Monday, 11 August 2014

Australasia, Manchester

Even the entrance is cool...

Australasia was a special experience. I enjoyed every moment, every bite. It was exquisite. This place had a lot to live up to in my mind, I had heard great things about both the food and the interior, I had wanted to go ever since I first read about its opening a few years ago. At last I had the right occasion/ excuse to spend that amount of money on a meal - my graduation. I had to book the table a couple of weeks in advance as its graduation season; you may not need do the same, but I wouldn't leave it too late just to be sure - trust me, you don't want to miss out!

The bar

You can enjoy two styles of dining at Australasia: 'local' - which is, for want of a better description, tapas style; and the traditional starter/main approach. With the 'local' style there are two pages of sushi and small dishes to choose from. The variety is fantastic - meat, fish and vegetarian dishes all in abundance. Being traditionalists at heart,  we had decided to each have a main dish, we shared just a couple of the smaller dishes to start: prawn and vegetable tempura and prawn, avocado and goats cheese California rolls. My parents had never actually heard of California rolls, so I figured this was as an apt a moment as any to introduce them to these cylindrical beauties. My parents have never had sushi and were unsure of the notion that I was taking them to a restaurant that was in part renowned for it. However, what I believe was simply a case of fear of the unknown transformed into an sensationally tasty experience. As for the tempura, it was perfect. There's only one other place in Manchester that I think gets their tempura spot on and that's 'Yuzu', (Japanese simplicity done perfectly in Chinatown). Tempura must be light, it's not the beer-battered fish one craves on the Cornish coast and its certainly not akin to a greasy Glaswegian mars bar. Its supposed to be light. And light it was. Served with a soy sauce with the optional addition of a small cone of Japanese Daikon radish that you can optionally dissolved into the sauce for a gingery kick. We took the chef's word and did as we were told - perfection.

What a beautiful table full of goods.
To drink, my father opted for one of the more expensive white wines on the menu, which I do hope he enjoyed as I'd rather just have another dessert. He did, don't worry. Sauvignon Blanc is his favourite. My mother had a light Rosé which she she sipped on happily while we awaited our mains. I had tap water as I don't drink alcohol and prefer not to have some jazzed up fruit juice with my food. The menu was pretty funky though, the high tech ipad with detailed descriptions and photos of the beverage would probably be useful if I got bored of my company. Luckily this wasn't  a problem and the Ipad was handed back to the excellent waitress. I am a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to exciting drinks due to my sporting commitments, however, I must say the cocktails look fantastic, the menu is great and I've heard wonderful things. Plus the bar is uber-cool, the DJ's epic computer-cum-deck is worth a visit in itself. Some serious jamming.

Our eyes lit up as the mains began to arrive. A feast for the eyes as-well as the taste-buds! The beautifully presented,  good sized portions, paired skilfully  with both simple and unusual side-dishes made the experience as a whole unforgettable. My mother had the spiced duck breast dish, she always seems to opt for duck when enjoying the fine-dining scene. As she finished the tasty dish she suddenly proclaims "oh sorry darling! I completely forgot to let you try some! Sorry!" The situation was akin to that old pringles advert, obviously I didn't take her word for it. It was so good she wanted it ALL for herself. Greedy bugger. As for my father, as we both wanted the pork-belly with pineapple curry, we struck up a deal. He ordered the rack of lamb with polenta and Japanese aubergine and I ordered the pork and we shared the two dishes. Both fantastic. I must say the combination of the lamb with the sweet potato mash (a side-dish) was a heavenly melt in the mouth moment. Something so simple: mash, prepared with skill, transformed this comfort food into a gourmet purée.

Pork Belly & Pineapple Curry
Lamb at the back, asparagus side at the front

I was advised to order the coconut rice as a side to complement my pineapple curry, but rice is old news. I requested the chilled spinach satay. That sounded far more exciting. Besides, I struggle to resist anything involving satay. All the sides were generously portioned, ideal for sharing. We enjoyed taking our time over our meal, occasionally topping up our colourful plates with the variety of sides displayed in front of us. The seats are well worth a mention. it was pretty lush sitting on something comfier than my lounge sofa. Australasia has such a cool vibe, as I sat back on the chunky chair, I felt rather cool- all dressed up in my graduation out-fit. A good place to impress friends or for a date. Although the music is pretty loud so maybe if you want an intimate one-on-one analysis of whether you want to spend the rest of your life with the person in-front of you, you should choose somewhere with a less impressive music system.

Chilled spinach satay; sweet potato heaven (sides)

So, the desserts. The grand finale of our feast. I was actually pretty full by this point, but it was my graduation. It would be rude not to order something involving chocolate. An ingredient sent directly from the gods.

Chocolate Soufflé 
The dessert menu provided multiple temptations. The waitress's description of the carrot cake almost succeeded in diverging me from my chocolate-related path way. I will have to have the exciting sounding carrot cake dessert next time, as I followed through and had the chocolate soufflé. I was happy to wait for the required 20 minutes as the chocolate delight was in the oven. I needed to let my main go down. I was like a little kid in her first sweet shop when the pudding arrived. The soufflé was popping out of a mini-saucepan, next to it was a mini-tea-pot filled with chocolate sauce to drizzle over the light sponge. If I'm honest the soufflé was enjoyable but not the best I have tasted. The flavour lacked complexity and the deep richness that I seek out in such a dessert. The sauce made it a pleasant experience, but without it I would have been disappointed.  Next to the soufflé was a wonderful raspberry sorbet that complemented the rich-ish-ness. My father opted for the lemon Crème brûlée. The smallish looking jar seemed to be never ending and turned out to be a really good portion size! The lemony custard was delightful. However, what was best about this dessert, for me, was the raspberry prepared a million different ways that accompanied it. Raspberry sorbet, raspberry coulis, raspberry sherbet, raspberry crispy thing (?), raspberry sauce and just for a nod to the original star: we were honoured with a raspberry itself.

lemon Crème brûlée
Mum decided she would take advantage of our large desserts as much as possible and order a dessert-coffee cocktail, she's a sly one. Espresso, chocolate liquor, fresh ginger and cream. Heaven in a glass. Funny that she seemed most excited about the three smarties that decorated her spoon. This was a good drink to finish the night, that was obvious from the look on my mum's face as she sat back, soaked up the atmosphere and sipped on a treat indeed.

Book a table, you'll enjoy it.

Quick Rating:

Service:  5
Vibe: 5
Treat Worthy? Hell to the yeh.
Value for money: 4
GF/DF/Vegan? Not great for vegans or coeliac, a lot of fish and meat. Some nice vegetarian dishes but not vegan. The main that I had seemed GF but it didn't specifically say.

I felt sophisticated (rarity)

Australasia Manchester on Urbanspoon

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