Look what I just made!
Well, of course, I didn’t do any such thing. These dishes were prepared for me to heat up and serve at home. And yet, I felt a sense of accomplishment which I hadn’t anticipated. I’ll come back to that discussion later but first, let’s get down to describing the food.
The process of ordering a House of Tides @Home meal online is quick and easy but I also telephoned the restaurant with some queries while I was in the process of placing the order. The staff I spoke with were welcoming and helpful. I had a particularly interesting conversation with the restaurant’s sommelier. ( I have learned – perhaps the hard way – that listening to the sommelier serves only to enhance the experience of meal. Another subject I’ll come back to on a later occasion!) Being at home and only having access to online deliveries, wine choices were always going to be limited. None the less, the advice and recommendations of wine types to match the various courses were very helpful.
A “Pre-Starter Starter”:
An “amuse bouche” was included in this menu. A light, smooth, smoked cod’s roe dip to be eaten with onion palmiers. The charred onion flavour of the crisp palmiers was more intense than I’d anticipated and it struck me that this might overwhelm the delicately flavoured mousse. But it did not. The combination of flavours and textures – smooth with crisp – was perfect.
(May I add at this point, I would not normally associate a Michelin dining experience with having a little plastic pot on my plate! What might appear to be laziness on my part is, instead, a reflection of my dislike of waste. I refuse to waste any of the dip while ‘decanting’ it and I refuse to indulge in unnecessary effort.)
A Jerusalem artichoke velouté with a garnish of hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted hazelnuts, artichoke pieces and chives.
Jerusalem artichoke soup is something I make at every available opportunity while they are in season. It’s simple to make and, in terms of flavour, it’s one of my favourite soups. I had hoped this version would be as good as my own home-made. ( Ooh, get me! ) This turned out to be masterclass in how to make and serve a simple, vegetable based soup.
The velouté was velvety smooth and intensely flavoured with that hint of smokiness and earthy flavour which artichokes have. The hen of the woods appeared to have been lightly pickled – or dressed – in a sweet fruit vinegar ( apple, perhaps? ) and that sweetness and acidity lifted this simple soup into something quite spectacular. The firm texture of the artichoke pieces, the crunch and flavour of the roasted hazelnuts and the freshness of the chives added further layers to the eating quality of the whole dish. I think I would rate this dish, though made from a base of very simple ingredients, as the stand-out course of the meal for me. It was stunning.
A small loaf of gorgeous malted bread was included – something I was still eating and enjoying the next day!
Baked Cod, Bouillabaisse Sauce and Mussels.
A fish course is my favourite part of a meal. Or, if given a choice for a main course, I will always choose fish over meat. This was the dish I’d been looking forward to most.
I sincerely hope the chefs who devised and prepared this dish will forgive me for displaying their creation in a less than flattering way, but I think the image can still convey the idea of what this fish course is about. It’s essentially a very fresh piece of quality cod nestling in a full-flavoured sauce. If I could be given the opportunity of having a second bash at preparing any of the courses of the meal, this would be the one!
Serving the fish the right way up would be a good idea, but even before that, I’d pay more attention to the cooking time of the fish. I can’t bear overcooked fish ( who can? ) and I often take the concept of erring on the side of caution too far. This fish wasn’t massively undercooked but it was definitely more translucent than I would have preferred. None of this really detracted from the dish, however. If I could have made one tweak, it would have been to take the saltiness down a notch, but this didn’t alter the fact that the outstanding feature was the freshness of the fish and that the fragrant bouillabaisse sauce complemented it very well. The mussels not only added texture to the dish but had that taste-of-the-sea that adds depth and freshness.
Chicken breast and wing with Boulangère Potato, Shiitake and Kale
For a second time, I should be requesting the chef’s forgiveness for displaying an image of another dish I’ve butchered – literally, this time – but on this occasion, it was only the carving and presentation which was lacking. I had paid more careful attention to the heating instructions with the end result that it was cooked (almost) to perfection.
All of the garnish items were perfect – the kale, the mushrooms and the pomme boulangère. The chicken breast with its crunchy skin and the little tender boneless wing piece were excellent. The meat was moist, succulent, tender and packed with flavour. (If I ever cook this at home again, I’ll be even braver with the heat under the pan and render down the skin fat even further but as it was, it was delicious.)
The crowning item, however, was the café au lait sauce used to dress the dish. I’ll be quite frank here, I was disappointed to see such a small quantity of sauce in its little plastic container as I transferred the items from their delivery box to the fridge. (Usually, I provide my chicken portions with swimming trunks in preparation for dealing with the quantity of gravy I’m going to swamp them in.)
My fear was unfounded. When the cafe au lait sauce had been warmed and had taken on a more fluid consistency, the quantity was exactly right to complete the dish. None of the taste profiles of the individual ingredients of the sauce were in evidence, but rather this was a perfect marriage of flavours. This highly flavoured sauce needed to be used in just the right amount. The only way I can think of to describe the sauce’s outstanding flavour would be to say that it was intensely “chickeny”.
A cheese course is an additional option with the @Home menu. I opted for it. (Is a cheese course worth the price? On this occasion, my answer would be “yes”, but we’ll have a full discussion on that theme another day.)
The set of four cheeses represented a classic selection in that a goat’s cheese, a soft white rind cheese, a blue cheese and a cheddar-type were included. All four examples came with a written description, not only of their flavours but of their provenance. I’m very much in favour of knowing the sources of my food and the reassurance this brings in terms of the producers’ methods and ethics and, ultimately, in the quality of food I’m eating. Clearly, much thought had gone into the balance of the cheeses in the selection and also in their quality.
The hand-made crackers, adorned with poppy seeds, were crunchy and delicious. The sweet, fruity chutney was as good as my home-made. (Yes, get me again, but I stand by that claim! I’ve been making chutney at home for over forty years and I’m really quite good at it!) I think the point I’m making is that the chutney was hand made and made with thought and care.
I did what Raymond Blanc taught me ( via the telly, sadly, and not in person ) in that I ate the cheese course before the dessert and tackled the cheeses in the order of flavour strength. This plate was something to really linger over.
Plum and Vanilla Cheesecake with Thyme Roasted Plums and Cinnamon Granola
Quite some time elapsed before I tackled the dessert. Perhaps one advantage of eating a multi-course meal at home is that there really is no limit as to how long you can take to “rest” between plates!
The dessert proved to be one of those dishes which has a deceptively simple appearance but outstanding flavours and great balance.
The cheesecake was softly and smoothly textured, so I assumed it was a ‘set’ cheesecake rather than baked. The plum jelly topping wasn’t there just to look smart, it had great depth of flavour as well as adding an additional texture. The griddled plum was firm, fragrant and delicious and the crowning feature was the cinnamon spiced, sweet, crunchy granola.
There is an expression which I often misquote but it goes something along the lines of “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. In other words, all of the items forming this dish were good in their own right but put together, they were excellent.
And to finish:
The final part of the meal was a dainty petit four: a softly set, bite-sized chocolate tart. A dark chocolate and miso caramel tart to be precise. With rich, deep chocolate flavour and a hint of saltiness, it was perfect little flourish on which to end.
If I had to choose between a “dine-at-home” option and a meal in a restaurant there would be no comparison. I’d eat in a restaurant every time. I’m not just paying for the food and the cooking skills, I’m paying for the experience. I want to discuss the dishes with the staff. I want to learn about the provenance of the ingredients and the accompanying wines. I want to enjoy the atmosphere and environment that only a restaurant can offer.
However, in these strange days which have been so profoundly altered by a global pandemic, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to enjoy really good food and to continue discovering restaurants and chefs from my region. I’m planning to write a blog article at a later date about the whole cook-at-home experience and whether or not it is something which is daunting ( it isn’t, is the short answer!) but for now, I’d be very happy to recommend the experience – certainly from the House of Tides kitchen.
Quite clearly, I did not choose the vegetarian option. However, my sheet of cooking instructions included those for the dishes I would have had, had I gone down the vegetarian route.
A caramelised onion cream cheese tart would have taken the place of the smoked cod’s roe dip. In place of the fish course, I would have enjoyed spinach and ricotta ravioli with pak choi and tarragon cream sauce. My main course would have been honey roasted butternut squash with black garlic, shiitakes and kale.
Having tasted the sublime flavours of that artichoke velouté in my own menu choice, I would have complete confidence in Kenny Atkinson’s team’s ability to achieve excellent results without meat or fish featuring in the dishes. In fact, I feel very tempted to try the House of Tides @Home vegetarian option for myself.
A dine at home menu for one is £50.00. A meal for two is £100.00 and £200.00 for four. The optional cheese course is £12.00 for one and £20.00 for two. Bottles of wine ranging from £28.00 to £30.00 may also be ordered online. The delivery charge is £12.00 within the available postcodes (NE1 – NE15 and NE20 – NE34).
I enjoyed my meal hugely and would be happy to order from the @Home menu again in the future. Of course, dining at House of Tides in person would be an even better option but, for now at least, the dine at home alternative is a very good one.
One Michelin Star, 2015 – 2020,
AA Restaurant Guide, Four AA Rosettes, 2017 – 2021
( please see the restaurant’s website for the full list of awards)
House of Tides, 28-30 The Close, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3RF
amaziliapeacock: 3 March 2021