It’s been a good few weeks. We found out that we’re in the top 50 of restaurants in the country in the latest Good Food Guide which has just been published.
Awards are funny things – you scoff at them if you miss out but when you get an accolade like this it makes all the hard work worthwhile. The Waitrose Good Food Guide means much – not least because we’re the first restaurant in the North East to break into the top 50 but also because it means we’re playing what is effectively the premiership in terms of cooking.
A look at the places we’re lined up against says it all, and makes it a meaningful award to have. Restaurants are marked out of ten and we got six.
The big players we’re alongside are the likes of The Ledbury, Le Gavroche, L’enclume, Andre Fairlie at Gleneagles – serious names in food. There are names you see time and again and only a few really new ones like us, so being up there with them means something.
We’ve been here a few years now, quietly doing our thing, it’s been hard work but for the team to get this accolade is brilliant and really perks you up. We’re about to get into the season of food awards, it can be a bit of a tense time…
When it’s the game season you feel really privileged to live in this part of the country – it’s the best place in the country for game with all our heathery moorland that gives grouse in particular such a distinctive and consistent flavour.
When we first started at Raby we’d prep all our own game – once we even had a whole deer in the kitchen which took us all day to butcher. We haven’t got the luxury of time to do that these days so we rely on Yorkshire Game at Brompton on Swale for our game supplies. It’s a big company but a good one – and you can order from them online.
Hare, grouse, woodpigeon and woodcock are some of the game we’ll be cooking with in coming months. With grouse we’ll braise the legs for six hours on a low temperature. We serve with a ragu of offal, not from game but from duck livers, etc. We serve it with barbecued kale – cooked in our Big Green Egg which gives great smokiness. yorkshiregame.co.uk
We took the train to Paris then another to Beaune to drink some good wine – no better place to do it. Drenched the stresses of the day and had some good R&R based on glasses of Puligny Montrachet, Meursault and the best grand crus in the world from Alex Corton.
A great place for a wine holiday, a highlight was dining in the three-star Relais Bernard Loiseau where we ate stand-out poulet Bresse. We actually stayed somewhere with no Wi-fi or TV; it drove me mad for about a day to have no Twitter but I settled down after a while, thanks to the wine.
Ceps are having a moment – all you foragers get out there, sunny conditions and a bit of damp have made things just right for gathering – Hamsterley forest is my haunt. Go with a proper mushroom knife, leaving the stalk partly in the ground so they grow again. Brush them clean rather than wash them to keep the texture and flavour. We have them on the menu with squab or grouse. At home they’re pretty hard to beat just piled high on toast – cook in a bit of butter and oil – let them brown and slightly caramelise. Add a bit of parsley and garlic.
My top three in Newcastle
Doing it properly. Has to be Café 21. The legend of the twice-baked cheese soufflé.
Lunch. Went to Peace&Loaf recently which was good fun – we had a Parmo in a pizza box, food with a bit of wit but great skill at its heart.
Family time. Liked Coop Chicken House in the city centre, doing something different with a favourite ingredient.
We went to Ouseburn in Newcastle recently and love what’s going on down there, the vibe is really good. We stayed at Hotel du Vin then sauntered down and found Anna Hedworth’s new Cook House, I love her take on cooking in a container crate! We’re planning a pop-up between us, date to be finalised – follow us for details Anna @thegrazer or me @rabyhunt
We’ve been off to London a few times this summer checking out restaurants, dipping into the Shoreditch scene for some pigeon sausage. We ate at sky-high Duck & Waffle which was impressive – and at Clove Club in Shoreditch Town Hall in East London – in the top 100 restaurants in the world. In the restaurant they serve up an ambitious five-course menu, using often overlooked British ingredients.
We ate some amazing pigeon sausage, memorable crispy chicken feet skins and courgette with Indian spices. A restaurant in Shoreditch to watch is Lyles, chef James Lowe used to be a member of the Young Turks, a group of young chefs involved in various pop-ups so Lyles is definitely a place to watch. We stayed at The St Pancras Hotel at the station which is brilliant when, like us, you have a baby on board – just get off the train then head to the hotel.
It’s a good base – a pool and good cocktail bar all in an amazing building and Marcus Waring’s restaurant serving up classics really well. In London we also went to Heston’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. Eating is a history lesson here – the dishes have historical references and are all about traditional flavours, ingredients and cooking styles. I had one of the signature dishes – 15th Century Meat Fruit which arrives looking like a mandarin – and is a chicken liver & foie gras parfait with grilled bread.
We also tried Salamagundy, chicken oysters, salsify, marrow bone and horseradish cream Our main dish was the most expensive on the menu, (£78), bone in rib of Hereford Prime for two, a recipe dating back to 1830 with a less historic accompaniment of mushroom, ketchup and fries. I had one of my favorite desserts ever, called Tipsy Cake which is a spit roast pineapple that is served with brioche soaked in Sauternes and brandy then with the juices from the pineapple – I think it’s the best dessert ever!
It was an afternoon of chef-spotting – we bumped into Nathan Outlaw who has restaurants in Rock, Cornwall and in the Capital Hotel next to Harrods. We also met Paul Ainsworth in the bar at Dinner.
Bib Gourmand with Harriett Close
A restaurant called Duck & Waffle is my new best place.
I had a whole dish of chocolate mousse to myself – the plate was SO big and I decided it would be fun to eat it with my hands, very yummy indeed.
Mum and dad were tucking into oysters and getting a bit messy themselves so no-one seemed to mind.