There are plenty of restaurants in Manchester that combine Asian flavours with glitzy evening vibes (think Tattu, Cottonopolis and the Ivy), but Australasia was one of the first, and it’s still one of the best. Now a veteran of Manchester’s Pacific fusion scene, the Spinningfields spot continues to be a swish and inviting place that combines a love for exotic food with Instagram-worthy interiors.
Set between the high rises of Spinningfields, Australasia is a long stretch of whitewashed furniture and creamy driftwood. Expect a warm, buzzing oasis that wouldn’t be out of place at a tasteful Ibizan beach club, with thumping deep house that plays to booths packed with small groups and couples.
Everyone’s drinking crisp, cold beers from cute bottles; from Asian to Aussie. For those ready to say "kanpai" to the beginning of a night out, there's warming bowls of sake and fruity cocktails, heavy with tropical rums and spices. If you’re keeping it alcohol-free, then the house-made watermelon lemonade (£5) is tasty enough that you won’t feel left out.
When it comes to food, there are two ways to dine; local or traditional. While the traditional offering has enticing plates of steak and lobster, it’s the sharing dishes on the local menu that you'll want to get your hands on. Starting with oysters, we go for a delicious mixed platter of cold, plump morsels (£15 for 6) – including one with a fiery nam jin dressing that that hits with Thai chilli. There’s plenty of sushi and sashimi options too, with nigiri that layers seared beef (£4.50 for 2) and meaty tuna (£4 for 2) on perfectly sticky rice. Another delight? The soft shell crab tempura (£9) that come as a set of California rolls stuffed with crunchy crab and then deep-fried in a light tempura batter that manages to avoid being too heavy or oily.
A wave of dishes arrive and this time it’s a generous sharer stacked with robata-cooked meats, fragrant croquettes and delicate tempura (£14 per person). Yakitori chicken thigh is moist and dripping with a saucy marinade; the edges charred like the first taste of summer. Korean BBQ beef is lean and flavourful, while tempura prawns are fat and fresh, and the addition of korokke dumplings gives you spicy balls of concentrated katsu power. If you fancy of a couple of sides then don't miss the sticky, caramelized miso aubergine (£6.75) or Hong Kong-style broccoli with XO sauce (£5.75) which is a welcome bit of green to even things out.
Desserts feature a recommended boozy pairing that varies from sake to glasses of fizzy Sauvignon. Our pick is the chocolate dome (£9), which arrives with a theatrical flourish as our waiter pours steaming caramel sauce onto the chocolate sphere to reveal a salty, peanut butter parfait. Add in the shot of Ron Zacapa (£6) and this is a real indulgent end to the evening.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Is Australasia cheap? Certainly not, but if you’re looking for a spot that reveres Asian food in a modern and stylish setting, then a visit here is most definitely worth it. The hospitality is on point, the atmosphere is chill and, most importantly, the food is delicious. Whether it's a catch up with friends or a sexy date night, it's time to treat yourself.