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Dispatches from Sydney – District Dining


So, this is the 2nd Monday in three weeks that I have found myself in Sydney.  I find this annoying as many of the restaurants on my ‘to do’ list are closed on Monday evenings.  My options were even slimmer this Monday evening as when I called Luke Nguyen’s Red Lantern in Surry Hills to make a booking, I was informed that it was closed for a private function.  Humph!  There were other places on the list but even I consider $200 too extravagant for a Monday night dinner for two.  Thankfully, District Dining in Surry Hills came to our rescue.

District is a cosy little bistro with lots of warm wood, chalkboards and muted lighting.  There is a bar at one end of the dining room that was kept busy all night, turning out cocktails and dispensing wines from a reasonable list.  The menu is divided between ‘Something To Start’, ‘Something To Share’ as well as a couple of larger mains and a few sides.  I pioneered the concept of sharing with a dining partner so I’m glad that restaurants and bistros the world over have caught up to me and now offer sharing and tasting plates as a matter of course.  It makes the ordering experience so much easier!

The suggestion was to select a couple of items from Something To Start and a couple from Something To Share.   We went for four items from the To Start section (one of which was the Sourdough & Oil combo) and one from the To Share section.  This turned out to be far too much food for the two of us.  Portions are very generous.  The To Start plates took barely any time to be delivered and throughout our meal, I saw people waiting hardly any time for their own orders to arrive.  It’s a very efficient operation in the District kitchen.

Crispy School Prawns were flash fried whole in a light coating and served with a lime mayo.  They were salty and sweet at once and despite Anthony complaining that their little whiskers were a bit sharp in his mouth, there was not one prawn left in the bowl.  My love affair with the Pig’s Ear continues.  This time they were finely shredded, flash fried and finished in Szechuan Salt.   Served in a crunchy tangle, they would be the ultimate bar snack.  Nothing left in that bowl either.  The final dish was the Spiced Lamb Brik Roll with middle eastern flavours and subtle spicing, it was warming with a crisp outer.  It was also one ‘To Start’ too many.
Our main was a 12 hour Slow Cooked Lamb topped with crunchy Spiced Cauliflower.  As you would imagine, the lamb was tender and flaked readily but we were divided over our opinion on the Cauliflower.  I certainly don’t need my veges to be mushy but the cauli was just a little to crunchy for my liking.  Anthony said he liked the way it mimicked nuts but I’m not convinced that it was meant to be that toothsome.  It didn’t detract from the dish though, so it’s a minor quibble.  I also hate to sound like Manu Fieldel from ‘My Kitchen Rules’ but, there was not enough sauce.  After 12 hours in a pot or casserole, surely there’s a bucketload of unctuous sauce and some of that needs to go on the plate.  I’d still recommend the dish but for me, it wasn’t a highlight.

I must make mention of a ‘To Start’ that was flying out the kitchen door.  The Crispy Quail Eggs are soft boiled then crumbed and fried to finish. They are served in little egg cartons of six . The neighbouring table told us the yolks were cooked to prefection and it appears that nearly every table was enjoying a set.

OK, so maybe I didn’t pioneer the sharing concept but it suits my style of eating.  District is on the edge of Surry Hills, very conveniently located to Central Station.

District Dining
17 Randle St
Surry Hill  NSW 2010

Visited: Monday 27th February 2012 – Dinner Service


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