Dirty Dining Diary: Week 1 wrap

Pigeons scratching at our feet, delicious Chinese greens and the best dumplings in town - the first week of the Dirty Dining Diaries has had its highs and lows.

The concept came about following the naming of Auckland's grubbiest restaurants last month. In the Auckland Central region more than 3600 establishments were inspected, 29 were dealt a D grade. We asked you guys, the readers, if you were influenced by these ratings. More than 13,500 have responded to the online poll and over half said the D grade played a big part in their decision to dine. A further 15 per cent said they would be looking out for them from now on.

This came as a bit of a surprise to some of us who had never really noticed the grading. So we decided to see how it affected our dining experience. We printed out the list of 29 places in the city area and eat at one every day for lunch during September. We observe things like vibe, decor and the food, obviously. But we also consider how prominent the D grading is and why it appears it could have received the poor mark.

According to Auckland Council each of the D graded places is inspected twice a year. They consider the standard of the premises, the conduct and maintenance of the premises, process control, cleaning and sanitising and staff training. During out series they are subject to change. However, when the review is posted we do a Food grading search online to make sure the eatery is still below par, and if it has changed we will make that clear.

So far this hasn't been the case. So, with all the formalities in place, here's a taste of the good bits and bad bits of week one of the Dirty Dining Diary.

The good bits:

We opened the series with the well-loved dumpling house, Barilla. We've been a regular at this place since back when it was a B. The lude green Dominion Road favourite was picked in Metro's top ten Best Cheap Eats and was named the best Chinese takeaway in Viva's Best Takeout Awards. But in May this year questionable food hygiene earned them a D which is proudly posted in the front window. Despite this, we reckon the pork and chive steamed dumplings, doused with a soy/vinegar/chili combo sauce, are still the best in the business. And it appears you guys agree.

The bad bits:

When we walked in to Yummy Takeaway we immediately felt like this place probably earned its D rating. It looked unloved, with disheveled dining tables and chairs, random pictures of food tacked to the walls and staff munching on their lunch, a little reluctant to offer us a look at their menu. We picked a chicken dish and when it arrived, we hesitantly poked around the questionable looking meat. Meanwhile, a pigeon popped in and started pecking away right at our feet. Okay when you're picnicking in the park, not so much when you're trying to enjoy your hot and spicy chicken. We couldn't spot the food grade anywhere and the staff claimed not to have one.

So far our brave bellies have held up to the challenge, but we're only one week in. Check out our daily reviews after 11.30am each weekday on Life & Style and see where we've been this week by clicking on the interactive calendar below.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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