Australasia, Manchester is renowned for its Pan-Asian menu, beautifully stylish decor and celebrity clientele, not to mention the unmissable glass triangle entrance, situated in the heart of Spinningfields.
The website describes Australasia as: ‘Modern Australian cuisine combines Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition, a blend of Indonesian, South-east Asian influences and Australia’s strong ties with Japan also help determine the taste and style.‘
Back in February, Adam and I stepped past security, through the iconic entrance and down the stairs to the restaurant for the very first time, having pre-booked a table for 6pm on a Friday night. Arriving a few minutes early, we were asked to wait in the bar area until our table was ready.
Being a big fan of cocktails, I was impressed with the variety on offer. These were mainly fruity options, with the odd sweet offering thrown in, along with indulgent bar snacks such as panko-crusted oysters and yellow-fin tuna sushi.
Adam opted for a classic mojito – this was not on the menu but the bartender was more than happy to make one – and I started off with a Rose & Lychee Martini (Tanqueray No.10, rose and lychee liqueurs, lychee purée and lemon juice – £8.50). The flavours were subtle yet perfectly blended and it didn’t take me too long to make my way through this boozy infusion.
After half an hour or so, we were informed that our table was ready and followed our server. The table was in the middle of the (almost empty) restaurant floor and my only slight issue was that it was a little bit too compact as I struggled to squeeze in between the table and the low wicker sofa!
The decor was predominantly white with soft lighting, bare brick and contemporary trees on display. The kitchen is located at the far end of the dining area and its large glass panels mean that customers can watch the food being prepared; it was easy to forget that the restaurant is technically underground.
We browsed through the menu and ordered another round of drinks. Adam kept it simple with a Lucky Budda Beer (£4.50) and I went for another cocktail; the Spiced Vanilla Sling (vodka, Limoncello, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, apple juice and fresh green apple – £8.50) which was absolutely incredible! The sharp citrus was balanced by the sweet vanilla syrup, making it surprisingly refreshing and light.
The idea of dining at Australasia is to either ‘go local’ and pick a selection of smaller dishes or keep it traditional with starters, mains, etc. We decided to try a little bit of everything between us, as below. The staff were prompt, polite and knowledgeable and the food was served as it was cooked.
Avocado, mango and gem Californian roll (£6.50)
Everything you’d expect from fresh sushi and packed with flavour. Moreish and zingy, these also come with freshly grated wasabi which was a lovely touch and added extra punch.
Steamed edamame with chilli and lime salt (£4.50)
Softly steamed, these bean pods retained a decent crunch and were nicely seasoned; a great accompaniment to the rest of the dishes.
Seared teriyaki beef with sweet soy and spring onion (£13.50)
The sliced beef was perfectly pink and tender with the sweet soy and spring onion providing a rich, succulent dressing. This was my personal favourite dish of the evening.
Seasoned rough cut chips (£4.50)
Being classic Brits, of course we had to order a portion of chips too! Chunky and crisp whilst still being fluffy on the inside, these were a good choice.
Black cod roasted in hoba leaf (£22.50)
This particular dish had been recommended by a friend and has great reviews so we knew beforehand that we’d be ordering it. Having high expectations, we were impressed visually, however, this didn’t last long. The fish was moist but lacking in flavour and the dipping sauce (I’m unsure what it actually was) was completely overpowering.
Soft shell crab (£12.50)
The tempura batter was light and zesty whilst the crab was meaty with a delicate flavour and cooked to perfection. In hindsight, we wish we’d have ordered more of this particularly tasty dish!
Kaffir lime brûlée with pineapple sorbet (£8)
This soft, custardy dessert was well balanced by the sharp lacing of lime throughout and the side of tangy pineapple sorbet worked well.
Passionfruit cheesecake (£8)
Far from the usual appearance of cheesecake, this deconstructed offering featured a creamy passionfruit filling sandwiched between two layers of brittle. Sat on a bed of biscuit crumb and surrounded by droplets of passionfruit sauce, it was actually rather bland – I expected it to have a real fruity kick – but enjoyable all the same.
I was comfortably full from the smaller plates, which was a nice surprise, although I wished I’d have saved some space for two cocktails in particular: Kiwi & Honey Crush (Ketel One, lemon juice, kiwi syrup, honey and fresh kiwi) and Almond & Hibiscus Mojito (Bacardi Carta Blanca, Disaronno, red berry & hibiscus tea, mint, apple juice, lime juice and hibiscus syrup).
The total bill for food and drinks came to around £110, which I think was reasonable given the exceptional quality of the food (bar the odd underwhelming offering). Thank you Australasia; you may just be one of my new favourite foodie places in Manchester and we’ll be back again soon to celebrate our next big occasion in style.