James Close Shares The Raby Hunt's Secrets | Living North

James Close Shares The Raby Hunt's Secrets


James Close
Living North’s foodie columnist James Close shares the secrets behind the iconic chocolate skulls which are served at his two-Michelin star Raby Hunt restaurant

Anyone who has ever visited The Raby Hunt may have noticed we have a thing about skulls.

This harks back to my days BC (before cooking) when I was planning a career as a professional golfer.  Skull symbols were something that I liked even back then, so it made perfect sense to incorporate them in some way in the restaurant. If you look down as you step into our dining room you will see, embedded into the floor, there is a glass case with a skull in it. And we’ve even managed to incorporate it into our tasting menu, which is always a talking point.

It was myself and my sous chef Maria who strangely had a thought at virtually the same time about creating something in a skull shape as one of the finishing touches to our dining experience. It’s gone through a number of incarnations and flavour combinations before we decided on our final version – and you can get a ‘taste’ of it before you even enter the restaurant, as we have one in pride of place in its own glass case. It’s a labour intensive process to create, and one which Maria does painstakingly every few days.

The outside is a Damien Hirst-like splodge of multi-colours which decorate the skull, all hand created with a special spray gun, which means no two are ever the same – so you really are tasting a work of art.

The skulls are made in two halves – one filled with popping candy and the other with yuzu and sansho pepper. We discourage people from nibbling away at them – although we appreciate they want it to last – but for the full experience, it has to be eaten in one go so that the two flavour halves become a perfect whole.

How you eat dishes is as important as what you eat, as part of the process of devising a dish is ensuring we achieve temperature perfection. Our tempura langoustine has to leave the kitchen literally within seconds so that the guest can eat it immediately to ensure it tastes its best. This means that staff have to – politely – discourage guests from taking pictures and instead advise that the dish is ‘best eaten straight away’.

It’s a really important part of the process of creating a new dish to ensure that not only are the ingredients the best, and harmonious on the plate, but also that our weeks and months of perfecting it includes the very best way it should be eaten.

This is why our food doesn’t go out steaming hot. The temperature it arrives at the table is part of a long process which determines what will showcase the ingredients and the flavours. And hopefully the result will be a little bite of perfection!

Published in: February 2020

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