District Manchester, 60 Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LE – Visit Now
Strap in, things are about to get effusive. Off the top of my head, there are just a handful of legendary meals in and around Manchester. The kind you rave about for years, including illustrious names like Forest Side, the sadly-missed Umezushi and Moor Hall. And now, seemingly out of nowhere, there’s another one to add to the list: District.
Based on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter, it hasn’t actually come out of nowhere, rather it’s from the team who set up the popular Toyko Ramen, just round the corner. But there’s not been anything like District in Manchester before. Billed as a new approach to Thai food, District offers a Thai-style tasting menu but the reality is much more. It’s one of the most accomplished places I’ve visited in years, near-perfect on every level, from drinks to food to atmosphere.
Tonight we’re here for The Full Experience, a twelve-course menu with multiple twists and turns, a few surprises and not a single misstep through the entire dozen dishes. It’d be a mistake to detail each dish in turn as it’d ruin the element of surprise, but it’s worth picking out a few high points. Take the Raw Wild Bass which kicks things off. It’s a delicate arrangement, taking in tiny cubes of raw sea bass, purple yam and Thai basil, lying in a potent tangy broth, combining in a way that’s both complex but instantly recognisable as the very top tier of Thai cuisine. It’s immediately obvious that the meal is set to be something special.
But practically every course is up to this standard. Everything feels exciting and new, and while flavour takes priority, each dish is an undeniable treat to the eye. Another standout option is the Red Curry, a vivid crimson sauce, artfully blended with a white smoked coconut dressing (cutely described as smoconut on the menu), plated over a neat cube of Angus X Hereford short rib and topped with just the right amount of pickled onion. A pie barm down the chippy it ain’t.
Quite simply, this is one of, if not the best restaurant to open in Manchester in years
As much care and attention has gone into the drinks. Pre-mixed in the mysterious cellar – where they even make their own coca-cola from dozens of ingredients – they arrive in a simple but stylish glass bottle, ready to be poured into a glass containing a giant ice cube individually branded with the District logo. These are the details that shouldn’t matter, but absolutely do.
The venue is as good as the food and drink. Simple but chic, with an open kitchen showing a happy, relaxed team at work – it’s everything the Northern Quarter has been working towards for years. And addressing something relevant to hospitality in the UK right now, the waiting staff openly admit it’s a great place to work, showing off brand new trainers bought for them by the owners and pointing out that tips are split equally between the working staff. Again, it’s these small details that matter so much now, when it’s more important than ever to support ethical establishments.
The only possible drawback for some is that, as for now, the menus are designed for meat-eaters only – though we’re assured this is set to change soon. At the moment there are two evening menus on offer. The Full Experience for £85 per person, and My First Crush, which is a more stripped-down version with seven courses at just £40. I’d recommend diving in headfirst with the full thing – grab a bunch of friends and settle in for the night, or win infinite Brownie points and set it up for date-night.
There’s also the lunchtime menu, three courses for £20, which change weekly. The main menus are set to change according to the season too, meaning there’s a good reason to keep making repeat visits. And if they keep up this kind of standard consider me a regular-for-life, like a Mancunian Norm from Cheers. Quite simply, this is one of, if not the best restaurant to open in Manchester in years.