Raby Hunt: restaurant review | Jay Rayner

Raby Hunt is the tiny but miraculous first restaurant of James Close, who abandoned golfing ambitions to cook

The Raby Hunt Restaurant, Summerhouse nr Darlington, Co Durham (01325 374 237). Meal for two including service: £120-£200.

Some ideas make no sense, even when they succeed: think budget airlines, pop tarts and Milton Keynes. The Raby Hunt in the hamlet of Summerhouse, a 15-minute drive outside Darlington, is another one of those. You can work backwards from where it is now. You can list the regular appearances in best-restaurant lists, the Michelin star, the way it is hailed as a beacon of gastronomy in a region with precious few. Do that and you will declare self-taught chef James Close a visionary who knew exactly what he was doing. But did he? I suspect a rare combination of hard work, innocence, stubbornness and talent allowed him to get lucky.

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