Writer Lee Majhen-Todd takes a trip to Michelin starred House of Tides for a spot of lunch where she found a dish she could have "bathed in".
Let me start by saying a few things about my food reviewing skills. I'm not a professional restaurant critic, not a food reviewer or even a wannabe chef aspiring to eat food for a living.
I am a person who likes to cook and really likes to eat, not just any food, but very good food. I think about a food review the same way I think about my book reviews for the Foodie Book Club.
Obviously, one of the many criteria for me has to be the taste of the food. Whether I like it or not, and to what degree I like it. I'm aware that what I may like others may not, which is why I occasionally ask the opinion of the lovely Mr G, my ever-patient husband and Chief Taster of all things experimented with at Lee & The Sweet Life, but mostly it’s my taste buds I rely on. For better or for worse.
What are my criteria for a good critique, well a few things have to apply? There is the "first enter the door feeling".
You walk through the door of a restaurant, and everyone seems relaxed, not running around trying to fight the crisis that may be happening behind the scenes.
Customers are looking relaxed too. With drinks in their hands and a low murmur of appreciation and excitement, they talk quietly about what's to come.
The reception from the front of house staff is what defines a great restaurant. They are well trained, appreciated, valued, and this is always reflected in the way they first greet their customers and then make them feel welcome throughout the visit.
What I'm looking for is for them to help me feel as if the money I've just spent for the privilege of sitting down for three hours is worth it. This was definitely the case at House of Tides.
As soon as Mr G and I stepped through the door for our Saturday afternoon treat, we were greeted with a relaxed welcome with just enough vigour to know that customer service was vital. This carried on all through our time there, making me feel like a welcome visitor to someone's home where nothing was too much trouble.
House of Tides is set in a listed building overlooking the River Tyne in Newcastle. Right on the quayside, it has a great view of the Tyne Bridge and the other bridges Newcastle is proud of. Have you heard of the winkey bridge? Not its real name, but because it resembles an eye when it raises and lowers, it winks, obviously.
With just 50 covers Kenny Atkinson has made sure that the atmosphere inside the upstairs restaurant is as relaxed as it is downstairs in the rustic bar area. With open beams and a floor that I'm still claiming tilted slightly, it's set out to be open, light and a pleasure to tuck into the tasting menu served.
And what of that?
It wasn't the best of starts for me. The Baba Ganoush amuse-bouche looked amazing, as I expected, but I felt it lacked seasoning, making it a little bland. The redeeming factor for me with this dish were the crackers that were ever so slightly spiced. I know that both of these things were to be eaten together, but I would have liked them to be able to stand alone on their merits.
Once upstairs sitting in that great tilting room, the food began its incline to greatness.
For the next course, a trio of treats of Parmesan Churro, Cod's Roe and Beef Tartare to entice my taste buds.
Is honesty the best policy? Asking that question now is probably too late, but here goes. One of my favourite things of all time is a tartare. I love it so much that it's on my chapter list for my first Croatian /British crossover cookbook.
Again I was let down by the seasoning. Showcasing high-quality meat for me, means helping it become all that it can be, this didn't shine, and I was disappointed.
The Churro was a delight to nibble on, slightly soft in the middle and a great lingering flavour that went a small way to make up for the tartare.
The cod roe was sandwiched in between a slightly savoury meringue, and it really wasn't too my taste. While loving and encouraging the experimentation of flavours, for me, this was something I wouldn't want to try again.
While the next course of Mussels, Curry & Potato was a dish I could have bathed in.
Mussels so moist that to have them in my mouth felt like a necessity, and gentle spice of curry made the whole dish into something harmonious. This dish made the previous courses dim, and Mr G and I looked at each other as though we had just discovered the key to unlock the crown jewels.