[Pictures: David Straight]
We’re getting mixed messages. District Dining is a self-described combination of sophisticated food with a bistro buzz and price tag. But while the food is good – by God is it good – we didn’t really feel much of that promised energy: District Dining is just ever so slightly off, slightly too austere. Perhaps it’s the corporate crowd that descends on Britomart come evening, perhaps it’s the music.
Chef and owner Warren Turnbull is very clever; it’s approachable yet innovative, refined yet never fussy. Highlights? A veal board, $70 for two to share with veal in five different guises. The produce used is impeccable – heirloom tomatoes, top-quality meat, beautiful cheeses. A simple steak tartare ($22) was served in a neat mound with crisp toasted sourdough, salty french fries, creamy aioli and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. The herbed gnocchi ($24) is delicate where need be and entirely sustaining, crisp pangrattato offsetting the peasant earthiness of the broccoli. Bar snacks are good too – we like the cleverness of pig’s ears in tongue-numbing Szechuan salt; tried a divine French cheese we can’t remember the name of and enjoyed a beef chimichanga – flavoursome, moreish and far more interesting than bar snacks tend to be.
You might look at Depot and wonder why it has queues out the door when District Dining doesn’t. We’d put it down to the environment, the music – and dare we say it, the slightly too small portion sizes. Admittedly it’s designed for sharing, but you’ll need to share more than two mains between two. We’ve eaten at District Dining in Sydney, too, and the space is perhaps more conducive to what they’re trying to achieve – it’s darker, warmer, and the menu is on a blackboard. Something has been lost in translation; thankfully it’s not what’s on the plate.
HOURS: Monday to Saturday, 12-3pm and 6-11pm. Friday, midday to 11pm.
ADDRESS: 50 Customs Street East, Britomart, ph 368-5315. www.districtdining.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS: We’d recommend you book a table. We didn’t for our first visit and ended up having (very enjoyable) bar snacks for dinner since the kitchen had closed at 9.30pm.