Michelin Star restaurants are few and far between in the North East.
But 18 months after opening House of Tides in a Grade I listed building and chef Kenny Atkinson, of Seaham Hall fame, has re-joined the culinary elite.
For diners that means you better book in advance if you want to eat here - and be prepared to take a dent in your purse for the pleasure.
There’s one six course taster menu, a meat or vegetarian option which changes with the seasons, at £65 a pop. And no other choices, so you can like it or lump it.
Is it worth the money? If you want to try a medley of flavours unlike any others in the area, then you bet your bottom dollar it is. Granted, it’s not somewhere you’d dine every week, but it’s practically-perfect-in-every-way treat territory.
It gets off to a great start in the setting of this 16th Century former merchant’s town house.
In keeping with the historic beams, original flagstones and wonky walls, the theme is rustic chic. It feels fancy but not intimidatingly so, an ethos that’s echoed in the staff who, while knowledgeable of their craft, are far from stuffy.
Snacks are served in the bar area. Though to call them snacks, which conjures up images of a Scotch egg and bowl of peanuts, doesn’t do them justice. Tantalising treats would be a better description of the oysters topped with caviar, which we plucked from their bed of pebbles and devoured in one fell swoop.
The remaining courses are served upstairs where you can sink into gold leather seats and look out over the Tyne bridge. The Quayside, once famed for its alcopops and stag dos, may not have been the obvious location for an upmarket eatery (though I’m sure the tyre people had a great night out after their secret judging). But it just works, and is in keeping with the renaissance the area has undergone in the past few years.
Back to the food. Presentation is all part of the experience here and you can’t help but partake in that really annoying pastime of photographing all your dishes and committing them to social media. It’s food that screams ‘favourite me’.
First up: Jerusalem artichokes, cod, lardo and winter truffle, which was served like a bisque. Beautifully smooth, it was a perfect marriage of flavours injected with an extra richness from the truffle and lardo (or pig fat to you and me).
It contrasted well with the lighter nuance of Whitby crab, apple, turnip, caviar and sourdough which arrived, as pretty as a picture, next.
Round three comes in the form of partridge plump with flavour and shrouded in a tantalising tower of vegetables, quince and kale that almost looks too good to demolish. It’s a comforting winter warmer. Granted, it’s small, but you’re only half way through.
For the next course, we chose from either sea bream or beef cheek. I went for the latter which comes with a local favourite, pease pudding (probably the only Michelin Star restaurant to use it), as well as parsnips, crosnes and a splodge of velvety smooth mash.
After the heavier rounds of meat, a lighter creme brûlée arrived with fruits as a pre-dessert palate cleanser. Yes, there’s a pre-dessert before your actual dessert - they want to ensure every possible tastebud is tickled here.
Though you can have a sweet option, I chose the cheese to finish, six slabs which increase in richness from left to right. It arrived on a slate tile, which has fast become the cliché of gastro pubs but, unlike pub versions, there wasn’t a whiff of Jacobs crackers with this cheese board, which comes with pots of moreish fig and honey.
Drink-wise, cheery sommelier Will, who abounds with enthusiasm for his craft, was on hand to advise us on some full-bodied tipples, or you can opt for the wine flight at £45.
So what makes a Michelin Star? Judging by this visit, it’s a winning hat-trick of impeccable food, service and style.
While most restaurants in the region sit comfortably in the Championship, you’re on Premier League ground here.