Is the North-West of England the foodie capital of the UK?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 26 July 2019
It is official, Lancashire is the best place to eat in the country
When Ormskirk's Moor Hall was named top of the prestigious National Restaurant Awards list, London foodies took a collective gasp. Claims the city might be losing its shine were mooted as people contemplated that the hard fought over number one spot was awarded to not only somewhere out of London but somewhere in the north. It was a sign we're not only more than holding our own in a competitive, southern centric field. But also, they were finally being let in on the secret we've all known for some time - this region delivers come culinary clout.
Moor Hall's success has had an immediate impact. In the days after the announcement, the restaurant's name and its Lancashire base appeared on more news feeds, in more broadsheets and across more social media than even the most connected of marketing moguls could have dreamed of. Available tables at Moor Hall have never been in abundance. But now, in the time since the announcement, bookings have rocketed and a lottery win might seem an easier bet than getting a reservation.
The list takes into account not only the food but also the staff, atmosphere, interior design and price. All of this Moor Hall has in abundance. This most recent win is the latest in a string of accolades achieved by chef patron Mark Birchall and his team. It's been a meteoric climb to the top. Within six months of opening in March 2017, it had its first Michelin star. The next year they added another. In between came a multitude of accolades, including one for Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year at Lancashire Life's Food and Drink Awards; a win at GQ magazines Food & Drink Awards in their Best Breakthrough category and a UK Sommelier of the Year win.
'We are absolutely thrilled to be number one in this year's National Restaurant Awards, it's such a huge achievement,' says Mark, who lives in Ormskirk with wife, Jenn and son, James. 'It shows the hard work and commitment the whole team have put in and we are delighted to continue the fly the flag for the north.
'We have had an amazing two years since our opening and we are determined to keep moving, the hard work continues.'
Moor Hall was one of a list of eight restaurants and dining pubs in Lancashire, Lake District and Manchester. Simon Rogan's L'Enclume in Cartmel, where Mark was previously executive chef, came in at sixth; Grasmere's Forest Side placed 18th;
The Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland was 38th; Freemasons at Wiswell was 39th, new-kid-on-the-block Mana in Ancoats placed at 73 with Lancashire's newest Michelin star The White Swan at Fence at 96 followed by Windermere's Holbeck Ghyll at 98.
Chef and owner Stosie Madi celebrated the Parkers Arms third year on the list.
'We're flying the flag for Lancashire, jumping a whopping 40 places compared to last year,' said Stosie.
'We're over the moon to be ranked second in Lancashire and as the only female listed in the north, I'm very proud to be representing women in the industry. Being on the list has also brought an excellent business boost for Parkers.'
Steven Smith, chef patron of the highly decorated Freemasons at Wiswell, was recognised as he opened new chef's table Mr Smiths and is about to launch a clutch of super luxe bedrooms at his renowned pub. He is keen to not only celebrate the success for his team but also for the county.
'This list is one all chefs look out for - to be voted by our peers and people in the industry we have a lot of respect for is a real honour and gives us real momentum,' says Steven.
'The awards receive a lot of media attention and inevitably this has a positive impact on bookings - people are keen to see what the hype is all about. It's our job to make sure we live up to it and turn those guests into regular customers, which is something we believe we do really well.
'Lancashire proved to be one of the leading lights at this year's awards, with Mark taking the number one spot with Moor Hall and three other establishments from the county making it onto the list. It all helps to continue pushing the message that Lancashire is a fantastic foodie destination. The more stellar venues we have in this county, the more people we'll get coming to visit it. It's an exciting time to be working here.'
It isn't just the chefs and their respective restaurants that are benefitting. The impact of the region's success is being felt in much more than in its restaurant bookings. Manchester's dining scene is growing at a faster rate than anywhere in the country according to a recent report by food and drink analytics specialist CGA. Other northern cities like Liverpool are close behind. In Lancashire the industry is worth £1.04 billion and is the largest area of growth in the county's visitor economy.
Marketing Lancashire, the organisation tasked with promoting the county outside of its borders, launched their Taste Lancashire campaign to raise the profile of the county and to further boost the its more than 67 million annual visitors.
Rachel McQueen chief executive, said: 'In Lancashire we know we have some of the best restaurants in the UK, the most talented chefs, the richest pickings in terms of producers and of course northern hospitality bar none, now everyone else can't fail to take note.
'Lancashire's restaurants are powering their way to the top of the country's most respected lists and winning some of the UK's top awards.
'We're so proud to have Mark Birchall, Stosie Madi, Steve Smith and Tom Parker among our Taste Lancashire Ambassadors, leading the way and championing Lancashire as the UK's must-visit foodie destination.'