Pyramid glass entrance to Australasia restaurant, Manchester
One-third bar, two thirds-restaurant, Manchester’s Australasia has quickly established a reputation as a place for both chilled-out cocktails and unstuffy fine dining.
An evening at Australasia is an experience – and one that starts the moment you enter through the striking glass pyramid at No.1 The Avenue. From here, a staircase transports you literally down under, before releasing you into a glowing, desert-inspired subterranean space.
Decorated in a dozen shades of sand, the restaurant’s interior is, quite simply, stunning. Diner-style leather banquettes contrast with white wicker armchairs; sumptuous cushions are set on sofas in booths behind Japanese screens, and scattered sun-bleached tree trunks add interest to bare brick walls.
Despite being underground, there’s no lack of light. Low-hanging utility lights create an intimate feel at the tables, ceiling spotlights cast clear beams onto the walls, and candle lanterns light the aisles. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal the busy kitchen team at work, and an eclectic mix of music from guest and resident DJs completes the atmosphere.
Created by a former Young Australian Chef of the Year, the menu promises ‘an exotic blend of Indonesian and South East Asian influences’, underpinned by European cooking tradition. The Japanese influence so prevalent in modern Australian cooking is also important.
There are oysters – natural, with soy pearls, or with red chilli and lime – together with tempting tempura dishes including wild mushroom with truffle mayonnaise. The mixed selection offers an easy way out if you’re struggling to choose from the range of sushi and sashimi on offer. Intensely-flavoured dishes cooked on a traditional Japanese robata grill include sweet potato with teriyaki dressing, and asparagus glazed with sweet sesame oil. Robata dishes can be eaten tapas style, alongside a selection of treats such as roast foie gras and mango on toasted almonds and a crispy beef fillet salad with green papaya, Thai basil and mint.
Roasted scallops, carrot and orange puree, marinated seaweed and almonds
Asparagus glazed with sweet sesame oil
Crispy beef fillet with green papaya, thai basil and mint
Sushi and Sashimi mixed selection, & Smoked duck Californian roll with the summer vegetables tempura
The east-meets-west theme continues with the main course, where flavour combinations include crisp suckling pork belly with pineapple curry, and ocean trout fillet with pancetta, caramelised onion and madeira shallot. Vegetarians are well-catered for: tofu appears stuffed with coriander and sesame rice in red Thai curry, or with salt, pepper and red beetroot; vegetable dishes include pan-fried edamame with chilli, garlic and ginger, and a green papaya and bean sprout salad with mint, coriander and pink grapefruit.
Corn fed chicken with asparagus, mushrooms and foie gras sauce
Seared teriyaki beef with sweet soy and spring onion
Pot roasted lobster with kaffir lime, chilli and Thai basil
Dessert is likely to be hard to resist: passion fruit marshmallow, roast pineapple parcels and pineapple sorbet, and chocolate pavé with sour cherry jelly, griottine cherries and miso ice-cream are just two of the beautifully-presented dishes on offer.
Passion fruit marshmallow,roast pineapple parcels and pineapple sorbet
Chocolate pave with sour cherry jelly, Griottine cherries and miso ice cream
Sample prices include £9.50-£15.50 for sashimi, £13.50-£24 for most main courses. Desserts are £7. There’s an extensive wine list, plus a wide selection of signature cocktails.
On launch, the Australasia team declared that they wanted to create an experience ‘a million miles away from anything else in Manchester’. That, they have certainly done. And in doing so, they’ve created a venue for a seriously stylish night out that’s undoubtedly up there with Manchester’s finest.
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