House of Tides is on the banks of the Tyne, in a Grade I listed 17th century merchant house. It opened in January 2014, gaining a Michelin star in the 2016 guide. Head chef and owner Kenny Atkinson worked at a number of restaurants in his early career, including in London at the Mandarin Oriental. His first head chef position was at The Greenaway Hotel in Cheltenham, followed by St Martin’s in the Scilly Isles, which gained a Michelin star, an award he also gained at Seaham Hall in County Durham. The ground floor is used as a welcome area where you have a drink and browse the menu. The dining room is on the first floor, with a view out over the river.
The menu is a fixed one at £70, though the kitchen will adjust for reasonable dietary preferences. The wine list had a quite extensive selection of references, with for example Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 at £34 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, the glorious Joh Jos Prum Riesling Kabinett Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2011 at £65 compared to its retail price of £23, and Domaine Patrick Javillier Meursault Clousots 2011 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £54 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Didier Dagenau Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2008 was £110 compared to its retail price of £54, and a half bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1998 was £160 for a label whose current market price is about £120.
The first nibble was cheese gougeres, made with cream cheese with a hint of truffle. I have rarely met a gougere that I did not like, and these were certainly enjoyable. If I am picky I would say that the choux pastry was a bit clunky relative to the best of the breed, that I prefer a deeper cheese flavour and that that there was a just a touch of sweetness. Nonetheless these were still very pleasant (15/20). This was followed by a tray of nibbles. A cold tomato consommé had very good flavour, A macaron of carrot and fennel pollen had reasonable texture but slightly subdued flavour. Better was very good cod roe on a crisp squid ink cracker. Mackerel tempura with gooseberry and a traditional duh of mustard worked very well, the batter light, the sharpness of the gooseberry a suitable foil for the natural oiliness of the fish. A croquette of eel with duck heart and truffle was lovely, comforting and rich (average 16/20).
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, fermented rye slices with excellent crust and light texture. A touch more salt would have made it even better (16/20). Butter was from a company called Butter Culture, a particularly good provider. The first formal course was sea bass with artichokes, gem lettuce and a lemon verbena sauce. The fish was excellent, precisely cooked and with very good artichokes, the verbena flavour mercifully subdued (16/20). Orkney scallops were plump and sweet, carefully cooked and served with lardo, dill and rhubarb. The scallops were particularly good, and perhaps did not need all the other elements, though the rhubarb with its acidity is a sensible pairing for the shellfish (16/20).
Galician beef came with white asparagus and pickled turnips. This was the least impressive dish of the meal, with sirloin that was correctly cooked but was overly chewy for me. The beef did have quite good flavour but I found myself gnawing through it, which was not what I look for in a piece of beef. The garnishes were good, with nice end of season white asparagus and good pickled turnips (14/20). A pescetarian alternative with the same garnishes was halibut, the fish very accurately cooked and having plenty of flavour, this working equally well with the garnishes (16/20).
Pre dessert was vanilla panna cotta with strawberry ice cream and meringue. The panna cotta was suitably wobbly and the vanilla came through well, with the strawberries actually tasting of strawberry, something that is a rare thing in the UK these days. The ice cream had lovely texture and the meringue added a contrast, the overall dish refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable (17/20). A bar of chocolate ganache was decorated with gold leaf, which in itself has no flavour and is just for show. The chocolate had plenty of flavour and silky texture. The hazelnut ice cream on the side had good texture but not quite enough hazelnut flavour (16/20). Coffee was from a local company called Pumphrys, and for me was a little rough. This came with a couple of petit fours (yuzu chocolate and salted caramel) as well it might at a hefty £6 a cup.
The bill came to £147 a head, albeit with a good bottle of wine, pre dinner drinks and a couple of additional glasses of wine. If you ordered more modest wine then a typical cost per head might be around £110. Service was charming, attentive yet relaxed and friendly. Overall this was an excellent meal and a very good experience all round. The restaurant is in an interesting building, the menu is appealing, kitchen technique is good and service lovely. It is not a cheap evening for sure, but this is strong Michelin star cooking.