I’ve heard a lot about Manchester’s iconic Australian and South East Asian restaurant and cocktail bar ever since it opened in 2011. And as I’d only ever heard good things but never got around to trying it myself, I was very excited to receive an Australasia gift card last year as a Christmas present. So a couple of weeks ago we finally went along to experience it.
The restaurant itself is lovely. It really suits its chic Spinningfields location underneath the Armani store, accessed through a glass pyramid (which is the only part of the restaurant you can see from the street). And although it is all underground it felt surprisingly bright and spacious thanks to the lovely holiday-ish décor. Everything is in shades of white and neutral, with some of the outdoors brought indoors through bare wooden branches. In terms of seating there are secluded booths, comfy sofa seats and tables with a great view into the kitchen at the back.
The menu at first glance is a bit daunting. However, once you know that you can dine tapas-style with a selection of small dishes to share, or traditional-style with a large dish as a main course, it makes more sense. We weren’t adventurous enough to “go native” with the smaller dishes, but for information this part of the menu includes a large selection of sushi and sashimi, as well as hot dishes from the grill. I think it would be easy to rack up quite a large bill this way as they recommend 3-4 dishes per person, but they also have a lunchtime offer of 3 dishes for £16; or 4 for £21. There is a much smaller selection of dishes available on the lunch menu but it would be a great chance to be experimental for a lower price.
But as I say, we decided to go for individual main courses instead. I went for the crispy suckling pork belly with a pineapple curry and ordered it with a side of sticky coconut rice, which came excitingly wrapped up in a lotus leaf. This was a very delicious dish, with large tender cubes of pork served in the tasty curry sauce. Craig went for the old faithful premium fillet steak, which was huge, and he ordered it with a portion of their seasoned rough cut chips, which I happily shared and thought were pretty amazing!
The portion sizes of both mains and side dishes were much more generous than I expected, and I was actually full from just this one course. We wouldn’t have needed a dessert at all, but not only had I heard great things about the desserts at Australasia, the descriptions on the menu were just too enticing.
I went for the Chocolate dome with peanut, salted caramel and blackberries, which actually proved to be a bit of a spectacular event. When the chocolate dome is brought to the table, a mini teapot full of hot salted caramel is then poured over the top, melting it open in front of you. Both desserts (Craig had the kaffir lime brûlée with pineapple sorbet) were beautiful to look at, and full of small tasty details. (They say that the dessert kitchen at Australasia is an exciting place!)
Overall I thought the lovely setting, the dining experience and the delicious food were all worth the hype, and the size of the portions as well as quality of the food were worth the money. It’s a really stylish and unique restaurant, with a nice laid-back holiday vibe, but as it’s pretty expensive I think its one I’d recommend for special occasions.
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