It’s cliché to say, but after all these years, Australasia remains somewhat of a hidden gem beneath the streets of Spinningfields. Unless you know where it is, you won’t know, with many a diner opting for the bar entrance from the other side after failing to locate this gorgeous restaurant on Google maps.
Lucky that from whichever side you enter, either the glass entrance which juts out of the ground like a glass shard while remaining totally inconspicuous, or via the bar – Sunset where you’ll be led down the stairs and into the basement, it’s really no wonder that Australasia still features in every list of the ‘best, must-visit restaurants in Manchester’.
Emulating ocean vibes through its interiors, the whole space is like a therapy session for the mind and soul. You immediately feel relaxed and at home at Australasia – the warm natural colours engulfing you as you make your way to the bar. Once there, you’ll be greeted by THE most experienced mixologists who can definitely go ‘off menu’ should you require. We however, are a sucker for a good lychee and this rose flavoured version was right up there with some of the London greats.
Australasia is one of those restaurants where the service just flows. You almost don’t notice the waiting staff floating from one area to the next, and all seating seemed to be ‘the best seat in the house’ so you can really take in the whole space from any angle – the mirrors and exposed brick walls, the rattan lanterns and the feather feature displays.
Our waitress we were pleased to discover, was incredibly knowledgeable not only about the food but also the wine and we were guided by her for the entire experience. The food is pan-Asian with an Australian twist and the idea is to order either a range of small plates known as ‘local’ which will arrive at the table in waves, or go ‘traditional’ and order a starter, followed by a main dish.
Starting with a delicious bottle of Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand while we perused the menu, we ultimately left the choices up to our restaurant guide.
Prawn tempura arrived first – crispy light battered fingers with beautifully fresh prawn and a hit of squeezed lime. A bowl of tentsuyu dipping sauce which radish is then dissolved in, gave the tempura an added dimension! The black cod was definitely dressed for dinner, sporting the hoba leaf it had been roasted in and accompanied by a shiny caramel sauce which was desperate to be dunked.
Roasted baby aubergines with caramel miso and katsuobushi came next. This was unexpectedly, our favourite dish – the sweetness combined with the saltiness of the katsuobushi (smoked tuna) was just divine.
Australasia’s signature dish is the confit suckling pork belly curry with grilled pineapple – added to the menu by the late great Tim Bacon of Living Ventures almost 15 years ago. After being taken off the menu to make way for new and exciting dishes, it was brought back after an outcry of complaints from Australasia regulars! After trying it, it’s easy to see why this is a menu staple. A simple, well executed dish with quality pork which takes on a completely different flavour profile when eaten with the pineapple and a scoop of our coconut rice side dish. We rounded off dinner with a cheeky little sake from their massive drinks menu.
With an ever evolving menu of sushi, steaks, seafood, meat dishes and robata grill plates, you could never get bored eating at Australasia. Exciting flavours and innovative combinations make for a memorable night out at this Manchester classic, while its cool beach club vibes transport you immediately to warmer climes. A restaurant you’ll definitely want to visit time and time again.