Review: Australasia Restaurant, Manchester
Oh the glamour! How I've loved Australasia over the three or four years it has been Manchester' s go-to restaurant for the rich and famous.
What an entrance too. Anyone bringing pals out to the city will be able to add to the intrigue by leading them to a glass shard sticking up in front of the Armani store in Spinningfields before leading them down into an underground pleasure palace filled with culinary delights.
My partner loves Chinese food but in authentic restaurants with sometimes humourless service and not-for-the-faint-hearted dishes featuring pigs ears and tripe. None of which he gets on the new menu just launched at Australasia. (A sigh of relief breathed by me).
What we do get is a glass of fizz and a mojito at the busy bar before being led to our table in an equally buzzing restaurant - and this is a Tuesday night. Try to get in at the weekend without a booking and you're likely to be disappointed.
If you've never dined here before now is the time to visit, David Spanner has certainly made a huge impression since he joined Australasia last year. He's an Australian born chef who has used the experience gained from working in some of the world's most vibrant cities to create a number of delightful new dishes for Australasia's new menu.
Initiates are advised that there are two ways to dine at Australasia (as our helpful waiter looking after our table tells us). One is to eat "locally" in a way that has become uber fashionable at the moment, which is to share several smaller dishes that come as and when they are cooked and the other is to order starters and mains in the traditional way.
Dishes like cured salmon in a seed crust with a mandarin and artichoke salad, tuna tartar, hand dived scallops with belly pork, chilli caramel and cucumber pickle are meant for sharing aren't they?
But we did a bit of both, kicking off with vegetable on sticks, tempura style pieces of seasonal veg which came presented as pure culinary theatre and Cornish oysters, which are up there as sexy sharing food any day of the week.
Potato and wild mushroom wonton with pea purée, with sweet soy and saki broth was my delicious main while the other half opted for amazing monkfish with razor clams and chorizo. There were healthy but divine sides of green beans and cow-chow too. The highlight for pudding was a chocolate soufflé which is definitely worth the 20 minute wait.
The great thing about the new menu is the variety of choice for those who adore their meat combined with those fresher vegetable and fish dishes that are so typical of Pacific Rim flavours. It's a fine balance that ensures Australasia is a place for great food and good times. We can't wait to go back.
Spinningfield Way, Manchester, Greater Manchester M3 3AP, United Kingdom
+44 161 831 0288 www.australasia.uk.com
A menu of Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition, an exotic blend of Indonesian and Southeast Asian influences. Australia's strong ties with Japan also help determine taste and style.