District Manchester

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor
Ian Jones

District Manchester, 60 Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LE – Visit Now

Whenever yours truly is asked about the best restaurant in Manchester, the answer is invariably District. Based at the heart of the Northern Quarter, this space-age restaurant does dining like nowhere else. For want of a better term, it’s ‘futuristic Thai food’, so if you’re a meat and potatoes kinda guy (hi dad), best to look elsewhere. If, however, you like blowing your tastebuds wide open with tastes and textures you’ve never even imagined before, come on in.

Blows your tastebuds wide open with all-new tastes and textures

Formerly geared around a tasting menu, the restaurant has wisely shifted toward a small plates set-up, making it a lot easier to nip in every few weeks to try the latest creations from genius head chef Ben Humphrey’s galaxy brain. Happily, some of the more enduring classics from previous menus are available, in extended remix form, such as the raw stone bass – tiny cubes of the raw fish, purple yam and Thai basil, lying in a potent tangy broth. This time around it’s three times the size, turning it into a more substantial dish, and all the better for it.

The pigeon satay is a wild-looking dish, swirling lurid colours and flavours around some delicate, meaty cuts. The decision to go larger means the District have more room to explore new ideas and flavour combinations – in short, it works.

Herdwick lamb neck is an eye-opening dish, with the lamb served practically rare but tenderly cooked by the nam tok sauce, blended together with mint and BBQ emulsion.

But arguably the standout dish is the Kurobuta Berkshire pork belly. It’s a magical cut, cooked and prepared in so many different ways I lost count but I recall at least two steamings. The result is the softest, lightest porcine pieces since Peppa Pig, with a crunchy outer layer, all lying in a garlic-heavy sauce with some kana (aka Chinese broccoli, aka cooked greens similar to kale).

The lettuce was a pleasant surprise. It’s billed as a side but it’s much more a main-stage dish, with an intense depth of flavour, overflowing with umami. The lettuce has been pickled and burnt, then smothered with fermented yellow bean with the addition of some toasted yeast. Not the most glamorous sounding ingredients, granted, but it’s a winner.

District desserts are where the kitchen team get the chance to try out some weird and wonderful creations, including a barbecued white chocolate treat made with chicken fat fudge. A step too far? Au contraire. The fat is subtle and adds a barely noticeable but vital richness to the choc. This comes as part of a trio alongside a tamarind Tangastic, which is exactly as excellent as that sounds, and an equally pleasing chewy pineapple and cashew nut nougat.

For a final flourish, the pavlova is a glorious way to end things. It’s a sweet-tasting combination of butterfly pea flower meringue, calamansi (a South East Asian citrus fruit) curd, passion fruit and sheep’s yoghurt. It’s instantly recognisable as a fruity pavlova but with elements you’ve never tried before and likely never will again.

And that’s the beauty of District. Every dish is an adventure into how far someone can push the idea of food, while keeping it firmly on the side of delicious. Our advice: grab a mate or two and plough through the entire menu, then head back a few weeks later to do it all again. The staff are as much a part of things as the cooking, giving the back story on each dish in as much detail as you like – this isn’t just plain-old having a meal, this is first-rate event dining, and easily one of the best food destinations in Manchester.

  • 60 Oldham Street
  • Manchester
  • M4 1LE
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