New winner among UK’s top 100 restaurants

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on June 12, 2019.

Turnip and crab at Moor Hall. Photos by Bloomberg

Smoked cod’s roe at second-ranked Brat.

Dairy cow with mustard, shallot and barbecued celeriac at Moor Hall.

Moor Hall is set in 2ha of gardens in a house in Aughton, Lancashire. Photo from Instagram/restaurantmoorhall

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A Restaurant deep in the countryside of Northern England has been named the best in the UK, beating some of the biggest names in gastronomy and leaving high-profile London rivals in its wake.

Chef Mark Birchall opened Moor Hall Restaurant With Rooms in 2017 and it has already become a destination, though it is 215 miles (346km) from the capital. It takes the first place at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, which ranks the UK’s top 100.

The next four places are all taken by London chefs. The second is Brat, Tomos Parry’s Basque-influenced restaurant in Shoreditch. The third is a new entry, Tom Brown’s modern-British Cornerstone, in Hackney Wick. The fourth is Core by Clare Smyth, a two-Michelin-star establishment in Notting Hill. And the fifth is Sabor, a Spanish restaurant in Mayfair.

The list is compiled from the votes of 150 UK chefs, restaurateurs and food writers. I am a voter. Restaurant magazine is published by William Reed, the group behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Neither Gordon Ramsay nor Alain Ducasse, high-profile international chefs with London restaurants, makes the list, which tends to highlight new restaurants over classic establishments.

Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn are among those missing.

Moor Hall is set in five acres (2ha) of gardens in a house of mid-16th-century origins in rural Aughton, Lancashire. The food is more than a match for the beautiful setting. Birchall has already won two Michelin stars for dishes that may include smoked eel with potato, fermented garlic and flowers; fallow deer with elderberry, beetroot and kale; and gingerbread with roots and pine.

The four-course lunch menu costs £65 (RM343.67), while the eight-course is £125. I visited last year and it is a deserving winner. The wine list is adventurous too. There are, for example, 20 whites by the glass, including options from Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

“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, an editor of Restaurant magazine.

This year sees three female chefs place in the top 10: Clare Smyth for Core; Nieves Barragan for Sabor; and Monica Galetti for Mere.

In total, 46 of the top 100 restaurants are located outside of London.

Other awards, announced at the Hurlingham Club on Monday night included Chef of the Year: Clare Smyth; Restaurateur of the Year: Tom and Michaela Kitchin; and Lifetime Achievement: John Williams of the Ritz. — Bloomberg