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Food Review: District, Oldham Street, Manchester

February 16, 2022 Restaurants & Cafes, Taste Comments Off on Food Review: District, Oldham Street, Manchester

When I booked my tasting menu at Manchester’s District, its website informed me that Discovery (£50 a head) encapsulated ‘a new life in the off-world colonies’ and ‘a new chance in a golden land of opportunity and adventure’.

I recognised, as many of you will, the quote from Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s paean to a dystopian and dying planet. The film opens with Deckard (Harrison Ford) sitting at an Asian street food stall in a bleak and rainy L.A., ordering noodles. Made in 1982, it is set in a futuristic 2019. It’s now 2022 and, while we don’t have flying cars, we do have environmental entropy and Asian street food which, almost neatly, segues back to District.

District, Oldham Street, ManchesterDistrict is a Thai eatery on the dystopian end of Oldham Street. Based on Bangkok barbecue stalls, it provides a culinary experience like no other in Manchester. There is no à la carte menu as such, rather a series of tasting menus based on price; £20, £50, £100 (I’m saving up my pension for that last one). There are no vegetarian or fish options, though they do mention allergies. To some, this might seem a bit hardball but as a vegetarian, fish-eating carnivore, I have no problem. The overall design, from the cool modernist interior to the open charcoal-fuelled kitchen and the sharp graphics of the menu logo, is tight and intelligent. There is life in this off-world colony.

The real blast is the food. I work my way through nine small plates of punchy perfection. This is serious stuff and not for the faint-hearted. The first dish of raw sea bass marinated in tiger milk on a bed of nam jim with purple yam and Thai basil is pure pleasure. The soft tender fish is married to a tangy, silky sauce that takes no prisoners.

It is followed by a series of tasty treats, each as astonishing and delicious as the next. A rib southern curry on the smallest roti comes with a ribeye and nam tok on an equally small tostada. A skewered secreto iberico with a tamarind jaew is paired with kohlrabi, candied tomato and peanuts. Corn-fed chicken paddles in a shallow pool of tom ka and shimeji. Of the mains, a final herdwick hogget rump is cooked rare on massman curry and potato. This is unrivalled cooking with an attention to detail and, above all, full Thai flavours.

District, Oldham Street, ManchesterA double dessert of a sweet and sour roselle with tom yum spices and a caramelised coconut, mango and rice praline arrives, called ‘It was only a Dream’. And it was indeed dreamy. Without even noticing, I’d managed to sup three cans of the excellent ShinDigger-brewed District Thai-pa. To quote another dystopian film, ‘I’ll be back’.

I walk out onto Manchester’s Oldham Street, full and a bit tipsy. The night is as dark and dank as a Blade Runner set. I hail a cab but am slightly disappointed to find that it doesn’t rise vertically to fly me home above the neon-lit city.

By Robert Hamilton

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districtmanchester.co.uk

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