Published on 22nd March 2016

1 The Avenue, Spinningfield, Manchester
M3 3AP

Rating: ****

Australasia combines modern Australian cuisine with Pacific Rim flavours, underpinned by European cooking tradition, a blend of Indonesian, Southeast Asian influences and Australia’s strong ties with Japan also help determine the taste and style of their menu.

While Australasia isn’t a vegetarian restaurant – they serve lots of steaks and fish; they have a huge choice of dishes for vegetarians, so we thought we’d see exactly what they had to offer.

Australasia is located in the trendy Spinningfields area of Manchester, by central shopping street Deansgate and the Opera House – perfect location for a bite to eat if you’re going to see a show in the evening.

If you don’t know exactly where Australasia is, it can be easy to miss it – there’s a staircase at the entrance of The Avenue (under a glass pyramid) that leads you downstairs to the restaurant and bar area. The whole venue is underground, and the mood lighting in the restaurant gives off a great atmosphere – and the comfy furniture makes the whole meal seem very cosy and relaxing.

There was initially a bit of a wait for a table for the four of us, but you can grab a cocktail or a glass of wine at the bar while you wait.

Between the four of us again, we ordered an impressive 11 dishes to share – they weren’t huge portions, but there was more than enough of each for us all to try! As we were trying so many things, the food was brought out to us as and when it was ready, so it appeared we had a constant flow of food the entire time we were there. We definitely looked like the greedy table in the place!

The 11 dishes we tried were:

Asparagus, Carrot & Sisho Leaf California Roll
A very safe and simple dish – I’ve never had sushi before but this was a good first option. The Cayenne pepper sprinkled on top was a lovely touch to add a bit of flavour. Great dish if it’s your first time trying vegetarian sushi, but I imagine if you’re a seasoned sushi fan, this may be a little bland.

Nigiri Vegetable Sushi
There were four different sushi bites with this dish – Tofu, Asparagus, Red Pepper and Daikon. While a visually appealing dish, it was rather bland and could’ve done with a little seasoning or even some dipping sauce.

Watermelon, Beetroot & Feta California Roll
This looked amazing – the vivid pink rice was very eyecatching! This is a flavour profile you think wouldn’t work –but it really did. The earthy beetroot, salty feta and refreshing watermelon were a surprisingly delicious combination. There was also tempura okra for a bit of added texture – delicious!

Sweet Potato & Teriyaki Dressing
A very simple dish, but it was one of the favourites – sometimes you can go too complicated, but this worked really will. The sweet potato discs were grilled, drizzled with teriyaki sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. One of those dishes where you wish you had more!

Beetroot with Goats Cheese Bonbons:
Beautifully presented. The beetroot was very earthy, the goats’ cheese was strong – but not overpowering. This dish came with some balsamic pearls sprinkled on the plate, and they were delightful – the only downside was there were only three goats’ cheese bonbons – so there was a bit of an argument between the four of us who got one!

Potato & Wild Mushroom Wonton with Pea Purée, Sweet Soy and Saki Broth
This dish was relatively hit and miss with the table. Some found the truffle in the dish was a little too rich! The pea purée was lovely and fresh, but the broth didn’t really add anything to the dish at all. We think this was more for effect as our waiter poured it on with a small jug when it was brought to the table.

Asparagus with Sweet Sesame Oil
This seemed rather similar to the Sweet Potato in the way it was drizzled with sauce and topped with sesame seeds. It was fresh and light, but there were ultimately better side dishes on offer.

Japanese Curried Korokke
A potato/vegetable mash with curry spice and cheesy centre. This was absolutely delicious. So many flavours in one dish, you never get bored!

Popcorn Tempura
When we saw this on the menu, we were very intrigued – tempura is very popular, but we hadn’t heard of popcorn tempura before. It was simply sweetcorn kernels in tempura batter, served with a sweet and spicy powder dip on this side. It was incredible! Incredibly moreish, and great as a starter or if you just want something to nibble on with a couple of drinks.

Tempura Vegetables on Sticks
This was probably our favourite dish – proving yet again, that sometimes the simple dishes work best.
The presentation of this dish was brilliant – the skewers were presented slotted into a box filled with dried rice and various garnishes, served with a bowl of soy and wasabi on the side. The Tempura vegetables included: asparagus, peppers, baby corn, aubergine, butternut squash, sweet potato and baby courgette. We highly recommend this dish to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!

We gave Australasia four stars because a majority of the dishes we were served were lovely, but a couple of them really let us down. I’d recommend for anyone to go here if they’re in the area, but it is rather pricey, so if you’re on a limited budget, it may be best to steer clear! However – we were seated right by the kitchen so could see all the food being prepared – it was very theatrical as the kitchen was so busy!