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“Unbelievably fantastic - a real must!”

The Raby Hunt Restaurant
Ranked #2 of 307 Restaurants in Darlington
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: British
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special Occasion Dining, Business meetings, Local cuisine, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, After-hours, Reservations
Reviewed 14 March 2018 via mobile

My son is at Durham University and we had not really celebrated his 21st birthday. So having seen The Raby Hunt on Masterchef (yes a cliché I know) I said I would take him and one friend there for dinner - and clearly I wanted to go as well.

One note of caution it is a good 25/30mins drive from Durham and it cost us £90 return in a taxi but it isn’t a restaurant not to be drinking at so well worth it. Just factor in either one person not drinking or taking a taxi.

The restaurant is modern decorated in greys and white and very relaxing. There are only about 20 covers so a good ambiance. The waiting team is very experienced and attentive without being overbearing.

It is a 9 course tasting menu - take it or leave it! But the majority of the courses are small one mouthfuls of taste explosions from oysters through raw scallops to pork belly and others to a main course of lamb. I can’t give you too many spoilers! The tastes of each course are amazing and explode in your mouth with various different flavour levels so you can taste each ingredient as it had been explained to you beforehand.

Although there are 9 separate dishes they aren’t heavy and you do not leave feeling stuffed at all.

We also had a very well priced Picpoul and two bottles of Beausite 2005 which although £80 each was well worth it. It would have been twice the price in London.

The menu is £110 each and for cooking and tastes of this level well worth it. We spent an additional £110 each on the wine and aperitifs and some pudding wine as well to be fair!

So at £220 per head this is not cheap but it is fantastic value for some of the best cooking I have ever had. It really really is worth the journey alone but if you are in the North East and are a gourmet who likes extraordinary culinary experiences please please go! We have been to a few 2 rosette restaurants in London and Europe and this is one of the best. How long before it gets its third rosette?? Surely not too long.

Date of visit: March 2018
2  Thank J6284IFwilliamc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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77 - 81 of 636 reviews

Reviewed 13 March 2018

We dined and stayed at the Raby Hunt on Saturday 3rd March. I do want to be clear that in terms of dinner and the accommodation, the experience was superb - really loved the food and the room was very comfortable. However, there were a few issues with our stay that meant that if fell below par.

Most of the issues were to do with the service of both dinner and breakfast. For dinner, we had booked at 7.15 pm and the were greeted by very attentive staff (almost too attentive - asked 3 or 4 times in the space of about 5 minutes if we had chosen the wine before having had a chance to read the extensive wine list). After choosing wine, no morsel of food arrived for 40 minutes. This seemed really odd as it is is a set menu - in our experience, there is more of a flow at the start. I don't know whether it was about staggering with other tables - would have been OK if told this and also it would be really great if there were some snacks served at the start? Seemed a bit missing to have no bread or olives (or something more creative in keeping with the rest of the food??). It left us feeling a bit impatient and neglected! After that, the food came at a decent pace. However, the style of service was also generally a bit peculiar through the whole stay. The staff seemed rather stiff and tense - a bit over-formal, not very willing to chat. Whilst they asked if we were well/ having a nice time, they weren't really interested in our comments or feedback and rushed on to the next thing. The wine waiter particularly took himself very seriously and was rather overbearing. At first we thought something must be going on (chef not turned up?!) but throughout the stay it was very much the same. There were some nice junior staff. When we have eaten in top end restaurants, the service that works best is polite but personable and friendly. It really doesn't need to be too formal (don't think in this day and age anyone needs to be called 'madam').

The other aspect we found really weird was that the kitchen were playing quite loud 90's music which felt totally out of keeping with the restaurant - felt like sitting in a cheap and cheerful cafe! I don't mind music in restaurants but as it was just in the kitchen it gave the impression of it being for the staff's benefit rather than the customers. Also, I loved the 90's but something a bit more low key and peaceful might be a bit more suitable for the style of cooking.

In terms of breakfast, it was again all a bit stiff and formal which just makes for a rather stilted and unrelaxed atmosphere. As a pescatarean I was left out of the first part of the breakfast completely whilst watching my husband eat his and I had nothing to eat for 30 minutes. Didn't make me feel like a valued customer. I was starving! A bit more of a sense of being looked after would be achieved with perhaps some fancy muesli or granola, or a nice fruit salad to arrive whilst any cooking needed to be done. Would be nice to have a couple of choices - not wanting anything more fancy than what was already on offer but I reckon quite a few people wouldn't necessarily want a fry up and so some bread or pastries or cereals or fruit would work a treat. It would be fine for things that don't always need to be prepared fresh that day.

We ate at the Michelin starred Black Swan (just nearby) last year and had a faultless experience. The Raby Hunt might want to take a leaf out of their book! The staff there seemed genuine and friendly, knowledgeable and very sensitive to their customers (willing to engage in genuine conversation when a customer wanted this, but held off if not). They also offered some lovely breads to get things started at the main meal. For breakfast they had a short menu with choices (a few richer items for those still with appetite but some lighter choices, including the best homemade muesli I have ever eaten!) for those who have had enough rich food the previous night.

In summary, the main issue was the style of service which was too stiff and formal and made for a strange atmosphere as well as the big delays in service. We usually go for 1 big ticket meal each year as we love eating in the best restaurants but don't have lots of money to do it more often. We have left feeling disappointed in our visit - although I keep reminding myself of how nice the food was!

I did write an email twice to the Raby Hunt with feedback before writing this review, just in case something had happened to cause the staff to have an off-weekend and my critique was being unfair, but I have had no response. This has further confirmed my sense of the restaurant not really being that interested in their customers. At those prices, that is a big let down. Do yourself a favour and go to the Black Swan instead, it was awesome!

Date of visit: March 2018
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
12  Thank JenandAl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 March 2018

My partner and me dined here on the 10th March and are so glad we did. The food was absolutely incredible, there wasn't a dish that we didn't enjoy. Even the raw dishes, that I was personally a little concerned about, were beautiful.

The atmosphere was relaxed and the staff were friendly and knowledgeable.

We had a lovely evening and are already planning our next visit. Definitely worth a trip.

Date of visit: March 2018
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
2  Thank EmmaJane89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 March 2018

I dined at the Raby Hunt with my wife as a late Christmas treat yesterday (March 10th). What an experience, and I do mean experience. We opted for the wine flight and had the twelve course tasting menu. The aim here is to create an ambience and atmosphere around a series of small taste explosions. The food was faultless with each course bringing new ideas and experiences. Each dish had a level of complexity and taste that is rare in most if not all restaurants. The sommelier was incredibly knowledgable and the wine complemented the food brilliantly. Whilst expensive, you are paying for craft skill and artistry of creating these dishes, so it was in my opinion well worth the outlay. People will need to do their homework before coming here and understand what a tasting menu is and what they can expect.

Date of visit: March 2018
    • Value
    • Service
    • Food
3  Thank Barry W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 March 2018 via mobile

My wife and I treated my son and his partner to a birthday treat dinner at this special two star Michelin restaurant. We had the twelve course taster menu (£110 each) and it was out of this world for flavours, textures and presentation. The wine list was extensive and we had an excellent Riesling. Our favourite course was the tempura languishing. The sommelier gave excellent recommendations for the desert wine and port. The service was impeccable and overall this meal fully deserves its two Michelin stars.

Date of visit: March 2018
1  Thank peterjW1883VG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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