A Darlington restaurant has been crowned as one of the best places to eat in Britain.
Michelin-starred restaurant The Raby Hunt Inn, in Summerhouse, has been ranked among the top 100 restaurants in Britain in a Sunday Times poll - the first restaurant in the North East to feature in the prestigious list’s history.
It has gone straight into the top 30 restaurants in the Sunday Times 100 Top Restaurants list - despite the fact that owner and chef James Close, 33, has only been cooking for five years.
Its exact place in the list will be revealed on Sunday. The rankings, released for a fifth year running this weekend, are based on 60,000 reviews sourced from more than 6,000 restaurant goers.
The restaurant is the only one in the region to feature and is still the only place to eat in the North East with a coveted Michelin star.
The restaurant serves five and nine course tasting menus offering oysters, razor clams, quail and deer as well as a lunch menu.
It began as a place serving dishes such as fish and chips before becoming a fine dining restaurant three years ago.
Raby Hunt’s place in the list comes after it was awarded a Michelin star last month for a fourth consecutive year.
Owner and chef James Close said the restaurant’s place in the list was a great sign for the North East.
He said: “It’s good to go in the top 30. It’s great for the North because there’s never been a restaurant from the area in the top 100 never mind in the top 30.
“I hope it inspires everyone to know they can get recognised in the North East. It’s very hard work to get noticed and do the level of food that we do. But all the work pays off when you get recognised.
“It’s great to be appreciated not just from people in the North East but people throughout the country. It’s just an amazing achievement.”
Karen Robinson, editor of the Sunday Times 100 Top Restaurants, called the list the “definitive guide to the best places to eat in Britain”.
She said: “We carefully compile and analyse the reviews of thousands of diners to produce our top 100, so the chefs and restaurants that feature have truly earned their place.
“It is very exciting to see the evolution of the list since The Sunday Times first published it in 2010 – this year has seen a marked increase in the number of restaurants outside London, a sign that we are becoming an increasingly sophisticated culinary nation.”
When The Journal’s Secret Diner visited in September 2013, he said: “Judged by this one meal, James is an exciting, ambitious chef on his way to gastronomic glory. Sample his cooking while you can.
“The Raby Hunt is six miles from Darlington. That’s just 28 minutes from Newcastle by train, plus a short taxi ride. If you are remotely interested in great food, you’d be mad not to go.
“For a special occasion, book for dinner and stay in one of two nice rooms. There’s also a £27 three-course lunch menu. Service is impeccable.”
And half way presciently, he added: “But hurry: in three weeks’ time they’ll be publishing the 2014 Michelin list, and I doubt James Close’s name will be missing.”