It was Mr Manchester Is Ace’s birthday, we had a babysitter and it was a Saturday. We wanted to go out, have a few drinks, spend stupid amounts of money on food and forget all about sterilising bottles and changing nappies for a few hours. The world might not have been our oyster but Manchester certainly was.
Seeing as Australasia is the latest must-go restaurant in town we decided to check it out. Situated underneath the new Armani store, just off Deansgate, Australasia occupies what used to be the MEN basement, I believe.
Clearly a lot of attention has been given into making a basement seem, well, un-basement like. White floors, walls and furniture make it seem like you are sitting in a conservatory, with light just bouncing here, there and everywhere.
Our Australian wine waiter instantly impressed us by giving us a iPad to browse through the impressive wine menu. I was happy with a glass of the cheapest fizz (Thomas Mitchell Brut, Semillon, Trebbiano from Australia, £5.50) and across the table a Brazilian Pinot Grigio Riesling (£24.50 a bottle) was a good choice.
The menu takes in sushi, small Asian plates, big soups and main meals. However, it didn’t quite seem to gel together as much as it could do, perhaps because the influences are taken from such a huge continent.
For example, we ordered the Pork belly with pineapple curry (£14.50), but there was no rice on the menu. Chips or sweet potato mash were the only carbs on offer, which doesn’t seem very Asian – perhaps this is the Australian part of the cuisine?
However, that was the only slight criticism I can think of and every course had an amazing level of detail and flavour. The pineapple curry was beautifully made, with fruity highlights and small crunchy chunks of pork belly artfully arranged down the side.
My Ocean trout fillet (£18.50) came with a foam (which I scraped off) and was surrounded by a pretty arrangement of pancetta, mushrooms, caramelised onion and Maderian shallots. The rich, deep flavours of the mushroom and onion juices really highlighted the delicate fish beautifully.
We had started with a fantastically put together sushi and sashimi platter (£19.50). Generous portions of sashimi – including tuna and salmon – was served simply with California rolls and other sushi. There’s something about sashimi which makes you eat it slowly and respectfully, absorbing all the flavours.
Although the first two courses were amazing, it was the creative desserts (all £7) that really stood out. Tiny tasty sensations were plated together to form a sensational experience. Even on a terrible photo taken with my camera phone, how amazing do they look?
My pineapple-themed dessert involved passionfruit marshmallow which was a world away from marshmallow sweets and had the texture of what you think a cloud would feel like. Alongside this were pineapple parcels filled with a tangy sherbety pineapple puree, while a cool fresh pineapple sorbet pulled the trio together.
Similarly amazing was a Chocolate pave, with a tiny but perfectly made blobs of sour cherry thick jelly, Griottine cherries and a very delicate miso ice cream. Both desserts were surprisingly light and crafted so delicately and so impressive looking I kept showing the photos to people.
The attention to detail across the whole restaurant – food, wine, decor, waiting staff – was truly exemplary and Australasia has already made a great impression on Manchester, and this new kid on the block seems to have been welcomed with opened arms.
The bill came to around £90, which actually isn’t that bad when you see how much food we ate and were drinking glasses of wine instead of picking a bottle.
Apologies for the terrible quality of the photos. I hadn’t intended to write about this so had to take them with my mobile phone.