Newcastle’s only Michelin starred and flagship restaurant from Kenny Atkinson
My travels around the UK have revealed a gem every so often and they stick in the mind. Some I get to go back to more often than not, but in this case, it’s been a while and I was eager to get back to House of Tides in Newcastle as it was one of those gems in my mind on first visiting. This revisit was not only a welcome return, but if anything, exceeded my expectations and was even better than my first visit. It’s rare that tasting menus can maintain powerful hitters on each course and it was simply the case here, that course after course at The House of Tides was cleverly done and delightful to eat. I don’t usually get the opportunity to say this, but it’s now safe for me to say that eating here is guaranteed to please. Full details of this meal are at the ‘read full review’ button below as usual, but to be honest, that and the food score are all you really need to know. This restaurant is a gem for anyone in, or visiting Newcastle.
Kenny Atkinson first took on The House of Tides in 2014 after working at the Rockliffe Hall in County Durham. Originally the site was a merchant’s tavern dating back to the 16th century called ‘House on Water’s Edge’ and the building is now a grade 1 listed property, unmoved from its quayside location.
The lunch menu is a single tasting menu of 9 courses priced at £75. Our meal at House of Tides consists started in the rustic, downstairs bar, being served thin thyme crackers to dip into a small pot of baba ganouche with nicely judged spiced granola on top. Simple and effective. The main dining room is upstairs which holds another side room, complete with its charming decor of original 16th-century windows still in place. Once at our table, snacks were brought out starting with parmesan churros with black truffle and aged chestnut purée which was a great take on reversing something normally sweet into a savoury snack that was lovely. The churros themselves not leaking in oil and the truffles and puree working well together with pleasant seasoning. Next up was a smoked beetroot tart with smoked bone marrow, coal oil with fermented celeriac; the delectably thin pastry held subtle beetroot and an unctuous topping to match. Finally, a macaron filled apple and cod’s roe, the apple of which was the perfect balance to the smooth and salty cod’s roe layer. Not one of these disappointed.
An experimental sweet and sour langoustine was served on a skewer with puffed rice and zest of lime and pineapple gel which was a very well balanced blend of sweet and sour on a plump piece of langoustine. It’s a double-edged sword sometimes with punchy sauces as they can actually hide the inherent sweetness of certain crustacean and fish (such as langoustine) and although there is a lot of effort in the sauce and the puffed rice had a lovely texture, it was interesting for me to reflect that sometimes the glory of langoustine or crab for example, can be in its own sweetness. Places such as Noma in Copenhagen will simply brush some very good fish produce with egg yolk or butter and let the fish do the rest. However, this is not to downgrade this dish as it was very good and it was a very good play of texture and Asian twist in general.
Smoked pork beignet bbq onion consommé and onion gel was next and was nothing short of outstanding. The sweetness of the onion consommé was the among the best I have ever tasted and this was just a delight all round. Bread came from Olivia Bakery, a long-standing supplier for the Atkinsons with a consistent track record for the restaurant.
Monkfish came next with fermented kohlrabi, Exmoor caviar, dill oil, cream and horseradish. The monkfish was cooked to perfection and the supporting sauce was beautifully balanced. Dill and seafood is a faultless and magical combination in my book and this all came together well and I could have eaten several of these small plates alone. Monkfish is easy to overcook and this was absolutely spot on.
Veal sweetbread came with beef fat crumb, roasted cauliflower purée, curried raised chutney and veal jus. The Sweetbread itself was a fraction lower in crispy caramelised exterior to others I have had such as at Midsummer House, had but was well cooked all the way through and the beef fat crumb was a great touch for texture, with a very good chutney to help deal with the fat of the former.
Lamb rump and lamb shoulder came with spinach gel, turnip quenelle and turnip purée with lamb fat crumbs. This was a quality piece of Cumbrian lamb and the supporting spinach and turnip quenelles/purees were sensibly portioned and balanced, with a clear and nicely viscous jus. Meanwhile, my pescatarian guest had seabass with gnocchi and butternut squash which was reportedly excellent.
There were two desserts, the first being a tartlet of rhubarb with crisp rhubarb shards, rhubarb compote, oats disc, custard cream with a lychee and rose sorbet. The rhubarb itself was nicely toned down in acidity and with good flavour and the cream supporting all parts well. The lychee and rose sorbet was mercifully well balanced (rose can often have far too much of a perfume quality for sweet or savoury dishes) and it was another dish that was over quite quickly being so enjoyable to have. The second dessert was even better and the chocolate with Calamansi gel, praline tuile came with a praline sorbet and chicory syrup that actually has the taste of coffee. All of this was good and came with an aromatic finish of Thai basil which I was fearing when I heard, but turned out to be a brilliant addition. I have had many desserts with savoury herbs added that have just not worked and this was far clear of anything like that. Petit fours came as seabuckthorn treats (blue) and dark chocolate truffles.
Service throughout the meal was attentive and accommodating and was very good to catch Mr Atkinson on the way out and hear his thoughts on the approach to the menu and the region in general. The bill with drinks throughout (including a celebratory espresso martini digestif) came to £115 per head which, for the quantity and quality of what was had, is extremely good value. For the sheer happiness that this investment gave and the superb lunch it was all round, I wouldn’t even blink at this price point. A wonderful meal to be enjoying and in terms of control of ingredients and technical skill, I actually can’t see much difference to this when compared to certain 2 Michelin starred venues, such as Bibendum and Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, except easily enjoying House of Tides more so.
Food Grade: 89%
Having toured Scotland for 6 days it was time to head south / home and as I was passing nearby Newcastle on the A1 it made utterly no sense not to go in to try its Michelin starred jewel in the crown for lunch – and I’m very glad I did. The 7 course menu for £50 at Michelin starred level showed good value for money at lunch and there were some rocket fuel moments. The design of the food was intricate (details at the expansion button) and it was justifiably popular but you are far better financially going for lunch if the food is your key interest as the same menu bar one snack and main course is available in the evening for an extra £20. Reportedly the menu changes often and this shows flare and creativity from the head chef (Kenny Atkinson) unafraid of trialling different ideas which is a bold move. Some great food here and it is obvious a tidy ship is run on the dining floor by an attentive team. This venue would seem to cater for romantic or friend gathering occasions equally well, day or night.
First up these were some of the tastiest canapés I have had at any restaurant – and that is a very good start! The spiced fennel pollen and carrot macaroon was spritely; the duck liver with curried cone was slightly sour but intriguing, but the caramelised onion and cream cheese gougere was utterly superb! So many of these cheese puffs have an injection of cheese only but this gave the full magma of the good stuff, was brilliantly balanced and not overpowering and gave a full golfball size of the wonderful truffled cheese. I would happily divert a journey to Newcastle based on this one alone.
The white onion soup was a bowl of creamed delight (so well-judged) and this was another knock out dish. The halibut was a fresh dish but also I didn’t get much joy from as there didn’t seem to be a unique selling point on it, but clean nonetheless. The red deer dish was earthy but sweet at the same time and with no issues in the actual execution of this dish. Then the pre-dessert of gentle and warm spices that really was a clever addition and in tune with the festive cinnamon-esque season. Finally, the dark chocolate and whiskey had the perfect crunchiness to the base and velvety chocolate you could ask for – almost ganache in quality and with gentle handling of the whiskey flavour which worked superbly.
All in all, this was a great menu and with most of the supporting acts turning out to be the stars, and those smaller aspects being strong enough in themselves to make me look forward to the excuse of going back again. The head chef changes the menus regularly and this demonstrates a great confidence in itself (as opposed to sticking to a safe bet once an accolade is attained). The only gripe with this venue being the lack of any other menu choices and the fact that it is only one snack and main course extra in the evening but for £20 in addition. So, best value for the food only is lunch but evenings are evenings and I would happily come back here for the full ensemble whenever I can based on this first visit.
Food Grade: 84%
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