I’ve wanted to eat at District Dining since it opened so naturally I jumped at the chance of being able to have lunch there with my family following my graduation ceremony. I fell in love with Warren Turnbull’s food at Assiette so I was interested to see what he would be able to cook up in the more relaxed, casual setting that is District Dining.
After the vivid colours of the Mondrian-esque map of Surry Hills that adorns the outside wall of the restaurant, we’re greeted by the warm tones of the wooden chairs and walls in the interior of the restaurant, with shiny mirrors along the sides of the restaurant and gleaming wine glasses on the tables. We sit down and immediately offered water and presented with the menu. The plates are designed for sharing and go from the smaller, snack-size portions at the top to the heartier, richer main-sized portions towards the bottom of the page.
I can’t go pass the chicken wings which arrive in a small bowl with 3 wings and 3 drumettes coated in a sweet sticky caramel-coloured sauce. I find it doesn’t have much chilli heat to it though which is disappointing.
The school prawns are piled up on a bowl with in a paper cone and with a wedge of lemon and lime mayonnaise on the side. The prawns have been fried to a crisp so that they can be eaten, shell and all. They’re super crunchy but this also makes them a little fiddly to eat since you have to be careful not to poke yourself in the mouth with the sharp heads. But the pain is worth it because they’re a fantastic and addictive snack and soon enough the whole bowl is gone.
The pigs ears are served in a terracotta pot and seasoned with a slightly spicy Szechuan salt. These curly tendrils of pigs ears are like eating pork flavoured chips with a peppery flavour from the salt. I’m surprised to find that out of all the snack menu items we ordered, this ends up being my favourite.
It wasn’t until I started writing up this post that I realised that 3 out of the 4 snack-sized items we ordered from the menu begin with the word “crispy”….. but anyways – the crispy quail eggs are served in a plastic egg carton with the tarragon mayonnaise on a wooden board. There are a few inconsistencies with some of the eggs having a runny yolk and some with a solid yolk but perhaps that was just to appeal to everyone’s different preferences. Biting into the thin batter of the egg released a burst of runny yolk into the mouth which was a great play on textures.
Charm was initially a bit apprehensive about eating veal tongue but when the plate is presented so beautifully with a myriad of colours from the salsa verde and the pickled radish it’s hard to not want to dig in. The veal tongue is pan fried and has a nice chewy texture which contrasts well with the crunchy almonds.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that scallops are one of my weaknesses so it’s no surprise that the seared scallops are one of my must-haves. The scallops have a nice charr on the top and are cooked perfectly. There are shards of crispy pancetta leaning on the scallops which add a burst of saltiness amongst the other flavours. The jerusalem artichokes are made into a creamy puree and the prunes appear as small dots of prune puree which give a touch of sweetness to the dish.
We decide to get one heavier dish and agree on the braised beef cheek which is so soft and tender it melts in the mouth. The cauliflower is cut into thin slices and is a stark dash of white amongst the deep brown beef. They certainly love their purees here since a cauliflower puree appears on this dish as well, and it’s wonderfully smooth and creamy.
I’ve had my eye on the desserts from the start and I choose the lemon cheesecake with blueberries and lemon curd ice cream. The ice cream is amazing with a fantastic zingy flavour and is also super creamy. The cheesecake is also wonderfully light and airy and without that heavy taste of cream cheese. If every cheesecake I ate tasted like this I would be a cheesecake lover for sure.
Charm opts for the dark chocolate brownie which to me tastes more like a chocolate cake. For me it’s missing that rich, fudgy texture that I associate with brownies but the parentals like the airy texture. The macadamia brittle has been shattered into crumbs and sits underneath a quenelle of white chocolate ice cream. Even though it’s not the gooey brownie I was hoping for, it’s a nice light end to the meal.
17 Randle Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9211 7798
Opening Hours: Monday 6-11pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday 12-3pm and 6-11pm; Friday, 12-11pm; Sunday, 12-5pm