As a stalwart of the Manchester dining scene, I’d been tempted to try Australasia for a while but was always put off by the prices and some so-so reviews. So this weekend to celebrate family visiting we decided to try it out, and we came with an appetite.
I was impressed when we stepped down the stairs from the rather odd glass subterranean entrance and saw the interior. It’s all shades of white and tastefully decorated, with great mood lighting, I really liked to decor.
On to the food, Australasia specialises in smaller almost tapas style dishes and recommend about 3 per person, but we were a hungry bunch so we went for about that amount plus a few mains to share.
Some of the dishes sounded stellar, like the tempura soft shell crab and courgette flowers or tuna tataki with jamon ibérico.
To start at the top, the soft shell crab was unfortunately the worst I’ve had, there was barely any meat in there and it had no flavour other than that of the tempura. This was a massive faux pas for me.
The tuna tataki was clearly high quality and beautifully presented but again the flavour was lacking, which is almost unbelievable given the accompaniment of jamón ibérico, one of the most flavour packed ingredients in the world.
The miso mustard aubergine was good but again looked far better than it tasted. It wasn’t that it didn’t taste good, it just didn’t taste as good as similar dishes I’ve had, and in far cheaper places.
The mandarin salmon looked stunning, you really can’t fault Australasia for presentation, but again failed to deliver on flavour. It was all just a bit cold and the flavours didn’t seem to marry together properly, though in principle I know salmon, citrus, fennel and radish definitely work.
This mackerel dish was the saving grace of it all, it was beautifully grilled and finally had a great flavour, matched with the charred apple, mandarin and almonds. Finally one great all round dish! Woohoo
The mains were hit and miss – this duck and cherry dish was tasty though the duck was a little tough and the leg was really unforgivably dry and overcooked. The hard plum pieces and two tiny alcohol soaked cherries with it added very little, overall it desperately needed a sauce and more of a side than some dots of sweet potato puree…hmm
The pork belly with pineapple curry was also a mixed bag, the pork was well cooked, tasty and crispy. The curry on the other hand was not very strong or flavoursome and was also served on a plate so ran everywhere! The rice we also ordered (it doesn’t come with of course) looked nicely presented in a banana leaf but again felt like somewhat of a rip off.
Finally, feeling still a little hungry even after all of these dishes we dived into the hotly billed soufflé desserts. We tried both chocolate and mango flavours. These again didn’t disappoint on presentation, they were lovely in their individual metal pans with teapot of sauce, even if we did burn ourselves on the pans and spill sauce when the teapots lids fell off.
Undoubtedly these were well crafted soufflés – Jay Rayner was right, these were well worth ordering. The chocolate one specifically was lovely and light and not too sweet and the thick chocolatey sauce and raspberry sorbet were great. The mango was also well made but too sweet for my liking (and I’m usually a fan of fruity desserts).
Overall a bit of a disappointment from Australasia. A £150 bill later (for 4 of us) and we were all still a bit hungry, and even worse, we craved something with a hit of real flavour, everything was all just a bit vanilla. Top marks on presentation but definitely style over substance. Great to impress a first date, not the best choice for hardcore Manc foodies.