inspiration back from my travels with my own job. I am lucky to eat out and experience great places. Working with our Head Chef Matt, he will listen to ideas and more than often already has his own interpretation in the bag!
What has been the hardest thing about lockdown for you?
Not being in regular contact with the team here, lacking the ability to connect and share inspiration. People essentially!
What can our readers expect when visiting The George?
Delicious food really well executed and imaginatively put together, but without that “snootiness” sometimes felt in places. We are relaxed and hospitable; we want people to feel super comfortable and familiar and able to enjoy an experience they couldn’t do themselves or get elsewhere. We are unique.
Where do you recommend to stay nearby?
Alstonefield Manor is super special and feels really inviting and is an all-round lovely experience, a treat! Also Winnow Barns which, if you want to totally switch off, is perfect. Then we have an amazing grown-up glamping site directly opposite us too. They’re my top 3 and where I would go.
Can you recommend walks to go directly from The George?
Yes, there are too many to choose from, but my favourite would have to be down to Gypsy bank, along the river Hartington, grab a coffee at the Village Stores, then a loop back up through Narrowdale. You get dramatic hills, river, woods and caves.
Do you eat out locally, if so, where?
We really need to find ourselves a little sanctuary again! When we can get out, we want to get a break away from it all and will tend to travel and seek out special places. One of our favourites is The Angel at Hetton and Adam Reid in Manchester. Alternatively, we pop down the road to our favourite local – The Oak at Wetton for a few drinks – they sell an epic pint of porter!
I understand you have an interesting job in marketing outside of The George – what does that involve?
Yes, I work full time in quite a demanding role and head up marketing campaigns for the British Army… so those TV ads, and related media for joining the Army is me and my team. Hence why I often find myself in London with media and creative teams. 2020 has been really weird not travelling and having that interaction. I miss it, it keeps me current (I think).
Tell us more about the setting at The George, the pictures look incredible on the website
Alstonefield is such a beautiful unaffected spot and still, at its roots, a farming village. Someone once said when you turn off the main road and head down the hill you quickly realise you have punctured the bubble, heading along cobble lined lanes over the river dove and up and up into Alstonefield is breathtaking. Time immediately stands still. We can walk to Milldale in 15minutes and head along the river or walk into the hills and see for literal miles. It’s our idyll.
10.Will you be starting up The George Supper Clubs anytime soon?
For sure! We need to set a date and would like to think we can get that going again by Autumn latest. We had some excellent guests at our last one; local artisan producers who supply us and great speakers lined up so we will definitely reinvigorate that – it’s such a lovely social aspect to what we do and great for our customers to meet our suppliers too.
For more information on The George, see here.