On the edge of Spinningfields, within a chic glass pyramid exterior, you will find a rabbit hole unlike any other. Journey down it and you will embark on a culinary adventure of delectable edibles, exotic beverages and exceptional service – good enough even for Alice herself! I am, of course, talking about Australasia, Manchester’s stylish basement bar and restaurant.
STYLEetc were lucky enough to be invited to explore the offerings of this popular eatery and conduct a review for our readers…
Upon our arrival at this sophisticated and fantastical venue, after descending a polished staircase, we were greeted warmly by the Ausralasia front of house staff, who were, throughout the evening, very friendly and eager to assist.
We were then led swiftly to a comfortable booth table, where we met our lovely waitress, Agnes, who was smiley, attentive and incredibly patient given our inability to commit to anything on the menu (it all looked so good!)
The menu is a hard-back story book of refreshments – a foodie’s bible! And can be tackled in a variety of ways (both of which were explained very clearly by Agnes). Firstly, you can order several starters each, then one of the larger main courses, or, as we chose to do (in order to sample as many different things as we possibly could!) you can order 3-4 of the smaller plates each and share them as a table.
We strongly advise that you peruse the menu before you go and Google some of the more unusual ingredients, Hijiki, for example (which, just incase you were wondering is a very tasty sea vegetable!)
Drinks were the first order of business and to help in your selection, you are provided with an iPad menu that is easily navigated with thorough descriptions of each drink – we found this especially useful for the cocktails! We began with a Ginger and Pear Bellini and a, ‘Love You Long Time,’ a fruity punch garnished with basil leaves, accompanied by a large jug of Orange and Thai Ginger infused water.
The water was sweet and refreshing and lasted us the whole meal – an ideal accompaniment for palette cleansing between full flavour dishes. Our cocktails were beautifully presented, all style and glamour, complementing the fashionable restaurant environment.
The contemporary basement setting is suprisingly light, boasting modern décor infused with more traditional elements. A trip to the bathroom will take you past the kitchen where you can have a nosy at the many chefs, working tirelessly to prepare all of the food. We love this lay-out feature, as it conveys an open and welcoming atmosphere. The bathrooms themselves have victorian style water-closet loos, complete with throne style toilet seats and long chain flushing handles – A grade 1 loo, perfect for a mid-dinner touch up!
We digress -back to the food!
Our first round of tapas was, quite simply, scrumptious! We made sure our choices stretched outside of our usual food comfort zones, fully confident that anything on this menu wouldn’t disappoint, and boy were we right!
Our, ‘authentic sushi,’ choice, the Duck Dragon Roll, was not at all like the sushi we had tried before. It wasn’t dry or lacking in flavour but incredibly moist. The rice and cheese within the roll provided a tart contrast to the sweetness of the cured duck, making for a deliciously different taste experience. Trust us, you haven’t experienced sushi in all its deliciousness until you’ve had it from here!
Another daring choice, the Tuna Tartar, was an even bigger surprise. As someone who isn’t typically a great lover of sea food, I have to say this was exquisite, particulary the lemon and caper dressing.
One of the highlights of our meal just had to be the soft shell crab though! It literally melted in the mouth leaving a fresh and fragrant aftertaste.
Round two of tapas saw a dish of roasted aubergine served alongside a beautiful chicken, lime and coconut salad. All of these smaller plates would make great dishes served alone but we felt that by ordering a varied selection together, we could really excite the palette and experience a fabulous mix of flavours, which we certainly did! The chicken salad with the scallops and pork belly was one particular winning combo!
Let’s face it, we may not be trained wordsmiths in the art of fine dining, but just like you, we know excellent food when we see and taste it and this selection of mains really was a triumph.
Plates cleared and tummies (almost) full, our attentions were turned to the desert menu. Again, each dish was explained intricately, with care, enthusiasm and with reference to personal preference. Like me, Agnes favoured the carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream, whilst my guest went for the roasted quince with yoghurt sorbet.
Both offered the perfect contrast to the flavoursome spice of our main course tapas selection; sweet yet natural in flavour and not too much to overface us. The carrot puree on my dish was a particular highlight, complementing the sweet cream cheese beautifully!
Though our eyebrows were raised somewhat initially by the, ‘london prices,’ on the menu, after sampling everything (literally) we completely understood. Not only is the food cooked to perfection but the ingredients themselves are of the highest quality. Team that with the high level of service and the sophisticated surroundings; it becomes quite clear that you get exactly what you pay for – excellence.
All in all, we think that Australasia is ideal if you wish to commemorate a special occasion or indulge in a dose of luxury. Be warned though – its offerings are exceedingly tempting, you may just get lost down there – we nearly did! Our very own Mancunian Wonderland…
Discover More: http://australasia.uk.com/
By Grace Fleming