Moor Hall, Aughton

Last month, Hubbie Charlotte was lucky enough to visit Moor Hall, Mark Birchall's Michelin starred restaurant with rooms.

When The Caterer ran its chef profile on Mark Birchall last year, announcing the launch of Moor Hall, in Aughton, West Lancashire, I knew I had to visit for two reasons – firstly, I’d been lucky enough to dine at L’Enclume, where Mark had worked alongside Simon Rogan, a few years ago and have raved about it ever since. Secondly, we owed my brother-in-law and his wife a night away for Christmas, and just 40 minutes from their hometown of Manchester, (and just five hours from us in London…no biggie) we were confident Moor Hall would have the wow factor needed to make up for staying down south over the festive season…

Positioned as a restaurant with rooms, and with just seven bedrooms in total, I was expecting beautiful, but basic accommodation. How wrong was I.

Both the oaked-beamed Medlar and Elderberry Suites were located in the Gate House, just a few steps from the main house, which I was grateful for when it came to walking off the fourteen (yes fourteen) courses that lay ahead. With a sumptuous bed, roll top bath and extremely well stocked mini bar, I was tempted to skip dinner altogether and settle in for the night. It had been a long day of travelling after all, and the two large glasses of Fiano whilst we checked in, and checked out the menu, may have had a part to play in my sudden fatigue….

Our table was booked for nine pm, and we met in the lounge as requested thirty minutes before our reservation. In front of a roaring fire in the lounge, we were presented with a palette cleansing apple based shot, and the first ‘snack’ of the evening, a creamy black pudding amuse bouche, which hinted at the taste sensations that lay ahead. We then decided on a champagne cocktail each, it was fake Christmas after all, before being shown to the restaurant.

Refreshingly simple, the main dining room had a real Scandi feel to it, which is my kind of interior vibe, with floor to ceiling widows looking out over the grounds and The Barn, Moor Halls’ casual dining proposition. However, the real view here was that of the open pass, giving us a 360 view of the kitchen, where Mark’s team prepared each of the dishes in front of our eyes. Later in the evening we were given a tour by the team…’I spy Gram Refrigeration, and is that a Rationale combimaster plus!’ I squealed, yep the catering equipment groupie in me was in heaven.

So back to the food…all fourteen courses. Technically the menu features eight dishes, but those snacks I mentioned earlier, they just kept on coming. From fresh slices of coppa salami, to smoked eel adorned with edible flowers to the pre-dessert (followed naturally by not one, but two proper desserts) it was all divine, and devoured.

I’d like to say there was a showstopper - a real stand out plate, but with every forkful our eyes, along with our waistlines became larger. That said, this isn’t belly-busting food. Each dish is perfectly proportioned, balanced in both flavour and texture. It leaves you wanting more, but knowing you’ve had just enough.

The waiting team explained every course, and carefully answered each of our questions. “How can a carrot possibly taste this good?” “Who knew a Holstein Friesen was a breed of cow?” “What sorcery became of this scallop?” I’d go as far to say the service was as equally awe-inspiring as the menu itself.

Each plate was paired with a carefully selected glass of wine by sommelier Alex, my new best friend, who introduced me to Wildboy Chardonnay. This was, according to my boyfriend, and my bank-balance, a big mistake. We opted for the eight course wine flight, but there was also a five course option available. Alex took the time to discover our likes and dislikes, and tailored his recommendations individually, rather than to the group, meaning we tried a LOT of wine. I was in heaven.

At 1am, we reluctantly called it a night. We needed to be at breakfast in a matter of hours. Saturday started with a fresh hard-boiled hen egg, homemade granola and the best sausage I’ve ever eaten. As we sat there slathering the garden-herb butter on our perfectly toasted toast, my brother-in-law looked forlonly towards the walk-in cheese room. He’s sad he can’t fit in a cheese course. It’s not even 930am.

The Telegraph called Moor Hall a ‘temple of gastronomy’. Preach. We congregated at the alter of its open kitchen, prayed that no plate was the last and left worshipping Birchall and his team, I seem to recall by the end of the night we were quite literally breaking bread and sharing wine with them in the bar.

WHAT I ATE…

PS: Hindsight is a wonderful thing…had I anticipated the eight course wine flight, champagne cocktails and well-stocked mini-bar in our room, I might have thought better of committing to meeting friends at Manchester’s Mackie Mayor the next day…read all about it here

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