James Close shutters Raby Hunt and shifts to Rockliffe Hall

James Close is to close down his acclaimed Co Durham restaurant the Raby Hunt after 14 years and join nearby Rockliffe Hall as culinary director.

An ex-pro golfer, James taught himself to cook in the kitchen of the former pub and quickly earned a reputation as a standard-bearer for gastronomic excellence in the Northeast. The Raby Hunt has been a regular on the Harden’s 100 list of the UK’s best restaurants, and in our 2023 guide won the accolade: “Wow, wow and wow is all I can say!

James will be joined at Rockliffe Hall, near Darlington, by his pastry chef wife Maria (pictured above), who will head development, and by his head chef Adam Molloy. He takes up the new role at the spa hotel next month, with a new signature restaurant scheduled to open there later in the year.

He described his new role as “an incredible opportunity and the perfect progression to take everything we have developed and achieved and the Raby Hunt to the next level. I’m always striving to do better and I’m looking forward to being part of an ambitious team that wants to lead the way in the culinary hotel space and modernise what a luxury country hotel offers its guests across gastronomy, service and experiences.”

James will serve his last meals at the Raby Hunt on Saturday 27 January, and has devised ‘The Final Menu’ to serve until then, with hits from the past 14 years. The pub, which is owned by James’s parents, is to be sold.

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