Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Raby Hunt, Darlington - two Michelin starred restaurant review

Winning a Michelin star is a seriously impressive achievement. There are only 172 restaurants in Great Britain and Ireland deemed worthy of the accolade.

Most of these restaurants' head chefs will have trained in other Michelin-starred kitchens where they learnt the techniques and discipline to cook at the very highest level.

So, to achieve such greatness by teaching yourself is even more flabbergasting.

However, that’s what some of the very best have done including Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Tommy Banks and James Close.

James Close is the chef-patron at the Raby Hunt, the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in the North East of England. A former pro golfer, Close’s only professional kitchen experience before opening the Raby Hunt in 2009 was doing a bit of washing up and chopping carrots. Within three years of opening the Raby Hunt, Close had picked up a Michelin star. Pretty. Frigging. Impressive.

Our meal at the Raby Hunt was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

The fifteen course tasting menu (£90 Wed & Thu, £95 Fri & Sat - the only option available at dinner) utilised seasonal ingredients cooked with masterful technique. None of the dishes were overcrowded but instead they showcased a few elements that harmonised perfectly. There was also a superb flow to the meal with each dish feeling like a natural progression.

It’s worth noting the Raby Hunt are uncompromising when it comes to catering for vegetarians and fussy eaters. There is no vegetarian tasting menu and no ingredient substitutions.

Our first snack was a crisp cod skin cracker topped with pearls of salty caviar and fragrant Amalfi lemon rind shavings.

A pair of Mexican inspired snacks followed.

Meaty raw scallop was joined by the fresh flavours of lime, coriander, jalapeno and radish.

The dinkiest of crisp corn tacos was stuffed with sweet crab meat and well fragranced guacamole.

A duo of oyster dishes were up next.

A crisp potato puff contained a creamy ozonal oyster emulsion and was topped with a fine dice of potato with a punchy herbal hit of lovage and the warmth of tobasco.

A plump, tender, briny cooked oyster was elevated by fragrant dill oil, cleansing cucumber granita, diced cucumber and warming British wasabi.

A crunchy Jerusalem artichoke skin was filled with two temperatures of duck offal; shavings of frozen creamy parfait and a hot, deeply meaty ragout. A berry puree on the bottom of the artichoke cut through the richness of dish.

Slices of the tenderest razor clam were served in the shell with buttery Morecambe Bay shrimp, crunchy almonds, a velvety celeriac puree, earthy girolles and salty samphire.

Almost spreadably tender Wagyu beef tartare was accompanied by pearls of caviar, a punchy basil emulsion, crisp cracker pieces and capers. This was a stunning dish but we felt it was a touch over-seasoned due to the saltiness of the caviar and capers.

A gorgeously fresh spring salad included leaves, beets, radishes, edible flowers, crispy kale, courgette and asparagus. Some of the vegetables were charred bringing a smoky dimension to the dish whilst shiso dressing, beetroot puree and a super savoury scallop crumb completed the light plate of food.

Pan-fried squab pigeon breast and confit leg were joined by smoky barbecued radicchio, savoury anchovy emulsion, a squab pigeon reduction and an olive reduction. This was meat cookery of the highest quality.

Uber lovely warm chocolate mousse was balanced by a creamy sheep’s milk ice cream, a salty olive crumb and a crisp tuille.

A trio of lemon dishes followed.

Almond crumble, lightly fragranced fennel ice cream, potent lemon gel and an intense liquorice tuille all harmonised beautifully.

A weeny lemon doughnut was filled with lemon thyme jam and topped with a warming ginger sugar disk.

An ice cold cocoa cream shell contained a fragrant and intense lemon presse and was topped with yuzu gel.

The Raby Hunt’s chocolates have gained a bit of a reputation. I can understand why.

A white chocolate Buddah was filled with a solero-like mango and passion fruit ganache.

A skull contained a smooth chocolate ganache fragranced with raspberry and yuzu.

Our meal at The Raby Hunt was phenomenal. It’s the best food I’ve had in a two Michelin starred restaurant. The service was also super-friendly and we had excellent wines by the glass including an Alsace riesling and a Swiss pinot noir.

I can’t recommend a visit highly enough. It also means you get a trip to the North East of England aka the birth place of such brilliant things as Gregg’s sausage rolls, Byker Grove, Newcastle United, Geordie Racer and me.

The Details:

Address - The Raby Hunt Restaurant, Summerhouse, Darlington, County Durham DL2 3UD
Web -
Telephone - 01325 374 237

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