A Michelin-starred restaurant near Darlington has announced it will close its doors later this month after the man behind the venture revealed his intentions to find a new challenge.

Two Michelin star chef James Close says that he's stepping away from the Raby Hunt in Summerhouse to embark on a new challenge at Darlington's Rockliffe Hall. 

Mr Close was the first chef in the North East to be awarded two Michelin stars, making the Raby Hunt one of just 20 two-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK and the only two-star restaurant in the North East.

The Northern Echo: James Close, of the Raby HuntJames Close, of the Raby Hunt (Image: RABY HUNT)

It was also placed fourth in The Good Food Guide’s Top 20 Most Exciting UK Restaurants of 2022.

After 14 years at the restaurant, the chef is excited about the opportunity to both challenge himself and to create a world-class, 5-star destination in the North East with unique and varied culinary experiences, elevating the already exceptional service, and award-winning facilities including a spa and golf course, to new heights.

It's expected that he will set up a new venue at Rockliffe Hall, as well as oversee and develop the culinary direction of the resort. 

The Northern Echo: James and Maria CloseJames and Maria Close (Image: RABY HUNT)

Mr Close’s new restaurant will continue his current global approach to gastronomy, but a new bespoke space will allow interaction with the chefs, who will take diners on a journey inspired by the best cuisine from around the world.

He will be joined by his wife Maria, who will head up development, and his Head Chef Adam Molloy.

The new restaurant is targeted to open later in 2024.

Mr Close will join the hotel in February, which will allow him time to get to know the current culinary offerings, before identifying opportunities to strengthen the resort dining experiences through adding his passion and personality.

He said: “To join Rockliffe Hall as Culinary Director is an incredible opportunity and the perfect progression to take everything we have developed and achieved at 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.   

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“I’m very thankful to all the people who have believed in us and been involved in our journey so far – repeat diners, guests travelling from further afield, chefs, suppliers, and Michelin, which has played a big part in my career – and we look forward to our continued relationship with all of them.”

The Raby Hunt’s last service will be January 27.

James has created ‘The Final Menu’ for the remaining services, which will include favourite dishes from over the years. James will sign each menu in person as a keepsake for those dining at the restaurant.

The team will also hold a final celebration event to thank those who have been involved in James and Maria’s journey so far, including chefs, suppliers, regular diners, family and friends. 

The Raby Hunt Restaurant with rooms, which is owned by Close’s parents, will be put up for sale with Christie & Co.