Previously executive chef at two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume, Mark Birchall has brought his own distinctive style to this restaurant-with-rooms housed within a historic 16th-century manor house. Champagne and canapés served next to an open fire in a wood-panelled lounge set the historic scene, but the dining room couldn’t look any more up-to-date.
A huge open kitchen runs down one side of the room while floor-to-ceiling windows take up the other walls, with views over lawns onto an azalea-fringed pond where the moat used to be. Modern and laid back, it is “a wonderful setting for a delightful and unique tasting menu,” according to fans.
Much of the restaurant’s produce is grown on the five-acre estate or sourced locally – Aughton sits in the middle of some of the most fertile farmland in the country – and the result is two tasting menus showcasing Birchall’s innovation and formidable talents.
Appetisers of crisp, light black pudding parcels set the tone for a series of beautifully presented dishes demonstrating impressive skill and attention to detail. A pretty plate of baked carrots is dressed with chrysanthemum and sea buckthorn, monkfish is cooked on the bone with a mussel and squash stew, while Holstein Friesian is partnered by barbecued celeriac, mustard and shallots. To finish, herbally embellished desserts could include Worcester Pearmain with woodruff, almond and whey caramel, but don’t miss out on a visit to the dedicated cheese room.
Young staff – many of them locals – deliver friendly, knowledgeable service, while there are eye-opening wine suggestions from the sommelier team, who are just as happy to accommodate classic old-world tastes as more adventurous palates.
Seven bedrooms, meanwhile, make Moor Hall a valid destination for a gourmet mini-break – not least because The Barn over the pond offers more straightforward cooking from Birchall to entice for a second night’s stay.
Professional service, flawless cooking and elegant surroundings – Moor Hall cries out for repeat visits. “I absolutely love it”, declaims one convert.