Raby Hunt Restaurant at Summerhouse near Darlington
TAKING advantage of a trip to North Yorkshire, we thought we’d stop off at The Raby Hunt in the hamlet of Summerhouse near Darlington.
If the name rings a bell somewhere in the recesses of the mind, it’s probably because it’s just recently won a Michelin star and has had a lot of press attention.
Remarkably, it’s the only restaurant in the North East that currently holds the coveted stellar award, seen by many as the Oscars of the foodie world.
Even though it’s a bit off the beaten track – for us townies coming from Newcastle – it’s so worth making the effort to seek out.
The restaurant is housed in a characterful Grade II listed building dating back to the early 19th Century, about six miles from Darlington.
It’s a gem of a place and lunch was a gastronomic treat, being both memorable and imaginative, with a fair few oohs and aahs thrown in.
It’s not break-the-bank prices either for cooking of this standard. Lunch was surprisingly affordable, at two courses for £20.95 and three courses for £24.95, although some dishes carry a supplement.
The Michelin accolade is a remarkable achievement for head chef James Close who, with his family, owns the elegant, small 24-seater fine-dining restaurant with rooms.
Even more so, when you consider he’s only been at the helm for three short years.
Inside, it’s an absolute delight. A bijou bar area leads into the dining room. The décor feels fresh, simple and uncluttered. Purple upholstered seats, crisp white table linen, wooden floorboards and views of the surrounding countryside make for a restful and intimate setting.
I sipped a glass of organic Saint Véran unoaked Chardonnay (Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, Macônnais, 2010), £8.75, and water, while the other half was keeping a clear head for tackling our moors adventure, so he cradled a Luscombe hot ginger beer, £3.25, deliciously tickly on the throat.
The restaurant with two bedrooms – a former inn that used to be part of the Raby estate – has already made its mark and regularly features in eating out guides, but is far busier now since winning the star in September.
The lunch menu offered a choice of three starters, mains and desserts or there is a five-course tasting menu for £47.50 with wine matching available for £30 per person.
The staff were bright and switched on; the front of house, Craig, knows all the dishes inside out, and was friendly and professional throughout.
Lunch doesn’t feel a stuffy affair, and with a handful of other tables taken up, there was enough of a buzz.
A selection of freshly baked breads from the Clervaux Bakery in Darlington were first brought to the table: a French baguette, a black pudding roll flecked through with meaty morsels, and a maple, date and pecan bread – sweet and moreish, almost like a scone. And treat of treats, hand-patted butter. Next up, an amuse bouche of duck liver parfait wrapped in smoked eel with beetroot prepared three ways, was a chef’s show-off dish.