*Please note: House of Tides have stated they are no longer accommodating vegans for their Taster Menus. Other dietary requirements will be cater for, however. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion you get what you pay for. We’ve relished many meals that would be considered cheap, while some haven’t lived up to expectation or price tag. When it comes to special occasions like anniversaries though, it is always worth pushing the boat out in the hope you have a fantastic experience. This year, I was unable to book a restaurant too far in advance because I was unsure whether we were able to get Dinky looked after. Thankfully my sister agreed, but our first choice House of Tides was fully booked when I checked their website. You can’t expect a Michelin star restaurant to have tables on a Saturday night at short notice, right? I tweeted and, as it transpired, they’d a last minute cancellation. With its proximity to our house and the fact we’ve eaten there in the past meant both myself and Mr. Canny were looking forward to the experience.
Although we have visited House of Tides a number of times, I have not featured it on the blog before. As many other bloggers attest, it can be a frustrating experience dining out and writing about it. Photographing the food in its best light, remembering all the dishes, formulating a post; when you’re paying around the £150 mark for a meal you don’t want anything to detract or distract from its enjoyment. The reason I changed my mind this time round was because it was the first time we were visiting a Michelin star establishment with Mr. Canny’s veganism. I’ve spoken to many vegans who have said they feel concern that they’d be accommodated, and I wanted to show that you can eat just about anywhere with dietary restrictions – even somewhere a bit ‘posh’!
Running meat and vegetarian sample menus during service on a Tuesday to Saturday, I had contacted ahead to inform of our dietary requirements as advised. You are sat downstairs with menus to begin with, where you can enjoy a drink while you ‘chose’. We were presented with our menus, including a specific vegan list for the Mr. After ordering a Strawberry and Cucumber Cooler for myself (£5), we had a conversation with the sommelier about wine. The one thing I hadn’t considered was vegan wine. We were told that, with more notice, they could have ensured they had a decent selection. As it transpired, their Jonty’s Ducks 2014 Pekin White (£7 per glass) was suitable as it is organic. Phew! There’s a selection of ales that were also fine to imbibe – he chose Wagtail (£5.50) – but with refined food a glass or two of vin is far more civilised. You can pay between £6 and £20 per glass so it’s worth getting a bottle, but because of Dinky we decided against it. I found the wine light and crisp. Billed as dry, I found it anything but.
The snacks arrived; marinated queen olives, mixed nuts and a truffle and onion crisp for Mr. Canny and a Heritage carrot and fennel cracker, ewes curd and an onion & cream cheese gougere for me. This is where the worry set in. While my nibbles were delicious, innovative and exciting, we felt the olives and nuts were a total cop out. They may have been good produce, but that sort of thing is served up in any chain restaurant as a vegan option all the time. The Mr. had expected more from Chef Atkinson, I have to be honest. My particular favourite was the ewes curd cornet however, which was topped with curry and a golden raisin. I heard others cooing over it when it arrived on their table.
After finishing our amuse-gueule we were escorted upstairs to our window table. Overlooking a roundabout may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Tyne was also visible past the Riverside car park. In order not to ramble on too much about each of our 6 dishes (not including the rye bread we were given when finally seated at our table), I have split our meal up photographically into Mr. Canny’s vegan and my vegetarian taster menu. I have captioned each dish, and the vegan options will be labelled with a (v).
The worries from his lacklustre appetisers were long forgotten with these beautifully presented and clever dishes. While the panna cotta was too set by normal standards as there was no ‘wibble’, I imagine working with anything other than double cream in its execution made it a difficult dessert to create. So keen was Mr. Canny to tuck into the ‘cheesecake’ you can actually see the mark where he removed strawberry shard in the above photo. He got told off for that! We both were impressed with the balance of the salty butter and the tart strawberry sorbet which accompanied it. The pea veloute was so thick and creamy it was hard to believe it was vegan, and the woody mix of truffle, artichoke, mushroom and hazelnuts in his ‘main’ was earthy and filling.
As I don’t eat whole egg one of my courses was almost identical to Mr. Canny’s, save for brioche. My standout dishes were the gnocchi and King Oyster (mushroom, in case you wondered) combination – which was both nutty and sweet – and the torte made with 81% dark chocolate. The gariguette strawberries, served in a variety of ways, added both sweet and tart to cut through what could have been a sickly dessert.
Service, for us, was polished and rehearsed. We chatted about the dishes and our thoughts as plates were cleared and water glasses topped up, and there was only one blip regarding a forgotten Bellini during the course of the meal. A lady at another table kept dropping her napkin on the floor, which was promptly replaced with a fresh linen on each occasion. I don’t know who cringed most. After two and a half hours I was needing to get home for the evening feed, so we eschewed coffees.
I only realised after the fact my vegetarian menu was £68, while Mr. Canny’s was a more modest £55. I was surprised the vegetarian option is priced the same as meat, as I seem to recall on one occasion historically it had been less. Whether that accounts for the run-of-the-mill appetisers for the vegan to my own I’m not sure when both were stated as costing the same on the menus we perused while there. On our receipt it states I had the meat, which I didn’t. Either one was overcharged or undercharged, I’m not sure which.
With suggested service of 12.5% automatically added to the bill our anniversary meal was just below £164. Eye-watering by anyone’s standards, and a few folk I know object to the fact the tip is not discretionary. That said, for a special occasion we’re more than happy to pay that for food of this quality. We’re paid more for meals that weren’t of a Michelin star standard in Dubai, for example. While this visit bore none of the theatre we’d experienced in the past – there was dry ice with one of our courses during a birthday meal – it was one we won’t forget in a hurry. Menus may change monthly to reflect the seasonal produce available, but we feel confident that our vegetarian and vegan readers will be accommodated as we were whenever they dine at House of Tides. We look forward to our next visit to the only Michelin starred restaurant in Newcastle. It is well deserved.
Thanks for reading,