A Lancashire restaurant that clocked up two Michelin stars within two years of opening has been crowned the best in the UK, as more restaurants in the north of England and Scotland gained plaudits in the industry awards than ever before.
Moor Hall in Aughton, which offers seasonal modern British cuisine in an unstuffy country house setting, is one of 23 north of England and Scottish eateries named in Restaurant magazine’s top 100 after its annual poll, now in its 12th year.
The winners were announced at the National Restaurant Awards ceremony at the Hurlingham Club in London on Monday night.
Moor Hall’s leap to the top from No 6 last year means the No 1 slot returns to a restaurant outside of the capital. This year, 46 of the top 100 restaurants are located outside London.
The awards are judged by a panel of more than 200 experts including food writers, chefs and restaurateurs. The UK is split into 11 regions, with judges voting for the top seven restaurants they have dined at in the last 12 months, in order of preference.
The restaurant at Moor Hall, in a refurbished Grade II-listed 16th-century farmhouse with seven guest rooms, is overseen by its chef-patron, Mark Birchall, who made his name as executive chef at the two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria.
“Mark is an incredibly talented chef who has a clear ambition to not just create one of the best restaurants in the UK but in the world,” said Stefan Chomka, the editor of Restaurant magazine. “Moor Hall is an almost immaculate experience. Mark’s food is clever and inventive but also delicious, the service is exceptional and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It’s an outstanding restaurant that deserves its title as the best in the UK.”
Nestling in five acres of grounds, where most of its produce is grown, by a lake in low-lying Lancashire farmland, the former private residence was bought by Andy and Tracey Bell in 2015 and underwent a multimillion-pound renovation before reopening in 2017. Last year the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars.
Prices for the lunch and dinner tasting menus start from £65 a person and in the slew of five-star ratings on TripAdvisor, the only criticism was the largely unchanged nature of the foods, ranging from smoked eel canapés to a dessert of gingerbread with roots and pine.
Second best is the hit London restaurant Brat, in Shoreditch. The food there was hailed by the Observer’s restaurant critic Jay Rayner in a recent review as “both seemingly effortless and utterly lovely”. Three other restaurants in the capital follow: Cornerstone, Core by Clare Smyth and Sabor. The list then returns to the north-west, with sixth place going to Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume.