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Review: The Raby Hunt, Darlington

Fat oyster

Fat oyster

TL;DR: We enjoyed something like fifteen courses of splendid fine dining at the Raby Hunt. There were no dishes we didn’t love, and some we loved a lot!

It looks like the old drovers’ inn has had a thorough makeover recently, with a sharp modern display kitchen and edgy touches like the silver skull that grins up at you as you cross the threshold. I reckon they’ve got the combo just right, the dining room itself feeling relaxed and country but with those modern elements hinting at the spiffy food to come.

The first little puff of potato with a saline seaside taste of oyster hidden inside was superb. Followed by a whole oyster, absolutely perfectly poached. This might be my favourite oyster ever, from Lindisfarne where apparently the oysters are fat and sweet and delicious. Oyster leaf and cucumber granita were clean, helpful accompaniments. Another great bite was the cube of roast suckling pig, served as a taco on a disk of blue corn tortilla that was as soft as a feather but had a great dirty taste to go with the sweet lump of pork. One of those “please, just line me up ten more of these and I’ll be happy!” dishes.

Razor clam magic

Razor clam magic

Crispy fried Jerusalem artichoke skin with hot and cold offal on top was another deliciously filthy bite. Next up, joint-best dish of the day: buttery razor clam with brown shrimps and pied de mouton mushrooms. I have no idea why this works so well, but the earthy flavour of the mushrooms was a big part of the magic. So was the presentation. There’s no grand centrepieces or dinner theatre at the Raby Hunt, just very beautiful plating.

I’ve never had beef tartare paired with smoked eel mousse and caviar before, but I could certainly get used to it! I guess I might have preferred the beef chopped even finer, but otherwise a magical little dish. Oh! And then a teeny tiny burger made with a slice of meltingly soft pastrami and two slices of black truffle. Heheheh… loved it.

Tiny truffle burger

Tiny truffle burger

Joint-best dish number two, surprisingly, a salad of winter vegetables. Pinpoint perfect flavours, and such a mixture of elements; turnip, squash, cauli, artichoke, broccoli, carrot, kale. Smartest of all, chef resisted the urge to throw in beetroot and overwhelm the rest. I’ve forgotten how it was dressed, though I recall that scallop powder may have been involved.

The main couldn’t possibly compete. But it was a very nice piece of lamb, and the scorched leaf and anchovy mousse worked well with it.

First pud was best pud: black olive tuille over a gorgeous little chocolate mousse and a dollop of goat cheese ice cream on top. Second pud was also great: a mango tart with brillat saverin cream and coconut ice cream.

The Raby Hunt was a great ending to the year, immediately joining Ynyshir and El Portal de Echaurren as my top 3 gastronomic experiences of 2017. The menu is £105 and the ambition and execution of every single dish makes that price tag perfectly good value to me. Wines by the glass were expensive, but we did leave ourselves in the hands of the (very helpful and well-informed) sommelier.

First pud best pud

First pud best pud

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