This was our second visit to Moor Hall - we were last here in November 2017. Although we generally prefer traditional three course meals these days, the occasional high end tasting menu gives you an opportunity to eat things that you wouldn’t instinctively order. And the only choice to be made at Moor Hall is whether to have the five or eight course tasting. We went for eight, of course. I suppose one of the issues with tasting menus is that each course has taken ages to develop and perfect so, once it’s right, it’s going to stay on the menu, maybe with some slight seasonal variation, for ages. So, on the one hand, it was slightly disappointing to feel a familiarity with the four snacks that served before the first of the “official” courses and, indeed, with a number of those courses. On the other hand, they were all delicious last year and so they were again.
The first of the snacks is a single bite thin, crisp shell encasing black pudding and pickled apple puree – classic flavour combination. Then smoked eel in a crisp potato basket, followed by raw mackerel with thinly sliced radish and purslane. You needed a spoon for the final snack – a poached oyster with ham, a lot of dill and a buttermilk dressing.
The first proper course is a sort of “textures of carrot” affair – tiny baby ones, slightly larger baked ones, puree. One of the chefs comes to add a powder of Doddington cheese. I remember the explanation of this from last time – they turn the cheese into a powder and then freeze it, so it goes on your plate as a “snow”, contrasting well with the carrots. Really clever.
Somewhere around here, bread was served. Really good bread with two butters – one cultured (nope, no idea what that means) and a herb one. Later a brioche would be served which incorporated caramelised onions – outstanding!
The combination of turnip and crab was my favourite dish last time and I think it was again. There’s both white and brown meat, thinly sliced turnip, a lovely little background flavour from anise hyssop. And it’s dressed with a broth that manages to get more deliciousness out of a turnip than you would have thought possible. Next up, beef tartare with celeriac, mustard and shallots – the mustard giving it a very butch flavour and, perhaps, a little too much of one. My partner has an aversion to raw meat so the kitchen provided a dish of BBQ’d celeriac – it was the better of the two plates.
Neither of us is particularly keen on lobster and, here, it was just ever so slightly chewy, as it can be. It comes with the most tomatoey cooked cherry tomatoes and unctuous diced bone marrow. There’s monkfish next, perfectly cooked. It’s a really pretty looking plate with artfully placed thin strips of baby courgette giving a slight texture contrast (but they have little flavour) and a cream mussel flavoured sauce.
We weren’t sure what we were going to get next. The menu in the bar had said it would be grouse but the menu on our table said duck. It was very seasonal grouse, the shooting season only being a couple of weeks old. The preparation seemed very much like the duck dish we’d had last year. Grouse is a mild flavoured bird and perhaps it doesn’t stand up to the accompanying beetroot chunks and blackcurrant puree as well as duck does. Served separately, was a little bowl of a ragout made from the offal which I’d have been happy to eat by the bucket load – absolutely delicious.
That was the end of the savoury courses and the first of three desserts was a ginger icecream, really tasty with little dice of ginger in it. It’s topped with shreds of candied root vegetable. Next, strawberries had been sliced and macerated (?) and come with a dab of cream cheese. And, finally, there are cherries, including a cherry sorbet, an almond ice cream and sugar shards. It’s a delight and my partner’s favourite dish of the evening.
Service had been excellent throughout the evening. Staff are on the ball and the kitchen paces dishes exceptionally well. My partner had taken the wine flight and the sommelier’s matching of the wines to the food was absolutely spot on, his enthusiasm for them was very engaging. I’m writing this review a few weeks before this year’s Michelin awards are announced – I’m in no doubt that Moor Hall will retain its star. We’d had a lovely evening.
(Happy birthday, Emlyn. You’ll have a great time)