More recently, the restaurant has steered a course away from bistro and towards fine dining and James, inspired by restaurants like Can Roca and Mugaritz, has pushed forward with his food. With the Raby Hunt and James's professional cooking career still just three years old, it was a complete surprise for the whole family when, just four weeks ago, Michelin announced that it had awarded Raby Hunt a Michelin star, the only restaurant in County Durham to have one. Such a story of culinary 'rags to riches', in what must be an unprecedented time, is media gold and James, still himself a young man, will undoubtedly attract much attention in the coming months and years. As luck would have it, we just happened to be passing by on our UK tour and called in to say hello, and to try James's cooking. It is, we have to admit, surprisingly accomplished.
We ordered from the lunch menu though James was kind enough to send us a few extras so that we could get a better taste of the kitchen. At the top of the menu is written 'inspired by simplicity' and James has taken to heart the idea that dishes should not be over complicated, with too many things going on, but in his dishes there's always enough going on and he strikes the balance well.
After that it's the ordered dessert of chocolate bar with peanut butter ice cream for my dining companion and the Brillat Savarin ice cream and summer fruits for me. The chocolate bar looks indulgent and has that gold foil Louis XV touch while popcorn ice cream is another accompaniment that has featured widely on the trip. This was very much enjoyed by my dining companion.
My Brillat Savarin ice cream was good, though the ice cream ultimately seemed to play a secondary role to the fruit on the plate, especially as there was a fruit sorbet also. Being early October, it also felt just a little late in the year for a plate of summer fruits, though admittedly there was a nice blue sky outside; a relatively minor quibble however.
But we can't help but be impressed by the back story that has taken them this far and the implications of that for the future. James is clearly a big talent with large ambitions and youth on his side. The plates all looked good, he clearly has an eye for the aesthetic, and everything tasted as good as it looked. Who knows what the future holds for the Raby Hunt, but it's hard not to be excited.
Visit the Raby Hunt website
Follow James Close on Twitter @rabyhunt
Previously I visited Castle Terrace, Edinburgh
Next stop: Magpies Cafe, Whitby
Raby Hunt location map