European Council President Herman Van Rompuy gave heads of government an expensively produced brochure illustrating the refurbishment at a dinner on Thursday night overshadowed by efforts to resolve the debt crisis in Greece.
"When you see a document being circulated with a great glossy brochure about some great new building for the European Council to sit in, it is immensely frustrating," Cameron said. "And you do wonder whether these institutions actually get what every country, what every member of the public is having to go through as we cut budgets and try to make our finances add up."
Cameron's comments will go down well with opponents of closer European integration in his centre-right Conservative Party. The British media also take great delight in portraying the European Union as a money-swallowing bureaucracy.
However, diplomats from other member states said there was broad surprise among EU leaders, and shaking of heads, that Van Rompuy had chosen such a time to tout the refurbishment project.
The new home of the European Council in the heart of Brussels was commissioned in 2004 and refurbishment work is already under way in the heart of Brussels' European quarter.
Cameron is arguing for a freeze in the EU's next long-term budget and is certain to use such projects to garner support for his demands.
The building – which will be called the 'Europa' – will host regular summits of leaders of the 27 member states and will be the base for Van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council, which brings together heads of state and government.
Cameron said the current summit venue was perfectly adequate. "I've only been to this building seven times in the last year but it seems to do a perfectly good job of housing the European Council," Cameron said.
The new building should be inaugurated in 2014. Its costs are not expected to exceed a €240 million ceiling agreed in 2004, according to Van Rompuy's services.
EurActiv with Reuters