Perhaps it's someone's birthday. Maybe you've just got a promotion and want to celebrate. Or maybe you are sick to death of eating the same soggy sandwich from Boots every single day. Whatever the occasion, going out-out for lunch can be a pricey affair.
Of course, there are many lunch deals dotted around the city to help you get away from the Egg Mayonnaise Brigade, but it can be difficult to choose one – especially when you’ve only got an hour before heading back to spend the afternoon with that annoying little paperclip on Excel.
We always try to assist the people of Manchester, jumping in front of a bullet for you, so it was that we went down on Friday to check out Australasia’s Lunch Menu offering.
Available from Monday to Friday before 5pm, it’s a small, concise menu of hot and cold dishes with a choice of 2 for £12, 3 for £16 or 4 for £21. Here’s what you can expect when it plonks down on your table…
Sitting down in Australasia always seems like an occasion, whether it’s on a bustling Saturday night with your mates or a tranquil Tuesday afternoon with your work colleague, this place exudes an air of exclusivity, quality and above all else – charm.
They definitely follow this through with the food too. Nobody is resting on any laurels here and it shines through in both the dishes on offer at lunch as well as their execution. We began with the cold dishes and they turned out to be much more impressive than I was expecting.
Opting first for the Poke Style Tuna, I knew what to expect in this respect but wasn’t expecting it to be so well prepared and frankly, moreish. Raw fish can be a struggle for some, but these small deep pink morsels of Tuna had ‘fresh’ written right through them like a stick of Blackpool rock and the addition of some of the tastiest Sungold cherry tomatoes this side of Sicily just added to the flavours.
A little more traditional was the Salt & Pepper Tofu salad which came adorned with some crunchy funky rice crackers and drizzled in a sweet chilli dressing. If I had to take anything away from my lunch it would be that this is how tofu should be done. Crispy on the outside and so, so soft on the inside, each chunk was a little bite of perfection, and they had something that many restaurants (and indeed people) struggle to achieve – flavour.
Finally for the cold dishes, we opted for two absolute classics, the Tuna Fukomaki and the Temaki Seaweed Rolls. You could describe the Temaki as sushi wraps (if you were an uncouth savage), and they came with both Salmon and Robate Beef fillings. Due to my colleague’s eagerness I didn’t even see the beef one – it barely touched his tongue before it was devoured like a raptor eating a small bird, but I did get to enjoy the salmon.
Perfectly smoked and adorned with rice, salad and a creamy, lemony mayonnaise, it was excellent. My only gripe came with the fact that the filling didn’t transcend the whole cone – but that happens with Cornetto’s all the time too so I’ll let them off. Sometimes you just can’t beat physics.
Finally, the Tuna Fukomaki was some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted – with tons of flavour and none of the dryness that can occur at times. The accompanying sauce went perfectly with the delicate flavours of the tuna and avocado – a class act all round really.
Championing the hot end is a varied choice of soups, steaks, curry and dumplings, of which we chose some right crackers. Most impressive of all was the Seared Teriyaki Beef which was so soft and tasty that there was almost a massive scrap when it came to the final piece. Topped with mango, peanuts and a sweet chilli dressing, the beef was pretty much perfect with a slight caramel tone that worked a treat with the fruit and nut accompaniment.
The Roasted Duck Fuku can pretty much be described as another name for a Bao – stuffed with loads of duck, spicy sriracha and bean sprouts. I must admit to not really having chance to taste much of this one – my colleague promised me half and only managed to deliver a tiny sliver of his leftovers at the end (after some serious arm-twisting by me). That’s pretty much a review in itself.
The final two dishes revolved around pork – mostly because I’m a bit obsessed with it at the moment and secondly because they sounded brilliant. The Sticky Pork Vietnamese Salad contained some deliciously sweet chunks of sticky pork belly, juxtaposed with slivers of chunky cucumber, beansprouts and some very welcome roasted peanuts.
Finally, the Tempura Spiced Pork Dumplings were not what I was expecting at all – more of an arancini than a gyoza – but a pleasant surprise. Again, these didn’t last long, with my only negative being that there were only three of them. I wanted more. Many more.
As a final little Friday treat we succumbed to the dessert menu and shared a couple of Australasia’s sweet offerings. Probably their most signature (and Instagramable) dishes – the Chocolate Dome is one of those that gets melted at the table to uncover some more sweetness inside. I could genuinely find no fault with this, with every mouthful willing me to have another one. The hot fudge sauce was like crack, and the added blueberries and managed to trick my mind for a second to think I was eating something slightly healthy.
The Candied Ginger Cheesecake may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was certainly mine. Coming topped with proper caramel popcorn, the cheesecake was as ginger a Chris Evans in bed with Geri Halliwell and worked surprisingly well with the creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream. I could have eaten that ice cream forever, but unfortunately, I had to get back to the office.
So that’s it. There are plenty of other dishes available on the Lunch Menu, including Stir fried Mussels, Red Fish Curry and a Dashi Broth with Tofu – so there’s enough to satisfy most tastes and appetites.
From the dishes we received I was very impressed with the value, and coupled with the service, and general vibe and atmosphere of Australasia – it was a very enjoyable lunch break.
Although I doubt many people can afford to have this every day – for a little treat, you can’t go wrong.
Australasia, The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3AP
0161 831 0288