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australasia, manchester.

Australasia, as the name suggests, takes inspiration from the cuisines of the Pacific Rim. From stunning sushi platters to robata grills and tantalising tempura, the Manchester based restaurant embraces all things Japanese, Thai and Indonesian in its dinner, lunch and cocktail menus. You'll find Australasia in the new developments of The Avenue in Spinningfields, beneath a mystical glass prism entrance.

The interior has an elegant coastal vibe, with wooden features, comfy stone-coloured cushions and neutral tones reminiscent of a white sandy beach. With mellow lighting, everything seemed to have a golden glow as if the sun was beaming down on us; great for atmosphere but not so good for food photography. But hey, not all of you are there to take a picture of every course you eat.

We were presented with an iPad for any drinks orders, which we could keep throughout the meal and use to browse particular wines or cocktails by taste preferences. This didn't extend to the full menu at that time, but something that would be a pretty cool concept. I went for a plum wine to start, whilst my partner chose Asahi beer. 

Upon making our selections, our waitress was super helpful in coordinating a tasting menu style order in which we would eat the plates. So, she suggested we have the oysters first, working through the lighter sashimi and sushi options, finishing with yakitori skewers and hotter plates. I really liked this concept, which felt like a tailor made taste of what Australasia had to offer. There are also starter sizes and main sizes on the menu, which could just as easily be enjoyed in the traditional Western format.

First up on our taste adventure was the oysters, which were £12.50 for a mixed ice cold platter of six natural, soy pearl, chilli, coriander, shallots and mirin oysters. Although I'm a huge seafood lover, oysters aren't something I've eaten much of. I love everything from mussels to scallops and cockles to lobster so texture isn't something that would put me off either. As oysters go, these definitely befitted from the Asian flavours. The chilli ones were a little overpowering for the delicate oyster flavour but the soy pearls, mirin and coriander. Fresh and beautifully fragrant.

Another chilled delicacy was the salmon sashimi. For £10 you got seven slices of premium Loch Duart salmon, which is the kind I was introduced to on my Billingsgate sushi course. It's a mouthwatering, buttery salmon which is perfect for raw sashimi. It was served with a variety of soy sauces and fresh wasabi grated at the table. The only criticism is that eight pieces would have been nice, to save fighting over the last slither. (I totally got the last piece).

We went for two of the more interesting sushi rolls, which came our as a third course. These were the Smoked duck ‘Dragon roll’ (£7) and Salmon in ‘black’ rice (£7.50) for four slices a plate. The duck was a real interesting smoky, salty and crisp combination with feta cheese and cucumber - definitely not something I'd put together but it really worked. The soft duck had rendered fat running through, which contrasted with the extra bite from the cucumber. Unsurprisingly my favourite was the salmon, which was served with intriguing black rice and a solitary roe balanced on top. 

Last for the savoury were the heavier, warmer dishes. Although they were still not heavy at all, as such. These came in the form of Pork wontons (£7), Soft shell crab and courgette flowers (£12.50), Satay spinach (£4) and Szechuan salt and pepper beef skewers (£9). The beautifully presented wontons had been rolled as thin as the pastry allowed, making them melt-in-the-mouth with a slight crisped edge. The filling was stunning, with extra freshness added with herbs. The soft shell crab was again delicious, with a light and satisfying batter. Whilst the charred beef skewers had a real Szechuan kick without being overpowering.

The sesame seeds and satay spinach was a great idea for a side, which brought all the flavours together whilst adding vegetables to the table. Something I plan on recreating at home for sure.

At £7.50 for all desserts, there is a real diverse choice here, which are all inspired by the Pacific Rim. 
These feature the likes of mouthwatering Kaffir lime brûlée with pineapple sorbet, Toasted coconut panna cotta with citrus and Ginger and green tea cheesecake. I couldn't resist the Chocolate dome with salted caramel and blackberries, which was presented as a complete sphere with warm chocolate poured over at the table. An utterly luxurious dessert with almost popping-candy-esque pieces and of course a tempting chocolate and caramel mix. I did try the blackberries which worked well in offsetting the sweetness, but I was more interested in what was beneath that delicious chocolately dome.

To round off our evening, we both chose cocktails from the Asian Classics Twisted menu, which were both £8. I had the Almond & Hibiscus Mojito Blackcurrant and hibiscus tea, made from Bacardi Oro, Amaretto Disaronno, mint, lime and apple. Whilst Sam went for Tokyo Iced Tea Ketel One; featuring Bombay Dry, Midori, Bacardi Superior, lemon juice, lemonade.

Overall Australasia is a really special place. Perfect for an occasion or treat, the service is fantastic, with thoughtful staff and an even more thoughtful evening. Above all the food is remarkable, and I would definitely return.

1, The Avenue
M3 3AP

Note: In the interests of disclosure, I feel I should mention that we paid in full for our meal.

1 comment:

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