[ Kirkby/Aughton ] Moor Hall (barn)

So, first - the location. Watch the Estrella Damm sponsored ( :nauseated_face: ) video which is now on the main website and you would never know that as well as being in leafy Lancashire, Moor Hall is in fact on the back road between Kirkby and Ormskirk. Why do I mention this ? Kirkby is one of the most deprived towns in the country. I grew up 5 minutes away. So, whenever I think of Moor hall it always make me smile to think of the 2* baggers parachuting in to the ‘Lancashire countryside’ without a clue where they actually are…

Anyway…it is three years since I was here at the ‘proper’ ** restaurant and this was my first visit to what Mark Birchall himself describes ( in said video ) as their ‘little casual dining restaurant’ in the Barn.

First impression as you drive in is, for me, ‘we’re not in Kirkby any more.’ I was struck how much the gardens and entrance ( the ‘planting’ or ‘landscaping’, dahling ) have been improved, or are just better kept and mature now. I remember it seeming quite sparse before, but now we have full on slick car park and walk-through to the restaurant or Barn ( kept well apart so the hoi polloi don’t accidentally come into contact with the baggers :slight_smile: )

The entrance to the barn is a tad underwhelming. The restaurant is upstairs but they have someone stationed downstairs at a little lectern who checks you’ve got a reservation and aren’t just there to make sure the car park isn’t visible while your mates get that Porsche onto a low loader. It could be any restaurant anywhere. It weirdly feels like I’m in some kind of modern municipal office building, or behind the scenes at a swimming pool. A nice one, though. Not Kirkby baths.
This is probably all ‘just me’. Haven’t been out much in last 18 months. However, if I hadn’t been to the proper gaff Id have been worried, I think.
Happily, I’d have been wrong to worry.

Once upstairs, that casual restaurant room itself is busy and buzzy. So busy our table isn’t ready so we are invited to sit at the bar which is in the middle of the room. This is psychologically quite challenging as we haven’t been out much for the last 18 months ( did I already mention that ? :slight_smile: ), but gin conquers all. The room still has screens up between tables, so that helps too. Plus they are so beautifully done that it takes ten minutes for us to even notice they are there.

Oh yeah ? The food ?
On the whole, beautifully done too.
You order yer starters and your mains ( circa 15 quid for starters and 25-30 for mains ) but you also get

Delivered together you have some wafer ( and I mean wafer ) thin coppa ( lovely, thank you ) and a cheese tart. In the main resto one of my favourite things to eat was a smoked eel tart which they told us was meant to taste like a smoky bacon crisp. They never said this but I’m think perhaps the intention was for this tart to taste like a cheese and onion crisp. If it was, something is going very right in that kitchen. If they didn’t, something is going very wrong in my brain. Probably both. Either way it was delicious. As in ‘I could eat a plateful of those’ delicious.

Next up… Amuse

This was squash puree with yoghurt and small discs of potato and toasted seeds. It came with their own sourdough foccacia ( just take a moment for the conjunction of those two words to register ) and was much nicer than I am making it sound. The bread was just as nice as it sounds.

Highlight reel 1 were the starters

Red Mullet for me. Beautifully crispy skin. Served with a tomato gazpacho and Tarleton tomatoes ( whatever ) it was light and elegant and I want to know what oil they had put with the gazpacho because it was, well, I cant lick the plate clean in here can I…but I can use that bread to mop up every last bit. My other half had beef tartare. That was lovely in itself but it came with a mini brioche and beef butter ( fat ? dripping ? )and the advice was to use that to scoop up the tartare. It was exactly as rich and comforting as it sounds. Id never had beef tartare like this before. My word, I’d have it again if I went back there.

Right, so these were both good but not amazing. Plus there was more plate than food and it is at this point that I think my mates and my parents would either stage some kind of protest, or be looking for the waiter to ask when the illustration was being taken away and their ‘actual tea’ delivered. Other half had monkfish and I had duck. Both were lovely but two slices of duck and two small pieces of monkfish. For 28 quid and 30 quid respectively. Come on guys, just one more piece each - is it too much to ask ? We had ordered some Jersey spuds as a side. Just as well and for a fiver you got a proper bowlful and a proper load of butter on them too. I think the carbs loading with the bread is key here ,as you still feel full ( comfortably full , not Hungry Horse full) at the end of the evening.

A game of two halves, Brian.
I of course chose The Wrong Pudding.
Honey parfait and plumbs. How idyllic does that sound as we move into autumn? With the deft touch shown everywhere else so far, expectations were high. Sadly they were crushed by a rogue element - plum sorbet. The baffling thing is that it wasn’t even in the description, and as you know they put every last molecule into the descriptions. If it had been I wouldn’t have ordered it. The sorbet was too sharp and socked the delicate parfait off the plate. When they asked for feedback on the puds I told them this. They looked a bit shocked. People never actually want feedback when they ask for it, do they ?
Other half’s pud, by contrast was a master work, a symphony. It was blackberries with a meadowsweet cream and hazelnut meringue. It sang , it soared. It was wonderful. Can I have one of those instead of mine, please ? No, that’s what you get for always wanting to share, you greedy man.

So all in all, as our first proper tea out this year, this was great experience. For what we had ( gripes about the mains aside ) it was good value, I felt, at 159 - albeit only one of us was drinking.

The staff were friendly and informative and it felt like they might be using this place to train up folk for the full ** gaff. Sensible idea if so. The only awkward interaction we had was with the guy who came to take payment - a different person to those who had served us all night and who we had at least developed some rapport with , so odd in itself. He had obviously been told to chat to people as he relived them of their cash. so we told him it was our first meal out this year…at which point he said we should ‘Take care to make more time for ourselves’.
You what, lad ? There’s been a pandemic on, that’s why we haven’t been out, FFS. Sometimes, if you have nothing to say, its best to say nothing at all.
Which no doubt you will agree with having ploughed through this :slight_smile:

The good news though, Mr H, is that it looks like the Christmas Party is in safe hands …only the government (sic ) can stop you now !


Excellent review, mate.

You had my full attention at “sourdough foccacia”. And I share your pain at miserly portions (see my recent review of the 1* Angel at Hetton).

Yeah, roll on the “Office Xmas Party”, although that is in the main gaff, not the outhouse (sorry, Barn).

Yeah, but is this 1* food? The fat tyre bloke seems to think so. But then he doesnt think Adam Reid at The French is. So, what does he know? Worth a schlep from deepest Stockport?

Hmmm. Discussed this tricky question with other half last night. I’m not sure I’ve been to enough 1* places to comment, though comment I will nevertheless…
The main Moor Hall only had 1* when I ate there and there is a country mile (even with French tyres beneath your wings ) between the two. When I’ve been to l’Enclume, twice ,it had 2* each time - first time amazing second time with shtty table and patchy service, much les so.
As for t’Barn, we actually went back in October with her brother and his partner and i was slightly less impressed than i had been first time. Herself thinks it is my ‘never go back’ syndrome but neither of us are convinced its a one star experience, and that, again, is largely down to the room. This was probably more apparent on a second visit in a party of 4,but the bar in the middle of the room thing doesn’t really work. It means you don’t really have that nice, sit with the menu and a G&T, relax into it, get taken through to the dining room, enjoyable feeling of effortless transition ( or edgy transition, depending on how you like your transitions, of course). You kind of arrive and go straight to your table. With just two of us we did sit at the bar ( as table wasn’t ready ) but both felt a bit exposed and because it is in the middle of the room, no one else was sat there, so it doesn’t really feel like a bar,. It feels like astop gap where they do the dinks and where they put you if, er, your table aint ready. So it feels like the optimal experience is you turn up and sit down and for me when we had table of four, it just felt a bit less special all round. I was more aware of the other diners, we were sat one half of us facing the wall and the other two into the restaurant too. It just felt more like moderately nice room than 'wow this is a1
night out’

The food is also excellent in parts but patchy. Both times we’ve been the snack was the same - and, of course, delicious but the same = feels a bit less delish second time around. Both times we’ve been there have been good puds and less good puds, too. Ironically I chose the amazing pud my other half had first time, when we went second time. BIG mistake. It was a smaller portion ( aaaaargh ! ) and not as good.

So, would I say come over and try it ? Yep, absolutely.
Will we be rushing back again soon? Perhaps not.
Is it a defo 1* experience, I’m really not sure. Will it compare to the French - I would be well miffed if the French isn’t better, TBH - though I still cannot book a table there for April so have never been…

Does that help or just make matters worse ? :slight_smile:

Makes it worse. But the household authorities have made a decision that we’re going in due course.

Glad to have been of (no material ) help :slight_smile:

1 Like

Your mention of the bar being in the middle of the room reminds me of a very nice place we go to in Tenerife. They have a large glass sided wine “cellar” room smack bang in the middle (a good 3M square). Yes, it breaks up the room but it does look mighty odd.

I’ll be interested to see what you make of the Barn. Last year were were able to book a table at a couple of week’s notice. Dare not look now !

We’ll leave it for a while till the fuss that’s bound to accompany the star dies down.

Never really looked at the menu before but it’s more ambitious than I’d anticipated for what’s supposed to be a “casual” place.