Australasia, The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3AP – Visit Now
It’s hard to fault Australasia. This dazzling venue was one of the original stand-out restaurants in Spinningfields, long before it became such a dominant district in Manchester’s high-end but accessible dining scene. You’ll almost certainly know the entrance – it’s the space-age glass structure at the point where Deansgate meets Spinningfields, looking for all intents and purposes like a cutting edge art installation.
Modern, sleek and spacious, with well-informed, engaging staff
Inside more than lives up to this impressive entrance. It’s modern, sleek and spacious, with well-informed, engaging staff who know the menu inside and out. And while it’s probably not a place to casually drop by – it’s more of a special occasion destination – the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with a refreshing lack of snootiness.
We’re here on a wet and freezing Manchester Sunday to try out a new menu, Australasia’s alternative Sunday roast. It’s described as ‘sharing waves’, and as you’d expect, it’s based around sharing courses. For one of the city’s leading high-end venues, the prices are surprisingly reasonable: £30 for two courses, or £37 for three, including a drink each (either a cocktail, glass of wine, beer or a non-alcoholic cocktail).
But how does the food stack up? The starters are a delight. Perfectly-prepared edamame beans with a light coating of truffle oil, garlic spiced prawn skewers (some of the thickest, freshest prawns you’ll find anywhere on a Sunday), lightly-battered squid tempura that prove impossible to stop picking at, plus some Japanese curried korokke (a deep-fried croquette). The idea of a sharing selection should appeal to curious diners, and works well in this instance.
Then the mains, half a dozen slices of beautifully soft teriyaki beef at one end of a grill-topped heatbox, with a succulent spatchcock baby chicken at the other, with sides of rough cut chips and broccolini. The respective dipping sauces, variations on sweet soy, one thicker and stickier than the other, are truly incredible. Simple, sure, but a wonderful match for both meat options. One small criticism might be that the portion size could be bumped up a little – if you’re used to a classic Northern mum Sunday roast dinner, you could be left wanting.
But this is where the desserts come in. Word to the wise, you should absolutely opt for the three ‘sharing waves’, as these desserts are some of the most exciting range of sweets in the city. Arriving in a nin-square wooden chessboard of carefully-crafted dessert, here you’ll find everything your sweet tooth could desire: kaffir lime creme brulee, lychee and strawberry cheesecake, pistachio and passion fruit macarons, coconut friande, and chocolate with peanut parfait. All wildly different, all wildly brilliant. So good they should write songs about them.
If you’re tired of the standard Sunday roast – and come on, there are only so many ways of combining roast chicken and mash – then Australasia provides the perfect alternative. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of the city’s better high-end restaurants, and they’ve just stepped up with one of the most moreish and memorable ways to punctuate your week’s eating. An absolute must.