George Bloor is the 28-year-old chef owner of The Tasting Club Restaurant in Brailsford. Previously chef at The Lighthouse in Ashbourne for ten years, along with other Michelin recommended restaurants, it was during lockdown that George decided to set up a small and humble dining experience in a converted barn above Buttermilk Coffee House in the village. This quirky introduction to our county’s food scene has been a hit with diners, being fully booked for more than a year. The Tasting Club was named Derbyshire Restaurant of the Year just 18 months after launch. Here George shares his food loves.

Tell us a little about The Tasting Club Restaurant

The Tasting Club is a ‘fun-dining’ tasting menu restaurant. We opened in 2022 with the aim of giving locals somewhere exciting and fun to celebrate fancy food and special occasions. One menu, a three-hour journey, designed by me starting with tantalising snacks, seafood using the finest produce, local meats and desserts full of flavour and nostalgia. Customers leave with full bellies and a memorable evening having explored ten totally unique plates of food.

Is Valentine's a busy time for the restaurant?

Valentine’s is one of our favourite times of year. The Christmas period is always quite hectic, with large tables of friends and work events and merry making whereas the Valentine’s period is much more laidback with plenty of couples looking to celebrate in a more chilled out way.

We pride ourselves on being a romance-friendly venue at any time of year - think dimly lit tables, candlelight, elegant food and slick service. However, in February, we really take it to the next level, with roses, champagne and an extra romantic surprise for our guests who dine on that particular week.

First dish you learned to cook?

It was 13 years ago now. I was tasked with creating a starter for the first restaurant I ever worked at on their a la carte menu when I was 15 years old.

It was toasted focaccia, topped with caramelised red onion, thyme and goats’ cheese which we finished under the grill, with a balsamic glaze and some bitter leaves. Funnily enough I wasn’t a confident chef at that age but looking back now it was a great dish- I might have to reinvent it and put on our next tasting menu, with a few more bells and whistles perhaps.

Most vivid childhood food memory?

Every Wednesday as a school kid, we used to rush home for the infamous fajita night - my mum used to make enough to feed a small army. My friends used to fight to come round. They were so good we more or less had a competition to see who could eat the most every week.

I loved the fact that food could bring everyone together and be something to look forward to. It also sparked my love for foods from all over the world. British food is fantastic, but there’s an endless amount of cuisine we can explore, and we do that on our seasonal menu at the restaurant.

Most memorable meal out?

Definitely my first visit to Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray as a young chef. I have eaten at some incredible places, but Heston’s food blew my mind. I sat there in disbelief; one course made smoke come out of our noses. We had a cup of tea that was both hot and cold. One dessert levitated, and another looked like a playing card but was a Bakewell tart! It made me see food in a different light. Flavour always comes first, but Heston’s food was exciting, confusing and memorable even years later.

It created part of our ethos at The Tasting Club, that meals are much more than just food on a plate. Fill them with surprises, nostalgia and plenty of wows and you can give someone an experience to remember.

Favourite ingredient?

I love anything that hits you in the face with flavour. We do ten very small courses which need to be intense and leave you wanting more. Black garlic is a brilliant ingredient which is greatly under-used or even heard of. It isn’t particularly expensive and can even add a brilliant depth of flavour to humble home cooking. Pies, stews, sauces. Whenever we have it on our menu it gets commented on a lot.

Your go-to snack?

People often tell me how lucky I must be as a fine dining chef to be able to eat so much amazing food, however the reality of the chef world is very different. We aren’t half as passionate at 11pm making dinner for one, just before bed. That being said, I really don’t think you can beat a well-made cheese on toast! Sourdough and a good quality cheese, Worcestershire sauce essential. Marmite at weekends.

If you weren't a chef, what would you be?

I always say the only thing I love doing more than cooking is eating. I haven’t extensively explored ways to make money from filling my belly but I’m open to any suggestions. There must be worse jobs than being a food critic, that’s for sure.

Your dream dinner guest, and why?

Gordon Ramsay has always been a huge idol of mine. If he came for dinner and gave us the seal of approval, I think I’d explode. It could be a risky invite however; he’s never been one to mince his words if anything goes wrong.

Your guilty food pleasure?

After a long week of cooking the best quality meat we can find – think Wagyu beef, highland venison. Chatsworth lamb - you can usually find me in the queue outside Five Guys unapologetically getting a dirty burger. Life is all about balance as they say.

Who are your Derbyshire food and drink heroes?

Our friends at the Darley Abbey Wines are certainly people we look up to. Not only do they run a hugely successful wine bar and wine merchants, but they are also now distilling their own gin which tastes fantastic. It takes guts to take on the gin giants we all know well, but it won’t surprise you to see which is top of our drinks list.

A hospitality industry person who inspires?

On a more local level, it is hard to ignore the impact Chef Sat Bains has had on hospitality in the UK. His restaurant in Nottingham has been a pioneer of the fine dining scene for decades now. Having held two Michelin stars for so long, they are the epitome of longevity - which is our biggest goal at the Tasting Club. Plus, he started out in Ashbourne just like I did.

A place you love to eat?

The Ritz in London is hard to beat. Having been a few times for special occasions, I’d say it’s almost impossible to leave without feeling like royalty. I can’t think of many better overall dining experiences in the UK.

A career highlight?

Opening a restaurant in these tough times and it going so well. Hitting the ground running and being constantly fully booked with happy customers is a daily pinch me moment. It was a real roll of the dice when I put plans in motion in 2021. Winning awards is more like the cherry on top.

What's next?

Improve, improve, improve. I believe we offer something great to customers, but we want them to come again and again in the belief that it gets better every time. We aren’t even two years old, and we have so much more to give now we’ve finally found our feet.

What wish do you have for 2024?

Other than marrying my fiancée Abigail, my biggest wish for 2024 is for the Tasting Club to grow as much as it has done this year; we are still relatively new and unvisited by many of the fine folk of Derbyshire and my goal is for us to become a well-known and loved eatery for all food lovers in the local area and beyond.

George’s favourite dish

‘A dish that I feel epitomises the Tasting Club is our crispy Cornish lobster Scotch egg.’ says George. ‘It is a humble dish we all know and love, which is elevated by using some of the very best British produce, looks fancy and has a strong kick of red pepper and smokey chorizo which makes mouths water.