[Aughton, Lancashire] Moor Hall

This was the third time we’ve eaten here and the third time we’ve come away having totally enjoyed dinner. And, on one level, that’s something of a surprise to us. It’s a lengthy tasting menu and you just know the kitchen has worked long and hard to develop and perfect each dish. That inevitably means that, once it’s right, they’re going to stick with it. So, you pretty much end up eating the same meal as you did last time, albeit with dishes given minor tweaks to adjust for, say, seasonality. But that’s fine – these are dishes well worth a second or even third outing for us.

You start off in the bar where you’re served several snacks (a much better word than “canapes”). One change since last time, is that there is now a chef in the bar finishing them off, serving to you and explaining what you’re about to nibble. There was an excellent selection of house cured meats – a delicious fatty coppa, ham and a slightly weird (in a nice way) salami, slightly flavoured with curry. The next typifies the minor adjustments they make to the food. It’s a crisp black pudding shell, encasing a sharp fruit puree – apple last time, gooseberry now. And also a potato basket filled with smoked eel.

Once in the restaurant (surprisingly quiet, even for a midweek), there’s more snacks. Cod roe topped with caviar. And a lovely little bit of raw mackerel with very thinly sliced radish and a further peppery kick from tiny nasturtium leaves. The final one was exactly as we remembered it from last time – a single oyster with ham, with a bitterness coming from a dill powder (apparently they freeze with liquid nitrogen and blitz it into a powder) and a buttermilk dressing. It’s excellent. Around now, bread was served – excellent bread. A sourdough, I think. With two butters, including a vivid green one where the butter has been coloured with herbs from their garden

The first three “proper” courses were also much as we remembered them. A “textures of carrot” with a hefty sprinkle of “snow” – actually Doddington cheese given the liquid nitrogen treatment and blitzed. Turnip and crab was our favourite last time and I think it was again – it’s light and fresh and you wouldn’t believe how much flavour they get out of a turnip. Then there’s a beef tartare that comes with barbecued celeriac and shallots in a very poky mustard sauce.

Lobster was the centre of the next dish but different from last time with the use of kohlrabi (perhaps the world’s most pointless vegetable) and asparagus. Then perfectly cooked monkfish with mussel, salsify and hen of the wood mushroom. The final savoury course was Herdwick lamb. I am going to thoroughly enjoy any preparation of Herdwick – it’s a relatively rare breed only raised in Cumbria and I reckon it to the best flavoured lamb you’ll find in the UK. Here, there’s perfectly pink loin, paired with smoked broccoli. And, served alongside, a little bowl of a powerfully flavoured offal ragout with slices of heart.

At this point, we were asked if we wanted to take an extra cheese course. We did. They also ask if you want it pre or post dessert. That’ll be pre, please. The idea of the British style of going back to something savoury after the desserts just doesn’t work for us. They take great pride in their cheese and we are escorted off to the “cheese room” to make our selection. Yes, they actually do have a separate tiny room, off the restaurant, where they keep the cheese slightly chilled. It’s probably the “room temperature” of Victorian times. There must have been twenty cheeses in there – all British or Irish. The server talks us through them and we pick six to share. They come with three different sorts of house made cracker, an onion pickle and a rhubarb “jelly” – like the Spanish membrillo. All the cheeses are in perfect condition. A delight to eat.

The first dessert is, as last time, a ginger ice cream topped with shreds of a root. That’s followed by green strawberries and sweet cicely and the richness of cream cheese. It’s sweet but not overly so. Really nice. And, finally, a quite complex apple affair that the menu describes as “Worcester Pearmain, woodruff, birch sap and marigiold”.

Coffee was good and came with three different petit fours – the standout being a single bite chocolate tart.

I don’t drink alcohol but my companion in life took the wine pairing. The sommelier fully explained all the choices and they were an excellent selection. The rest of the service was also faultless in itself. Whilst we didn’t feel rushed through the courses, there was little breathing space between them. Yes, I know it can be a fine line over this with tasting menus and rather this than the finger tapping waits you sometimes get.

When we were here last August, it was shortly before the Michelin awards were announced. My review then said I was sure they would retain their star – never thinking that they would gain a second one so quickly. When it was announced, I wondered whether I’d actually eaten a two star meal. Now I’ve no doubt about it. Moor Hall is certainly a place we’ll return to but think we might give it a break for 12 months or so to see how the menu develops – it’d be a shame if we ended up getting bored with it.