IT was the all-important first Saturday night for award-winning chef Kenny Atkinson’s long-awaited new restaurant on Newcastle Quayside and the timing could have been so much better.

The Magpies had lost 3-0 to arch rivals Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby and, hours after the final whistle, the gloom clung over the city like a hanging judge’s black cap. The rain bounced off the angry river and the whipping wind made the nearby Tyne Bridge groan with aching disappointment.

The Northern Echo:

The House of Tides has been hit by choppy waters since the popular celebrity chef left Rockliffe Hall, at Hurworth-on-Tees, near Darlington, following a culinary change of direction at the hotel.

That was nearly a year ago – how time flies – and the opening of the House of Tides has been frustrated by tricky planning challenges due to the Grade 1 listed status of the 16th Century five-storey Buttress House, owned by North- East comedian Bobby Pattinson.

Finally, the tide has turned and Kenny, along with his wife, Abbie, and backer Richard Dye, have made a spectacular job of converting the leased ground and first floors into an eaterie that oozes class.

Like many others who were left intrigued by his sudden departure from Rockliffe, I was eager to see the next step taken by the Michelinstarred chef, whose reputation had soared at Seaham Hall before he was tempted south to Hurworth, to be part of Middlesbrough Football Club chairman Steve Gibson’s grand vision. So, with my wife, Heather, and daughter, Hannah, we wasted no time in booking our table for the opening weekend. Kenny’s a chef who likes to interact with his customers and he was quickly out to greet us as we perused the menu. And he came bearing gifts: an appetiser of locallygrown baby leeks, dusted with truffle shavings, with caramelised onion puree. Simple, but delicious.

“It’s all been a bit stressful,” he conceded.

“There were times when we thought we’d never get it open but we were determined to do things right.”

There are no concerns on that score. The old building, which has been home to five Newcastle Mayors in its time, before ending up as a warehouse, looks superb, with an original stone floor downstairs, wooden floors upstairs, old beams, iron supports, a magnificent fireplace, and tasteful decor throughout, with glorious paintings by renowned Newcastle artist Malcolm Teasdale enriching the walls.

Our evening got off to an unfortunate start when a nervous young waiter slipped and poured a glass of Prosecco over my wife. These things happen, the apologies were sincere, and Heather was able to stand in front of a downstairs fire to dry out.

The House of Tides offers two taster menus – six courses for £45 (wine flight £40) and eight courses for £60 (wine flight £55) – and Kenny Atkinson is just as much an artist with food as Malcolm Teasdale is with paint.

We chose the six-course menu and the restaurant was happy to provide a pescatarian variation for Heather and a vegetarian option for Hannah. Course one was celeriac, with chicken wing, honey and truffle, with the second course comprising mackerel, with carrots fennel, orange and smoked eel.

I’m not the most adventurous eater in the world, but the beauty of a taster menu is that it entices you to try things you wouldn’t normally order. It’s Kenny’s aim to bring fine dining to the masses and to pass on his clear passion for food. If someone had told me in my fussy school dinner days that I’d one day enjoy smoked eel, I’d have wriggled with trepidation. But enjoy it I did. It came in a small, bread-crumbed ball packed with a powerful, but pleasant taste.

The third course was sea bass, with mussels, coriander and curry, followed by course four – lamb, with pease pudding leeks and mint.

KENNY likes to use fresh produce from local grower Ken Holland and it really is top-notch stuff, bursting with flavour.

The pre-dessert was a beautiful lemon posset, with almond praline and popping candy. That set us up nicely for the dark chocolate main dessert, with popcorn and salted caramel.

On the whole, the girls loved their variations, although neither was enamoured with the panfried duck egg, which replaced the lamb course and came with shaved truffle, asparagus and butter. By the time we’d reached the end, we’d been there for four relaxed hours, aided by friendly, attentive service, and just the right time between courses, which didn’t feature a single potato. With two bottles of wine, water, tea and petit fours, and an optional 12.5 per cent service charge added on, the bill came to £226.

For us, that’s an expensive night out, but the House of Tides is all about a special eating experience and there’s clearly a market because the restaurant was full all night, despite it being early days.

The only disappointment was that there was no concession on the bill to reflect the accident with the spilled Prosecco at the start of our night. A gesture, no matter how small, should surely have been forthcoming.

That aside, the House of Tides looks set to be one of the North-East restaurant openings of the year. It’s a bold move by an inventive, Premier League chef who’s at the top of his game – unlike the Magpies on that dismal disaster of a derby day drubbing.

Food facts

Kenny Atkinson’s House of Tides, 28-30
The Close, Newcastle, NE1 3RF.
Quayside parking is free after 6.30pm.
Telephone: 0191-2303720. Email:
Opening times for dinner: Tuesday-
Saturday 6pm-9.30pm.

Quality of food: 5/5 Stars
Service: 4/5 Stars
Ambience: 5/5 Stars
Value for money: 4/5 Stars