Mark Birchall is unstoppable. The 37-year-old, chef patron at the much-lauded Moor Hall, has collected an enviable list of accolades following the opening of his venture just 19 months ago. A Michelin star gained within six months of launch, a Best Breakthrough gong at this year’s British GQ Food and Drink Awards and recognition from The Good Food Guide are just some of the accolades heaped on the restaurant with rooms.
The latest – a place on the National Restaurant Awards list – saw the Aughton venue shoot up from 70th place last year to 6th in 2018. It was the highest rising restaurant on a list of the very best places to eat in the country.
‘It’s an incredible achievement for us to be number six,’ said Mark, a former recipient of the prestigious Roux scholarship. ‘To go from last years’ position at number 70 really shows all the hard work and commitment the team have put in.
‘We’re all absolutely thrilled to have made it onto the list and at such a high position.’
It’s little surprise success has come so swiftly for the Adlington-born chef. His career started at The Pines in Clayton-le-Woods with chef, Dave Dugdale, who along with TV chefs like Nick Nairn and Brian Turner, forged his love of cooking. Since then he has worked at prestigious restaurants around the country including The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny and Northcote in Langho under the tutelage of Nigel Haworth. By the time he reached 31 he was head chef of L’Enclume in Cartmel, a renowned two Michelin star restaurant established by Simon Rogan. During this time, he also did a three-month stint at the three
Michelin star El Celler de Can Roca in Girona – a place that’s twice been voted the best restaurant in the world. But it was a yearning for his own restaurant that brought the chef back to Lancashire.
Today, Mark continues to drive forward. The Barn at Moor Hall, a casual dining restaurant adjacent to the Michelin star venue, opened less than eight months after it’s Michelin starred neighbour just a few steps away. Dominic Clarke, a former Gilpin Lodge and Isle of Eriska chef, is steering the team to success.
‘I’m really pleased to have a chef like Dom in place,’ said Mark. ‘He’s talented and is really providing something special over there.
‘I’d love for that to be a good neighbourhood-style restaurant. I think people assume it will be expensive but it’s not the case. You can get some fantastic food for really reasonably prices. I’d love for the barn to lure people out of cities like Liverpool and become a place for an evening out.’
The Barn’s building is also home to Moor Hall’s own charcuterie – with a viewing area to tempt diners – and there are plans to open a dairy and brewery.
Mark’s menus showcases his own style of modern British cuisine. He puts local producers in the spotlight and uses fruit, vegetables and micro herbs from Moor Hall’s kitchen gardens, a wonderful space under the expert eye of head gardener Sylvia Travers. Mark is determined to keep offering something new for his customers and to keep people coming back for more.
‘I feel we’re really lucky to have customers who come back regularly because they’ve had a great experience – that feels really good. We need to carry on and continue to strive to be the best.
‘We want two stars from Michelin, three stars would be a dream. Whether that happens, I’m not sure. But we have to push on.’