Chef’s table

Teatime talk with Michelin-star chef James Close from The Raby Hunt

Cool cod

Skrei is one of the stars of the show on our menu at the moment. It’s a type of Norwegian cod only available from January to April along the coast. We love it because of the freshness of the flesh – we get it the day after it is caught and it has a slight pearly colour to it.

The cod spends most of its life in the nutrient-rich Barents Sea, but when it reaches maturity at around five years old, it migrates back to its birthplace to spawn. Skrei is therefore a Norwegian cod in the prime of its life. The migratory journey of Skrei make it a whiter brighter flesh than other ages of cod. It is one of the world’s healthiest whitefish, and one portion of Skrei provides the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

We’ve created a dish which incorporates Skrei and black truffle – in puree form and also in small disks on top. It is probably the most expensive dish we’ve put on the menu because of the truffles. They are Perigord black truffles (about £800/kg) and we’re one of only a handful of restaurants in the world to get them. They aren’t the most expensive truffle in the world but the amount we use in the dish makes it expensive.


In the box

skullsSpring means skulls at The Raby Hunt. I’ve always had a thing about skulls and now they are to become a seasonally-changing feature on our tasting menu. We’ve changed things a bit at the restaurant and now just offer our tasting menu – 12 courses.

We are a destination restaurant – people come here to taste my food and so we have tweaked what’s going on to reflect that – so that their visit is a real dining experience, with everyone in the restaurant eating the same food. We want to add some fun and theatre to it all. The chocolate ganache skull comes at the end of the meal and I was inspired by the old smoky club rooms in baronial Scottish wood-panelled hotels.

The idea of a glass of whisky in hand, you take a sip then drag on a great cigar. Whisky I love – cigars I would but don’t for the sake of my health! This is the next best thing. We infuse chocolate with tobacco leaves and with The Peat Master whisky. You’re presented with a straw-filled box with the skull and small chocolate slab inside. The first taste is the peaty whisky sensation followed by the tobacco which is more of a sensation in the throat than a flavour so they are tasted separately.


On my travels

Been to Pierre Koffman’s restaurant at The Berkeley which was great. Koffman has been to the Raby Hunt. He is a brilliant man – like an enthusiastic food granddad who has had three Michelin stars. He just wants to be in his kitchen and doesn’t chase stars any more, just wants to cook. It was a privilege to have him cook for me. Standout dish was a squid bolognese.

The squid was cut into long strips so they looked like tagliatelle. Then a ‘bolognese’ was made from the tentacles – and served with a fish roe powder. It felt like eating pasta but was squid. I was with my dad and we shared chateaubriand – we wanted to try a classic. I stayed over at the hotel and we met up with Marcus Wareing who has a restaurant there too. Closer to home I enjoyed one of the best Indian meals I’ve had in the North East at Haveli in Ponteland.

This place would definitely be my go-to. The curried mussel dish was a standout, great depth of flavour but lightness of touch. Spent some time at Manchester House with chef Aiden Byrne recently where I ate a standout dish of squid and mackerel and squid ink risotto. We’re hoping to have Aiden
at Raby Hunt for a development night dinner soon.


Gadget boy

I’ve got an amazing new toy – my Japanese 70 layer steel knife. It’s beautiful and at £500 every slice has to be meaningful! I bought it predominantly for fish – slicing scallops and raw fish for sashimi and tartare. It does make the perfect, thinnest slices. I love it.


Take tea

I’m always happy to settle down to a spot of afternoon tea – it takes on so many guises these days. Always better with champagne, I find. This is my top-three list for those of you heading off to London in need of small sandwich sustenance.

The Goring
Central London but you can enjoy your afternoon tea in a lovely private garden with an ‘away from it all’ feel.

The Langham
Afternoon Tea was invented at the Palm Court here. A really stylish spot – lots of inventive different choices for afternoon tea with seasonal changes and hints of the exotic. The best bit – afterwards you can hit Artesian bar, voted ‘The World’s Best Bar’ for four consecutive years.

Sketch
One cool place that makes afternoon tea a funky experience. A bit ‘mad hatter’ in style – modern surroundings and a caviar and quail egg sandwich to try.

Close to home
Auckland Castle is my top pick for great afternoon tea in grand surroundings.

Bib Gourmand with Harriett Close

Harriett3We’ve been on a road trip to some nice hotels close to home recently. Dad’s pick of the bunch was Seaham Hall. He loves the food – which he said was good produce-led, well-executed bistro-style, whatever that means.

We stayed in a garden suite which was fun for me. I ate pasta, I always eat pasta at the moment, it’s my best thing (it annoys daddy a bit). We had lots of fun in the lovely blue pool too and we’re going back soon he says, yay!

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