The departing owner of two Michelin-star restaurant the Raby Hunt has highlighted his vision when he moves over to Darlington's Rockliffe Hall next month.

Chef and patron of the critically-acclaimed restaurant, James Close, announced at the start of this month that he was going to be stepping away from the Raby Hunt, in Summerhouse, near Darlington - with the last service listed as Saturday (January 27). 

The Raby Hunt, which Mr Close has owned for 14 years, has built its name as one of the most influential restaurants in the North East, with its experimental culinary delights and pushing the boundary of what is possible in the food world. 

The Northern Echo: James CloseJames Close (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Despite 'putting Summerhouse on the map', Mr Close decided to call time on his time at the venue after admitting he wanted to "go out on top" at the Raby Hunt and "explore new avenues". 

After plating up the last service on Saturday (January 27), the chef will have a few days to himself, before launching into his next challenge at Rockliffe Hall; Darlington's five-star spa and golf hotel.

It's here where he hopes to create a new venue in 2024 and transform the overall food offering that Rockliffe Hall has - with Mr Close wanting to "take the venue to the next level".

The Northern Echo: Rockliffe HallRockliffe Hall (Image: ARCHIVE)

Despite not knowing the details of when the new venue will open at Rockliffe Hall or what he and his team, which he will be taking with him from the Raby Hunt, will be doing until he starts at the beginning of February. 

"Rockliffe Hall is already an amazing venue - I want to help get it to the next level," Mr Close said. 

"There's not the space here to do what I would have wanted - and at Rockliffe, it takes the emphasis off me being in charge and doing everything from contacting accountants to rotas and schedules. 

The Northern Echo: The Raby Hunt in Summerhouse, near DarlingtonThe Raby Hunt in Summerhouse, near Darlington (Image: RABY HUNT)

"I hope that the clientele we have banked up at the Raby Hunt will want to come to Rockliffe once we're settled in."

After being asked to move to Rockliffe, Mr Close has called it a "no brainer" and wants to explore how everything from full dinner time service right through to the bar snack menu and room service is done at the Darlington hotel once he starts. 

"Been able to take my team over there is a big plus for me - there are some people that have been with me for a long, long time," added Mr Close.


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For now, though, it's all about winding down the Raby Hunt, which will happen on Saturday, where the last service will take place in front of diners and ex-members of staff. 

What the Raby Hunt will become next is relatively unknown at the moment, despite it being on the market for £750,000.

However, suggestions from Mr Close, whose parents own the Raby Hunt building, say that it could continue in name form at least under a different chef. 

Either way, according to the man himself, "there are big developments on the horizon."