You couldn’t make it up, could you? Much has been written about the “Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms in Aughton” . But have you ever heard of marks out of 10 for bread and butter anywhere else? I suppose it’s to do with it deservedly being awarded a Michelin Star and being Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year.
Recently described in exotic terms as “offering a slab of roast chicken breast that was moist, cooked to the French point and not massacred by dry heat, the skin was crisp with chickeny fat that had been encouraged to gently seep away. Flavour was left draped over the plump juicy meat like a black silky negligee across the perfect, pale breasts of a Swedish movie actress”. It doesn’t get much better than that, as you can imagine! Not even in the Derby Arms, just along the road.
A critic wrote of its oasis of calm from the ornate (and original) wood panelled reception hall, to the comfortable bar lounge and the almost futuristic modernity of the dining room and open kitchen. “I’ve given up worrying about whether this sounds pretentious, but a meal at this level is comparable to some kind of high-brow artistic performance” she wrote, “Think of a beloved piece of classical music with familiar rhythms, magical harmonies, dramatic pauses and loud rousing bits. Every course – each the sum of a dozen or more parts and processes – has been designed as part of the meal as a whole. To isolate them would change the experience, which makes it difficult to extract a favourite course. Some dishes had me utterly flummoxed as to how they were made and others tapped into some kind of personal nostalgia as we reached into our memory for familiar tastes… was that corned beef… and that, erm, Quavers?”
And she wrote about “A parade of courses that stayed with me for days afterwards, I was most taken with one of the desserts: “Honey beer, Bramley apple, aged caramel and marigold” . On a compressed square of layered, sliced apple sat a crispy golden pastry basket (phyllo, brik, ouraka?) filled with what our server described as “apple mead rocks”. Wow! So was it good, or was it great? Neither. It was genius”.
“One particular dish, the aged beef in charcoal , is a thing of great beauty with clear, definitive flavours, all of which are deeply, madly, ridiculously in love with each other. Masterful. Four surprise starters: black pudding with pickled apple; smoked curd with potato, fermented garlic and flowers; raw mackerel with radish, purslane and nasturtium; and, finally, oyster with cured ham, dill and buttermilk. All four, one after another, took us completely by surprise. They were a huge statement and one after another scored ten out of ten. Each had a point of difference, each had one clear, bright burst of flavour, a mini super-nova surrounded by a genius, but not jostling, cast of supporting flavours and textures.
A special mention is required for a ginger ice cream affair of such gingery, spicy, creamy, deep flavour. Chef Birchall has built a dedicated cheese room, where you go and select your cheese. The result is an entirely British cheese course – a remarkable thing. Our cheese has now come of age and, curated properly, beats France easy.
But can you afford it? “The wine here is very accessible as regards price point and has enjoyed a good deal of time spent on it by a few knowledgeable individuals. The difficulty with a list of dishes like these is to match a bottle to it. Some places also take the piss when it comes to value. But here, a very good riesling as a starter glass at £8 up to £32 a bottle.Here a fabulous bottle of a classic light premier cru red Burgundy did the job”. Red wine starts at £7 a glass up to £49 a glass for Pinot Noir. “Our wine philosophy is simple, we want it to be fun, interactive, enjoyable and within reach of everyone. The sommelier team will be happy to talk through our wine pairing’s or to assist you in finding the right wine for your occasion. Our guests are welcome to bring their own wine that is not represented on our wine list; however there will be a corkage charge of £30 for still wines and £50 for sparkling wines”. No wonder there are 28 pages on the wine list!
At £95 for the eight course menu, it’s not cheap. But you don’t have to do the marathon because there are two other menus, one at £35 and another at £65. Though if you do go big, it’s recommended you put aside four hours! All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself)
• Food 9.5/10
Black Pudding 10, Curd 10, Mackerel 10, Oyster 10, Carrots 9, Crab and Asparagus 10, Beef 10, Scallop 10, Brill 10, Chicken 9, Lamb 10, Rhubarb 9, Ginger 10, Honey Beer 10, Bread and Butter 10, Cheese 10 (we’re afraid our tech doesn’t allow for quarter marks, or else the food would have scored a near perfect 9.75)
• Ambience 5/5 An oasis of refined calm
• Service 5/5 Outstanding
Wonder if they do a OAP lunch based on the state pension affordability test, because I can’t wait to taste it!