If I had to turn 40, I was going to do it my way. No big party, but a magnificent meal. It didn’t take much to persuade Andrew to book us for a night at Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire.
I’m struggling with what to say because it was just astounding. So I will share it with you in pictures instead.
Moor Hall is a beautiful 16th century hall which has been restored. It sits in it’s own grounds, with a large pond at the front (they call it a lake, but that is pushing it!), the barn restaurant to the side (more on that later) and the gardens to the back.
The gardens are beautiful and functional- chef patron Mark Birchall uses them to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits. Guests are welcome to walk around them, and the chefs were busy selecting items for the evening service when we strolled round. Its a hive of activity, yet at the same time very peaceful.
The bedroom was GORGEOUS. All very understated, but all very high end. We looked out over the front, and to be honest if I could have that bathroom I’d happily have moved in! There was a little welcome card, Nespresso which made Andrew very happy, and a pile of current magazines – which I took out into the garden with a drink.
Downstairs, it was dark wood, comfy furniture and mood lighting. I was sad that it was too early (September 1) for the fire to be roaring as that bar would be heavenly when it is cold outside.
A drink before dinner came with house-made coppa and, well basically giant posh Quavers! There was a great selection of drinks, and I enjoyed a spiced non alcoholic cocktail made with Seedlip.
The Moor Hall taster menu
You have to go 8 courses on a Friday and Saturday, and we really weren’t complaining at the prospect!
The restaurant has that high end rough-hewn look which I loved. The attention to detail was astounding. For example, see those little pieces of wood on the table? They were used for knives in a later course…
…but they had been made out of the original beams in the barn. So there was a little piece of the building’s history on every table. Love it.
Before the main menu began, we were served little appetisers to get us in the mood for the meal ahead.
It started strong. If we had eaten nothing but these little black pudding parcels, I would have left happy (ok, and hungry. But happy). You know that cereal which is filled with oozy chocolate and 5,000 calories? Well, this is like that but filled with soft black pudding.
The black pudding was followed by oyster with cured ham and dill (the bright green powder), smoked eel in potato cups (above) and raw mackerel.
The taster menu
You’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘baked carrots’ with cheese didn’t sound, well, fancy. But these baked carrots came with dried doddington cheese – made up in the north east – were a highlight of the night. The cheese had taken on a Parmesan texture in the drying process (which I think was freeze-drying) and the carrots were naturally sweet.
Turnip and crab – wafer thin baby turnip slices and sweet crab. It was like a tiny painting, with the purple flecks being anise hyssop. Every dish was garnished with seasonal herbs and flowers which we saw growing in the garden. But this was another level of garnish.
Holstein Friesian – served raw, such a dramatic dish with sharp mustard.
Native lobster – with Lancashire tomatoes and smoked marrow.
Monkfish – with sea veggies and mussel cream. Of course the cream was infused with more flavour, that extra layer of flavour is what makes everything here so special. The courgettes are still tiny and sweet.
Roast grouse – with sweet, earthy beetroot.
At some point, bread and butters came out, including this. No, not a cinnamon roll, but onion bread. Yes, I will take 100 to freeze please!
It’s not over yet. Dessert was still to come.
Gingerbread – with pine. Very distinctive.
Tarleton strawberries. I thought English strawberry season was over (it was the start of September) but these were still sweet and served with cream cheese and sweet cicely for a slightly aniseedy flavour.
Cherries – with almond (natch). sorrel and woodruff. Moor Hall is serving up these edible plants as major players in the dishes, not just un-named garnish. And they were all so perfectly matched.
And because it was my birthday, we had an extra dessert – look, candyfloss!
Alas, we couldn’t fit in any cheese, but we still had a nose around the cheese room and marvelled at the British is best ethos in there – they have made their own trail batch and plan to introduce it to the menu in the future.
There was no faulting the evening: food, venue, drinks (my non-alcoholic requests were met!) and service were all perfect. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it down for brekkie the next morning – and I can’t tell you how gutted I was. Andrew tried to tell me how fabulous it was, but I was so upset that I didn’t get to try it for myself.
8 weeks later…
A few weeks after our visit, Mark and the team received a second Michelin star which is astonishing when you consider that they are less than two years open. We went back at the end of October to visit The Barn at Moor Hall for our wedding anniversary. Sunday lunch was awesome, there was a chap playing piano and while the food was being served in a more informal style, it is all still top rate.
Our roast beef was aged onsite (there is an aging room downstairs in the barn, along with the room where they make charcuterie and what looks to be a dairy room) and thanks to Moor Hall I can no longer accept a Yorkshire pudding unless it is stuffed with mash and slow cooked beef! The cheeseboard came with pickled grapes, homemade crackers and a malt loaf. It is wonderful.
We are incredibly lucky to live so close to Moor Hall and I know that we will visit again for a special occasion, and will be taking friends to try The Barn. Hopefully at some point, I will get to try that breakfast too!
SHE LOVES: eating food that is in tune with the season and the locality, made by people with a passion and served with care.