District Dining

31 10 2010

(I’m not sure about taking pictures of food in restaurants so I think I’ll follow the Petrogasm route and choose an image which sums the experience up instead) 

Bloody Hell.

It’s sometimes easy to forget how refreshing a refreshing thing is if you haven’t been refreshed for a while. Like a big, cool, watery slap on this steamy Sydney Sunday. This fair city is spoiled for good eating and I like to think that I’ve tried a few, but I reckon I could count on one hand all the meals that were actually fault-free. It’s poor value, or a stiff atmosphere, or a pain to get to, or surly waitstaff, or one course really lets it down. It doesn’t ruin the evening but it does stop you raising it immediately into the Hall of Eating Fame.

And so it was with some trepidation that I got up this morning and tried to figure out if last night’s meal survived the 12-hours-later-test. The Pike & Joyce Pinot has worn off, the harsh light of day is asaulting the senses. The young lady and I look at each other…“Shit…it really was bloody good, wasn’t it?”

And so it was. District Dining has only been open 9 or 10 days and while the service might not be faultless yet, there is an absolute mountain of stuff to like about this place. The entrance area bears the soon to be iconic Mondrian-esque map of Surry Hills that District Dining has created. Visually striking…and practically useful…a long overlooked combination. Decor-wise you’re in a rolling dining car, somewhere in the Rockies, with dark timbers, well-spaced tables, lots of mirrors, regular rectangular windows overlooking treetops. You ask the ticket inspector what the next station is. He looks at you quizzically and offers you the wine list…with an Aussie accent. Oh yeah…

Everything we ordered was good. Actually excellent. You could go back again and again and again and not get bored of the menu. It manages to use a wedge of varied ingredients and make everything sound mouthwateringly good. Simple, strong flavours are matched together into rustic formations on wooden boards. Except it’s not rustic. The food is extremely polished, and the complex flavours very well thought out. YL and I started with Smoked eel pate with basil pesto laden pitta and fresh cucumber, alongside quail eggs, tarragon mayonaise and white anchovies. Not only were both dishes spectacularly tasty, but the presentation was striking. Wait…$14 for each dish. Is that the first of 3 easy-to-pay installments? No, it’ just $14. In Sydney.

Okay, anyone can wow with starters, but mains are often a criminal letdown. We scan the menu again, which is a simple paper mat on the table, and see that the starters and mains aren’t really categorized. The dishes are all meant to be shared…so often a cunning cloak for tiny, overpriced plates of food. But not this time. We plump for Crispy skin Chicken with coleslaw and Barramundi, with cous-cous, caponata and eggplant, both about $24 on the menu.

We devour the Barramundi first. Beautifully salty, crisp skin over melting white flesh and accompaniments that accentuate the pop of the chickpea and the ooze of the eggplant. Then the chicken. I may just need a moment….     ….   …  ..  . it’s the poshest KFC ever. EVER. And I mean that in an entirely brilliant way. Huge chucks of succulent chicken in the crispiest, thinnest batter…without any grease dripping down my arm and off my elbow. Yum. The coleslaw is overly salty but we let them get away with that becasue the chicken is so good. Warren Turnbull, of Assiette fame, is in charge of the kitchen here and he has certainly hit the ground running.

We’re stuffed so we pass on dessert this time and finish off our glasses of the aforementioned Pike & Joyce Pinot Noir ($50). It’s a juicy, satisfying Pinot with elegance, rather than punch. The list is varied and interesting all the way through with some great value bottles hidden in there. The bar is also one that I would happily sit at and knock back a beer and a few nuts – very welcoming feel. We paid up and were very happy to hand over $131 plus tip for the pleasure. It was very good. It was even good the following day. And 3 minutes walk from my house. The district is on fire these days.

Verdict: 4 great bottles of wine on a lazy Sunday afternoon

District Dining, 17 Randle Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW 2010, (02) 9211 7798, info@districtdining.com.au

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4 responses

31 10 2010
Reemski

Right, I so have to go! Sounds fab!

1 11 2010
spitbuckets

Really recommend it – will be another reason to come back and visit us 🙂

30 11 2010
Ms Darlinghurst

So the rumours are true…this place is stirring it up-a must try!

Great post and thanks for the tips on the wine!

xxMs D

3 12 2010
spitbuckets

Yes it is a great addition to a bustling area. Can’t wait to go back again.

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