Posted on Wednesday, 22nd April 2015
As the name of the restaurant suggests, Australasia Restaurant in Manchester serves Modern Australian cuisine, drawing its inspiration from not only Australia but also the Pacific Rim by incorporating a mixture of influences from Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Japan. The entrance to Australasia is an impressive glass shaped pyramid, through which is a staircase that leads down into the glamorous beige dining room. It’s a beautiful space and reminiscent of a well-appointed Hampton’s beach house on Long Island, New York, or as this is ‘Australasia’, a house on the northern beaches of Sydney.
Australasia embraces a ‘tapas’ style philosophy, with the menu offering a large number of sharing options ranging from sushi and sashimi, tempura, robata grills and other small plates. Also available are larger main plates for those diners who wish to follow a standard three-course format.
We shared everything, starting with a soft shell crab and courgette flower tempura (£12.50) that was really tasty. The tempura was well seasoned with a batter that was lovely and light. Both the crab and courgettes were nicely cooked with the crab proving to be fleshy and moist.
A California roll (small – £10, large £19) contained a colourful collection of six different types of futomaki rolls. There was watermelon with feta which was refreshing and delicious and smoked duck with cucumber that could have been smokier in flavour. Also on the plate were some seafood options including tempura prawn with goat’s cheese, a combination that worked well, tuna with mango which on first inspection might have seemed odd but strangely worked, and a lovely pairing of salmon with squid ink rice. There was also a vegetarian piece contained a crunchy selection of vegetables and was fragrant from the use of dill. The rice was a little wet, but in all the futomaki was really good. Of note was the wasabi which came to the table whole and was freshly grated then and there.
Hand dived scallops (£12.50) were plump and juicy and nicely seared with a chilli caramel. Accompanying the scallops was a fabulous pork belly which was tender and intense with flavour. We really enjoyed this dish, especially as the pork belly really worked with the scallops.
Black cod roasted in hoba leaf (£22.50) with miso sauce offered a beautifully cooked piece of fish that flaked wonderfully and was velvety smooth in texture. The accompanying miso sauce was decent in flavour but was slightly runny. A little thicker, and this dish would have been perfect.
We continued our journey of Australasia with some meats. First was an Australian wagyu beef (£60) that was superbly tasty and unctuous from the flavour of the fat that ran through it. Also on the theme of beef, some sliced fillet (£22.50) from the robata grill with with sesame, sweet soy and red chilli faired less well. It was somewhat disappointing as it was slightly chewy and a little overcooked.
To balance out our meat choices we opted for a variety of vegetarian sides, all of which were nicely done. Roasted aubergine with miso mustard (£5) was soft and flavoursome, robata grilled asparagus with sweet sesame oil (£6.50) was cooked such that they still held onto some bite, and a sweet potato and rosemary mash (£4.50) was creamy and smooth with a pleasant sweetness to it.
To perhaps the favourite part of the meal – desserts. We tried a ginger and green tea cheesecake (£7.50) which was light, prettily presented and skillfully constructed. It was tasty, but I would have liked a stronger tea flavour for a more robust sensation on the palate.
A chocolate soufflé (£7.50) with raspberry sorbet and a chocolate sauce was delectable. The soufflé was soft and gooey with a decadent chocolate flavour. It was neither too sweet nor too eggy, and the accompanying acidity and fruitiness coming through from the sorbet provided a nice counterpoint to the richness of the chocolate.
Australasia is one of the preeminent destination restaurants in Manchester and deservedly so. It dishes up not only an eclectic menu but also a glamorous, yet unpretentious vibe. I loved the beautiful décor at Australasia, the attentive service and very enjoyable food. With so many little tasting plates, prices can add up. But I’d thoroughly recommend the Australasian experience.
1) The beautiful décor and glamorous ambience.
2) The attentive service.
3) With a few minor exceptions, the food was delicious.
1) The beef fillet robata grill was the least favourite of all the dishes that we tried.
2) Prices could potentially add up.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5
Small plates range from £4.50 to £22.50.
Large plates range from £13.50 to £60.
Desserts are £7.50.