The sister to the two-Michelin-starred restaurant at Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire, offers a more relaxed and accessible experience for diners. Giovanna Grossi reports
According to its chef-patron Mark Birchall, Moor Hall, with its two restaurants, is a “Mecca for good food”. However, it hasn’t always been so. Aughton, the location of the seven-bedroom property, situated between Liverpool, Manchester and Preston, has traditionally been an area where good restaurants are thin on the ground, despite the abundance of great produce nearby.
Just over two years ago, Lancashire-born Birchall, together with business partners Andy and Tracey Bell, opened Moor Hall following an extensive transformation of the Grade II-listed, 16th-century manor house. Today, with its duo of eateries, kitchen garden and cheese room, the property has put the area firmly on the culinary map.
While the main 50-seat restaurant has hit the headlines, receiving a Michelin star seven months after opening and a second in October 2018, the Barn, located in a converted farm building, is the more relaxed, understated eating experience. The restaurant, which opened seven months after the launch of Moor Hall, features original beams and rustic brickwork, with an open kitchen and integral bar. It’s the type of neighbourhood restaurant where customers are happy to return a couple of nights a week, as well as for Sunday lunch.
Birchall says the space was originally going to be a cookery school, “but that wasn’t really me”; hence the idea for a more casual, 65-seat outlet, employing the same techniques as in the main restaurant and using the same quality produce, sourced either from Moor Hall’s five-acre estate or from local suppliers, making the most of the bounty offered by Lancashire’s fertile soil.
Despite the stars, Birchall is keen to emphasise that he keeps his style of cooking at both sites relatively simple, uninfluenced by trends which may draw in the critics. He recently told The Caterer: “What matters more is the level of care, whether it’s the ingredients or the cooking.”
A stellar CV outlines Birchall’s experience at some of the most-lauded culinary establishments in the UK, taking him from the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, to Northcote in Langho, Lancashire. Nine years at L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, allowed him to perfect his techniques. He also spent three months at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, as the winner of the 2011 Roux Scholarship. Each establishment has helped shape Birchall’s cooking today, as he guides the Barn’s head chef, Nathan Cornwell, and the brigade of seven.
The Barn offers a selection of menus. The à la carte features a choice of six starters, seven mains and four desserts and there is also a set lunch menu at £19 for two courses or £23 for three, which increases to £31 and £38 for two and three courses respectively on Sunday.
Meanwhile, an impressive range of vegetarian dishes are listed on a separate menu, with main courses including pot-roasted cauliflower, slow-cooked duck yolk, spiced seeds and Tunworth cheese (£15), and Jerusalem artichoke, baked carrot and alliums (£13).
Birchall says some of the best-sellers reflect the demand for lighter dishes, and
include confit Lune salmon, new potato salad and smoked roe (£11), and roast Orkney scallops with new season peas, baby Gem, cured pork neck and hazelnuts (£17). However, come the weekend, diners are often swayed by the selection of four aged steak cuts, cooked on a charcoal grill and served with chips, wild mushroom fricassée and a choice of peppercorn or béarnaise sauce. The steak options are priced from £28 for a 90-day-aged 200g rump cap to £75 for a 40-day-aged wing rib for two to share.
The Barn serves around 400 covers a week, with an average spend per head of £35, and it offers a 43-strong wine list with a choice of 12 available by the glass.
Open five days a week (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), the restaurant is proving popular with both business and leisure guests.
“Diners include locals from Lancashire and neighbouring Merseyside, as well as those travelling from Greater Manchester, Cheshire and even further afield,” says Birchall.
From the menu
• Black pudding fritter, savora mustard £4
• Charcuterie – coppa, salami, saucisson, pepperoni with pickles £13
• Mackerel, cucumber, dill, elderflower £9
• Salt-aged duck breast, beetroot, chicory, gooseberry £26
• Roast Herdwick lamb, Jerusalem artichoke, suet pudding, purple sprouting broccoli £28
• Cod loin, potato purée, spinach, tartare butter sauce £18
• Spiced pear, honey parfait, almond, thyme £8
• Chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse, brandy snap, cherry £9
• Choux bun, Yorkshire rhubarb, custard, blood orange sorbet £8
The Barn at Moor Hall, Prescot Road,
Aughton, Lancashire L39 6RT