IIt’s Wednesday noon at The barn at Augton, a chic and ‘laid back’ fine-dining restaurant, and every table is filled with seventy-five more heart-wrenching, liberated, and double-bite. They eat platters of brown butter poached Cornish turbot with plump, glazed royal jersey terrines on the side. They order a guinea fowl with mashed celeriac and caramelized apple mille-feuille. Each group seems to be catching up on the gossip that has been accumulating for at least 15 months. It is an exhilarating spectacle.
Ladies and gentlemen who are having serious lunch are out of the house again. They choose fine wines and tell each other stories about their grandchildren’s reading prowess or their new garden watering system. Nature is definitely healing, and living well, as those who take advantage of The Barn’s lunch menu offer so clearly, seems all the more precious right now.
The barn is a lavishly converted outbuilding just a few blocks from Moor Hall, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Mark Birchall. Moor Hall should be on any serious restaurant nerd’s stop list when traveling on the M6; it’s right there, being quietly beautiful and exceptional, a short drive from exit 26. I’m sure, however, that many people choose to head to the lakes instead, which is why much of the northwest, including the charming Ribble Valley, rich in restaurants, is overlooked.
The barn, you might say, is Moor Hall’s more relaxed little sister who lives next door. It’s a place to eat confits, pickles and emulsions of anything, but in a more relaxed setting. Or at least I think it was the original idea. I smile when great chefs and their brilliant teams plan to be ‘relaxed’, because their definition of cool and airy is often ‘we have two less fork changes out of seven perfectly executed dishes, but there will always be fun. -adorned mouths, a sommelier and 80 pounds of toilet soap ”. Any chef who has won two Michelin stars has said goodbye to the concept of “going with the flow” many moons ago. They just can’t do it because it hurts their hearts.
This is why, on any given service, La Grange is like the Bolshoi Ballet performing Swan Lake for Khrushchev. And why I had only sat for five minutes – drinking a ‘forage’ martini of local gin and overlooking the lawns and flower beds of the dreamy Moor Hall mansion, which lead to flourishing home gardens – before already planning a return. I wish there were more science and skill to be a restaurant critic but, alas, it’s often such a primitive instinct as to sit in a joint and, within seconds, already bemoan the moment. where you’ll have to leave that jovial sight and those attentive staff who keep bringing in glasses of chilled petit chablis, tiny tastes of dehydrated, but delicious, smoked carrot slices, oddly bacon-tasting, or hot slices of sourdough and pieces of homemade soft and shiny herb butter. No, no, no, I thought, I deserve to live in a cozy world where it’s standard to have eight versions of liqueur coffee on the menu and the cheese board arrives with freshly baked dried fruit bread and chutneys. small quantities.
As for, I had already decided, my first of many trips to The Barn, I started with poached celeriac until tender in brown butter and served in celery broth -rave sprinkled with pickled apples and walnuts. He appeared arranged in a perfect ring, emitting gentle Midsommar vibrations.
Charles ate gloriously rich 60-day shorthorn beef with dried egg yolk, tarragon and crispy potatoes. For the main course, we shared, via a clandestine plate exchange, a Cornish turbot with an unforgettable hot egg tartare, a Sladesdown guinea fowl with marinated leeks and morels and, my favorite, a stuffed and roasted Jerusalem artichoke. hen of the woods, white asparagus and pickled pear, which is the vegetarian option of dreams.
No sane being has ever stuffed a Jerusalem artichoke in its day; it takes a team of experts in white coats during a long winter confinement to trace this kind of delicious eccentricity. The pudding was a fresh ginger cake with pear sorbet and a light and sweet honey parfait made pretty with oxalis, although next time I have an eye on the chocolate namelaka with granita with coffee and milk sorbet.
Heard that the evening menu at The Barn is a bit fancier than the lunch menu, but I don’t see how they can push the boat any further. While the restaurant world is currently precarious, it’s heartwarming to know that in places like The Barn and Moor Hall the parking lot is full, standards are high, staff are world class and the cash register seems to ring. Life may never be the same again, but at least there are delicious, uplifting spaces where things have come back bigger, bolder, and better.
The barn at Moor Hall Prescot Road, Aughton, Lancashire, 01695 572511. Open noon Wed-Sun, 12 p.m.-2 p.m. (Sun 12 p.m.-6.30 p.m.), dinner Tue-Sat, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Around £ 50 per head à la carte; Three-course set menu at £ 25, all plus drinks and service.