Were you to eat anywhere in the UK right now, where would you go? If you’re having to pause for thought, you clearly haven’t tried Moor Hall yet. Go. Go now.
Read the rest of this article on the way. Just trust me and start packing, because you’ll want to stay the night – and as it’s in West Lancashire, you’ll probably need to.
Moor Hall is not a hotel per se, but rather a two-Michelin starred restaurant with rooms. And a bar. And five acres of beautiful gardens. And a second one-Michelin starred restaurant. But everything is aimed at one thing – fine dining as an experience.
Assuming you have now left your house, you’ll want to get your foot down to arrive before 5pm. That way you’ll be invited to enjoy a complimentary afternoon tea. Expect the prettiest slice of pork pie you’ve ever seen – and a feather-light choux bun filled with fresh berries and meadowsweet. If it’s warm enough to sit outside, you’ll witness kitchen staff scurrying to and from the garden picking various vegetables, herbs and flowers ready for the evening’s service.
The garden is somewhere between a Chelsea Flower Show entry and a miniature farm. There are pristine box hedges and a lawn as manicured as Centre Court next to rows of vegetables lined up like soldiers, and vines of apple trees obediently trailing around foot-high cast iron fencing.
Moor Hall and Grounds
Next, it’s to the bar, where the theatre really begins. Situated in the original part of the 13th-century, Grade II-listed property it’s a beautiful spot to enjoy a glass or several, with cocktails mixed in front of you from a trolley. As delicious as they are, they soon play backing tracks to the snacks. There are no fewer than six courses of snacks – each delicate and delicious, and masterpieces in their own right.
From here, you’ll be taken on a short meander through the garden, past the greenhouses full of mouthwatering micro herbs, then inside for a tour of the kitchen where you can see the painstaking preparation. And finally a stop at the pass to enjoy your final snack – and meet head chef Mark Birchall. Birchall is a softly spoken mild-mannered man, but clearly has laser focus and an obsessive attention to detail. Which explains what comes next: one of the best meals you’ll ever be lucky enough to eat.
The dining room is very Scandi chic – bright beams and glass for days – like a miniature cathedral, where the adjacent kitchen stands proudly as an altar.
One of the things that’s so exciting about the cooking here is the way it makes you reconsider your preconceptions. Oysters for example, are poached in buttermilk – making them beautifully plump with a firmer bite. My wife said they were one of the nicest things she’s ever eaten. And she doesn’t like oysters.
The same happened to me a course later. I fervently dislike black pudding – but this is not black pudding as you know it. It’s a delicate mousse served with a bite of pickled gooseberry. It was good enough to make a grown man cry. So I did a little bit. And not just because I’d been on the wines.
Which, by the way, are as intoxicating and creative as the food. Take ‘Rescued Zweigelt’, for example – a grape I’d never even heard of – and in this instance only 1,100 bottles made from a 2005 vintage aged on the lees for 13 years. It was rich and intense – which can also be said for one of Birchall’s signature winter dishes: Sladesdown duck, blackcurrant and sweetcorn with beetroot ragu and whey. What this man can do with beetroot is something truly special. And don’t even get me started on the tenderness of that duck.
Dining room and kitchens
There were so many twists, turns and tantalising tastes to this menu – but I won’t spoil the surprises any further. If this review still hasn’t convinced you, then consider this: Mark Birchall was crowned ‘Best Chef in the UK’ after winning the Chefs’ Chef of the Year award at this year’s AA Hospitality Awards. And Moor Hall has won Best Restaurant in England for two consecutive years at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards.
It really is that good. Go now. I’ll race ya!
For more information, see moorhall.com