James Close calls time on Raby Hunt and joins Rockliffe Hall

The North East’s only two Michelin star restaurant, Raby Hunt, will close at the end of January – when chef patron James Close will join Rockliffe Hall as the resort’s culinary director.

Following his final service at Raby Hunt, which he has led for 14 years, James will join the five-star resort to open a new restaurant and oversee the food offering.

James was the first chef in the North East to be awarded two Michelin stars, making his restaurant one of just 20 two-starred venues in the UK. It was also placed fourth in The Good Food Guide’s Top 20 Most Exciting UK Restaurants of 2022.

James will be joined at Rockliffe by his wife Maria, who will head up development, and Raby Hunt head chef Adam Molloy.

James, who will join the hotel in February and is set to launch the new restaurant later in 2024, 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.

“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.”

Shauna Robb, Rockliffe Hall’s general manager, added: “We are delighted to welcome James to Rockliffe Hall. James’ appointment as culinary director marks the beginning of an exciting new phase in Rockliffe Hall’s journey and will support us in our ambition to become a world-class luxury destination, offering the best in 5-star experiences to all our guests.”

The Raby Hunt’s last service will be on January 27. James has created The Final Menu for the remaining services, which will include favourite dishes from the last 14 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 James’ parents, will be put up for sale with Christie & Co.

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