On a windy weekend in the city, we slipped into somewhere more comfortable to sample a sharing menu with some serious swagger.
When nights are drawing in fast through the week it feels like, come Sunday, roasts are are well and truly back front of mind. But in the relaxed, shimmering atmosphere of this particular Deansgate basement you can find sanctuary from the season, and enjoy a Japanese-themed dinner with a difference.
The newly launched Sunday menu at Australasia includes a platter of starters and desserts to share, book-ending a main course choice of Robata grilled meats and sides. Before all that though, a welcome drink is up for grabs.
You can have a glass of beer or wine but we opted for cocktails (obviously). The Roku Gin White Lady is particularly eye-catching with its rice paper blossom design, if you’ve not tried a white lady before, think of it as something like a gin sour, the ideal citrusy aperitif. I preferred the Maker’s Mark Mint Julep however, which packs a fair slug of bourbon, that will warm even the coolest of cockles.
Thankfully starters present no difficult choices, you get to sample them all from the centre of your table. From left to right, Edamame beans lightly steamed and pimped up with truffle oil, then crisp Squid tempura ready to be dipped in spicy mayo. Chargrilled Garlic-spiced prawn skewers are the best of the bunch, they’re incongruously smoky given their flash-flamed tenderness, which implies such a short cooking time. Finally, a pair of fragrant little bread-crumbed balls of fun- or spiced potato at least. The Japanese curried korokke would be served by the dozen if I was in charge.
If that all sounded a bit more glamorous than your usual roast dinner then mains set the bar a little higher still, this isn’t exactly your Gran’s meat and two veg, the gravy boat has been replaced with dry ice for a start. Whether you enjoy your food served in the manner of an early nineties music video or not though, it’s hard to pick holes in a choice of expertly charcoal-cooked Galbi marinated spatchcock baby chicken, Teriyaki beef or Bulgogi pork loin.
We went for the beef served pink and pork, which arrive on a Robata table top grill alongside a chilli dipping sauce and sweet, sticky soy. From the sides, Asian slaw with XO sauce is a definite winner and then chips because well, why would you not order chips when given the chance?
Dessert is a real tour de force, an immaculate presentation box topped up with pretty portions of five different puds to try- it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps by pouring warm caramel sauce over the Chocolate and peanut parfait, the result recalls a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but a fair bit more snazzy. Chewy, emerald green Passion fruit and pistachio macarons are well executed, as is the Crème brûlée, lightly fragranced with kaffir lime. Bite-size Lychee and strawberry cheesecake don’t do much wrong either, but arguably the best thing on the platter is a pair of feather-light, Desiccated coconut-dusted friande cakes.
A stand-out end to an unflappable meal in a restaurant that knows how to add a bit of flourish or finesse to proceedings. The only question is, who would you share a Sunday with at Australasia?
1 The Avenue, Deansgate, Manchester M3 3AP
0161 831 0288
Enjoy two courses for £30 or three for £37 with a welcome drink included.