Mark Birchall’s Lancashire restaurant Moor Hall has been on a pretty good run since it opened in 2017. It’s picked up two Michelin stars, a Michelin green star, five AA Rosettes, and has previously topped the National Restaurant Awards – even now it sits at No.2, only behind Ynyshir in Wales – so Moor Hall still wears the ‘Best Restaurant in England’ crown.

Safe to say then, this is one restaurant we were very happy to make the journey out of London for, especially as we bagged ourselves one of the seven bedrooms available for an overnight stay on a recent summer weekend. If the rooms are snapped up, however, you could easily visit Moor Hall for lunch or dinner from a base in Liverpool or Manchester – we stayed in Manchester the night before and just got a cab over to Moor Hall the next day, which took about 45 minutes and Liverpool is even closer. Nothing beats the full experience of staying over if you can manage it though, and luckily there are seven more rooms under construction, so there’ll be a bit more space from next year onwards. 

The restaurant and five of the guest rooms are located in a beautiful Grade II-listed house, dating all the way back to 1533. It’s been modernised over the years, but there are some wonderful old features like the huge stone fireplace in the lounge, dark wood panelling, and the gnarled old wooden door that serves as the main entrance. The restaurant itself is in a new glass-walled extension that juts out from the far end of the old building like a futuristic barn.

If you’re staying over, make sure you arrive in the afternoon as you’ll be able to sit down in the lounge for a cup of tea and some brilliant snacks – you can choose a sweet or a savoury, or both. Obviously we had both, stating with a lovely slice of pork and pistachio pie with piccalilli and then a choux bun filled with strawberries and meadowsweet cream. A small taste of the brilliance to come. 

We then had a couple of hours before dinner so we checked into our room, which was one of the five in the main building. It’s clear the rooms aren’t just a bed for the night for inebriated guests – proper care and thought has been put in. Ours had a big comfy bed, sofa, fireplace, and all those little bits you need like ironing board and iron, hairdryer, and dressing table. No excuse for not looking your best for dinner then. We loved the big freestanding bathtub too, as well as the beautiful views from the window seats overlooking the grounds. 

Then, dinner time. We started in the lounge with a quick succession of excellent snacks, alongside a glass of fizz from Gusbourne in Kent. There was freshly carved slices of charcuterie, which are all made in house; black pudding mousse with pickled gooseberry; a delicate little pea tart with chorizo and cornflowers; and whipped cod’s roe with caviar. All serious flavour bombs. 

Before going through to dinner you are given a quick tour of the kitchen garden, which grows many of the ingredients used in the dishes. The team can pluck things from the ground and have them in the kitchen in seconds. Finally, we’re whizzed through the kitchen where we pick up one final snack – the best of the bunch – smoked eel in a nest of crisp potato with fermented garlic. The flavours are still popping on that one a good minute after we’ve been led through to the dining room and seated at our table. 

Dinner more than fulfils the promise of those early snacks. Among the many highlights there’s a beautiful poached oyster, served with a buttermilk sauce dotted with dill oil, and thin slices of white beetroot that provides a nice fresh crunch against the soft, creamy oyster; a spectacular beef tartare with barbecued beetroot mustard and shallot; and turbot cooked on the bone and served with courgettes from the garden, shrimp, and sea greens. Then there’s the show-stopping roast duck served with girolle, sweetcorn and beans ragout, plus a duck liver mousse on the side with incredible onion breads. 

Strawberries from the garden served with frozen pearls of ragstone cheese; merchant cherries with woodruff and oxalis; and honey from Moor Hall’s own bee hives with gooseberry, mead and sour cream finish things (and us) off very nicely. Having to just roll upstairs to bed was very welcome.

One of the best things about staying over at Moor Hall is breakfast the next morning, which is almost a little tasting menu in itself. There’s house cultured yoghurt with garden berries and granola; bread, butter, salami, and croissants; whisky barrel smoked salmon and rye bread; and a skillet of sausages, bacon, house-made black pudding, and boiled eggs. An epic brekkie that more than set us up for the train ride back to London. 

Moor Hall is a truly rewarding experience and definitely worthy of its awards and accolades. England doesn’t have many true ‘destination’ restaurants but this is undoubtedly one of them, and it should be high on the list of anyone that loves eating out. If, like us, you’re happy to travel to seek out special restaurants, then this is one trip we can highly recommend you go on. 

Prescot Road, Aughton, Lancashire, L39 6RT