The multi-award-winning restaurant cites financial pressures and supply issues for the decision
I’m no stranger to a press release. They’re rather generic affairs, full of rehashed quotes and formulaic structures. But I can’t bring myself for the life of me to write this particular piece in such a fashion, for there is nothing formulaic, nothing run-of-the-mill about The Moorcock.
So, it is with great sadness that I put these words on paper: The Moorcock is closing.
With the lease up in January 2023, Aimee and Alisdair have decided not to renew for a further five years.
We still have almost four seasons ahead of us and we are going to attempt to do our best work yet for this final chapter
In a newsletter sent out to subscribers this week, Aimee wrote: “In honesty, we have barely caught our breath from the last two years, and now costs in every area spiral, recession looms, there is the prospect of supply issues, the world is an unstable place right now. Frankly, it’s just no time to be running a small business like ours.”
And the hearts of a large group of readers collectively sunk.
Fine, I’m biased. I’ll hold my hands up. It’s my local, my happy place, and I consider Aimee and Al to be friends. And as it’s my local, I hope you’ll forgive me for this slightly over-emotional article. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the food and drink industry backs up my overtures - again and again and again. From the view of the moor and the valley to the beer garden, the drinks offering, and the infallibly brilliant service, it is a truly special place. But it’s the culinary magic that has won it so many recent plaudits – as Aimee puts it, “[Al] has such an innate ability to put a dish together, in the most casual of ways, with the most stunning of results, communicated so humbly”.
I can’t argue with that. When I think of some of my favourite meals from the last two years, I think of lamb accompanied by the crunchiest lettuce, strikingly crimson-red beetroot, crispy prawns eaten whole, decadent wolf fish toast and, of course, the perennial smoked potatoes. The ingredients return seasonally, but never the same – you’re always surprised by what comes out, always interested, sometimes challenged. Al comes from a Cordon Bleu family, but his experience is truly global; he loves to use Chinese flavours and we benefited from his pivot to a Chinese takeaway service during lockdown on many an occasion.
On the drinks side, Aimee is an absolute encyclopedia (a word she actually used to describe Al in their newsletter), always finding a wine pairing, showcasing a new drink, or even just cajoling you into another glass. Her Belgian beer knowledge is particularly impressive – as is the menu. But as with the food, you’ll always walk in to something different. A line of sakes on the bar, a chilled Spanish vermouth, a £50 lambic, or just a pint of Magic Rock lager. All tastes, all walks of life are catered for, treated with respect and warmth, and brought together in a cosy, unpretentious, yet regularly spectacular environment. One night, the power went out and we all drank by candlelight – it was magical.
It's not like I can complain. I will have had nearly 3 years of calling a place this excellent my local by the time they close their doors for the final time. And in true Moorcock fashion, they’ve given us 10 months’ notice, so it’s not time for tears just yet. But that time frame is also an opportunity for you all to go and see for yourself how brilliant it is – or go again as a reminder. Ten months of tables and four seasons of food, local produce, and glorious booze. It may look remote, but you can walk from Sowerby Bridge train station in 40 minutes. Pop up to Norland Moor on the way and take in the spectacular view on the way. It’s worth your while.
As Aimee says, “We still have almost four seasons ahead of us and we are going to attempt to do our best work yet for this final chapter. We would absolutely love to see as many of you are possible - so that each service that remains is like a little mini-celebration in its own right.”
There’s also mention of events to come, so I can spend the remainder of spring getting excited about those. But when the time does come to say goodbye, it will be the end of an era during which The Moorcock has become one of the most respected, most loved places in the country.
No matter who takes it on next, those shoes are enormous ones to fill.
The Moorcock Inn, Moor Bottom Ln, Norland, Sowerby Bridge HX6 3RP