Moor Hall is a building with a back story at the beginning of an auspicious new chapter in its life.
To dine or stay here is to become part of the new narrative for the grade 11 listed 16th century Jacobean manor house, once home to an army of maids and servants and now witness to a plethora of kitchen , waiting staff and exquisitely trained front of house personalities as part of its rebirth as a restaurant with rooms.
After purchase by Andy and Tracey Bell in 2015, Moor Hall at Aughton near Ormskirk has undergone a huge transformation, taking the beautiful detail of the house back to its original grandeur with many a modern twist - thanks to the vision of interior designer Martin Nealon.
There is a bar, lounge and state of the art kitchen along with a glass 50-seater restaurant filled with light and its very own cheese room and wine room.
Accommodation wise there are seven luxury rooms. Work on the transformation of an additional barn is ongoing for a contemporary casual dining experience plus charcuterie, dairy,curing and a meat ageing room.
But Moor Hall’s physical transformation is just part of the story.
The Bells embarked upon this venture with new business partner Mark Birchall, who as chef patron, brings an inarguable sense of class to the project, which opened to bookings from March.
Formerly Exexutive Chef of the two Michelin-starred Enclume at Cartmel and previously winner of the Roux scholarship, this Chorley-born (Adlington) Lancashire lad is working to bring something very special to the county where he learned to cook (he credits luxury hotel Northcote for this groundwork).
He doesn’t disappoint.
Right from the off there is a sense of drama to a visit to Moor Hall.
You enter the stone gates of the five acre property from a rural road, before driving down a gravel drive to the front of the white manor house.
If you are lucky enough to arrive in daylight on a fine day, you can look across the stripy mowed lawn to the small lake, busy with ducks and geese, and imagine yourself back a few centuries with the exception of the barn building work in progress and the car park.
This is an illusion which continues into the reception area, where we are seated in front of the huge Jacobean fireplace and offered a non-alcoholic infusion while perusing the menu from our sofas.
There are just two choices - either the five course tasting menu (priced at £65) or the eight (priced at £95). Lunch menus start from £35.
You can opt for wine-pairing as well though we opted to choose ours from the considerable wine list.
Then from the historic atmosphere of the lounge into the brightness of the modern and quietly buzzing restaurant, where our maitre’d explained with dramatic aplomb, the way the taster menu worked and with a flourish, produced the ‘real menu’ with the additional surprise courses we would be presented with, in a folded menu with a wax seal.
To reveal or not ?
We chose not and left them on the table.
We slightly regretted this later when a waft of air to our candle set fire to one menu, causing extra dramatic flair where none was needed.. (we did not burn anything down - phew).
Inflagrations aside, it was the food and attention to detail that set light to our evening.
Course after course of meticulously prepared, flavoured and sourced foods, all beautifully presented to us along with explanations of every dish from the waiting staff.
I estimate we actually ate twelve courses, without counting the beautifully baked fresh breads that kept appearing (the onion bread just melted in the mouth)
Each dish was on or in a different, unique, individually crafted plate or bowl.
The thought that has gone into this entire experience is breathtaking.
From black pudding parcels, to oysters with buttermilk sauce and dill, to carrots with sea buckthorn and Doddington hard cheese to white and brown crab with asparagus spears and a turnip broth - there were no fails on this menu and enough to entice even the most reluctant of tastebuds.
Sadly, we simply not manage a cheese course, though a glimpse proved the cheese room looked amazing.
Even the tea came with ceremony – a mint tea order brought along a tea expert to expertly infuse and pour at the side of the table.
As the final flourish we were invited to the kitchen to meet Mr Birchall himself.
An honour Sir – the next step is a Michelin star no doubt.
Moor Hall restaurant with rooms, Prescot road, Aughton L39 6RT
Telephone: 01695 572 511
Value for money 4/5