The Raby Hunt Hotel

Darlington, United Kingdom

It wasn’t so long ago that The Raby Hunt was an unheard-of boozer – a 200-year-old drovers’ inn outside Darlington with an unremarkable kitchen. Skip forward a mere 14 years and it’s a different story – self- taught chef and owner James Close has transformed it into a stalwart of the north-east dining scene and pocketed two Michelin stars in the process. It’s not the kind of place where you’d drop in for a quick bite, of course. The only option is an extensive tasting menu – 15 or so courses of globally inspired dishes that range from a single bite to substantial plates. This is culinary theatrics, with different techniques contorting unexpected ingredients into exquisite mouthfuls. In contrast, the decor is somewhat understated – with the rather odd exception of skull motifs, which repeat throughout the menu, in chocolate form and ominously staring up from a flooring panel at the entrance. Unshowy bedrooms present a comfortable space to retreat, digest and decompress from the sensorial overload.

The impeccable breakfast is more in line with what you’d expect from a rural inn: bacon, eggs, smoked salmon and fresh fruit. Ideal fuel for exploring Raby Castle and its 80ha deer park, The Auckland Project or Thornton Hall Gardens.

Doubles from £285, including breakfast. 01325 374237,

Words by Rachel Walker.

This review was taken from the October 2023 issue of Food and Travel. To subscribe today, click here.

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