Australasia has been a city centre favourite since it opened its doors to the people of Manchester way back in 2011.
When it opened, it was a million miles away for anything else that was out there – it was beautifully decorated, served some very trendy pan-Asian inspired food and had one of those signature Living Ventures bars which came complete with a DJ. It definitely worked, the people of Manchester were immediately hooked (including me) and flocked to Australasia to try the menu devised by the former Young Australian Chef of the Year, Paul Greening.
The restaurant scene in Manchester has changed considerably since 2011 though. We now have quite a few fine dining restaurants including the re-launched French at the Midland Hotel and Manchester House, another Living Ventures baby – Australasia is no longer one of the only options. The management here are well aware of this and have been working hard to make sure it remains relevant in the changing Manchester dining scene including adding a second contemporary colonial bar called Grand Pacific and making significant changes to the menu.
When I last visited Australasia, I gave this Pacific Rim pan-Asian themed restaurant a 4.2 out of 5 – one of the highest scores on this blog (full review here). I have been wanting to go back to try out the new menu for quite a while now and with Dave and Helen coming up from Bristol to visit, I finally found the perfect excuse.
I never get tired of going to Australasia – walking down the glass pyramid to this basement restaurant always is a special experience. Once you walk down, the light and airy interiors make you forget your in a basement.
I still like the menus here – it’s so shabby chic. You can either go for a starter and a main or order a few small plates and share. I would highly recommend ordering a few small plates for the table – they are specially designed for sharing and you get to try a lot more of the dishes here. The drinks menu on the iPad is a nice touch too – well designed and easy to use.
Drinks ordered, we started off with the a few small plates. First up was the Chilli Seasoned Soft Shell Crab and Courgette Flowers. Beautifully put together and presented, this dish was lovely. You can’t go wrong with a bit of tempura.
We also ordered the Foie Gras Brûlée with Lavas Bread and Roasted Pistachio. Again beautifully presented – light, fresh and full of flavour. This was my favourite dish out of everything we ordered. The foie gras brûlée was so creamy and the texture was just spot on for me. Highly recommended.
Next up was the Tuna Tartar. I really like how delicately each plate is put together by the chefs here – they all look like a work of art. The raw tuna was spot on – it’s a complimentary nod to the fresh ingredients used in this kitchen. I could have easily finished off this dish on my own. Definitely will be ordering this again.
No trip to Australasia is complete for me without a plate of their Squid and Fresh Lime – it’s something I order every time I come here. Simple but perfectly done. There is just something really comforting about food that is deep fried.
The one dish that let me down unfortunately was the Octopus with Pickled Hijiki and Watermelon – the octopus was a little too rubbery for my liking and I didn’t really understand the watermelon-octopus combination. This dish looked stunning on the plate though.
At this point, we had ordered about 6 dishes between the four of us. We definitely had space for a few more so we decided to keep going. I really like this about Australasia – you can order small plates till you feel content and it gives you the opportunity to try so many different things. Perfect for people like me who stubble picking one dish from an extensive menu.
We couldn’t resist ordering some sushi, we were in a pan asian restaurant after all. Helen loves her sushi so we went for a mixed selection of Nigiri Sushi. Simple and well done. Enough said.
If you like scallops, you will absolutely love the Hand Dived Scallops with Belly Pork, Chilli Caramel and Cucumber Pickle at Australasia. It is my favourite scallop dish anywhere. The fresh juice scallop and the belly pork is such an amazing combination. You cannot go wrong with this dish. Definitely one of my favourite small plates here.
One last dish and we said we would call it quits and we couldn’t haven’t ordered a better small plate – the Seared Teriyaki Beef with Sweet Soy and Spring Onion. This was just AMAZING! The teriyaki beef was delicious and the sweet soy sauce perfectly complemented the beef. We all agreed that this was definitely one of our favourites out of everything we ordered.
We cleared the bill, finished our wine and walked out of the glass pyramid to carry on with the rest of our Saturday. Unlike a lot of other restaurants where you feel like you need a nap after a heavy meal, you leave Australasia content with the simple light dishes. Like every other Living Ventures restaurant, the service was polished yet informal, decor is fab and you just feel special dining here.
The food isn’t as authentic as you would except but it’s not trying to be. It’s modern Australian cuisine combined with pacific rim flavours underpinned by European tradition cooking. Guess what? It works – the people of Manchester love it and so do I – it’s still a very special place and I can’t wait to come back.
I predict Australasia is going to remain relevant in the crowded Manchester dining space for a long time to come. Australasia keeps the score of 4.2 out of 5 I gave it the last time I dined here.