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[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.

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.


  1. Jo wrote:

    Agree with your review. Love the interior BUT, it’s like Prego… very hard to have a conversation without shouting. Very loud. Nothing to suck up the sound.

    Friday, February 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  2. Karen wrote:

    I second your review. Ever since Tabou closed down we’ve been on the hunt for a new bistro for our regular night out with friends. Absolutely loved the food at DD…the pig ears were a treat, the creme brulee…well, we wouldn’t share that one with the boys and struggled not to lick the bowl. It’s just the decor that lets the place down. Too stark and straight and the crowd was certainly more grey than we’d anticipated. A bistro summons up images of warmth, wood, delicious smells, chatty conversations but DD is too chichi. Unfortunately it’s the one reason were not hopping to go back.

    Friday, September 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  3. SFG wrote:

    Great to hear Karen. Have you tried Sunday Painters recently? They hired a new chef earlier in the year and it is really good. Quickly becoming our go-to bistro. Our review from 2010 is here –

    Friday, September 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

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