A Fusion Restaurant Hidden Underneath One Of Manchester's Busiest Streets Impresses On First Bite
"A must visit for a date night, and a perfect place for those craving a heart-warming feast"
True to its name, Spinningfields favourite Australasia flaunts modern Australian cuisine, combining Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition with a strong blend of Indonesian and Southeast Asian influences (Australia's strong ties with Japan also help to determine the taste and style.)
The place itself is nothing less than palatial. Large and airy, it's a true crouching oasis and the description of it as a basement bar, with all the grungy connotations that accompany that, is so far off the mark it's laughable.
The terrace and canopied outdoor garden are other extensions of Australasia - contemporary, chilled out zones in the heart of one of Manchester's most bustling areas.
The menu reflects its environment - truly sensational. The waiter informed me on the day that there are "two ways of dining with Australasia," either with a selection of 'tapas' sized plates or the usual starter, main, dessert affair.
Having walked 10 feet to my table and already spotted about twenty dishes which I could happily devour, I opted for a selection of small plates so I could try a little of everything.
Tanatalising options include the asparagus and french bean with truffle tempura, crispy suckling pork belly with a pineapple curry, roast halibut with mussels and curried cream sauce and robata grilled asparagus with sweet sesame glaze. My only criticism is that the menu should come with a bib because everything sounds absolutely mouth-watering.
I opted for the oysters to start, Australasia offer them 'panko crusted' but I like my seafood minimalistic so as to really get the full (and true) flavour so I instead went for the mixed plate of natural, nam jin and soy mirin.
Plump, juicy, dashed with lime and served on ice they were absolutely perfect. The garlic and spring onion combination was my favourite although the chilli addition, along with a glass of their Riesling (more on this later) was an absolute heart-warmer and had me feeling giddy before the meal had even really begun.
The sushi arrived next. We opted for the yellowfin tuna sashimi alongside the spider rolls. The tuna, similar to the oysters was served on ice with a side of soy and wasabi which was grated in front of us - the whole thing was as fresh as anything I have ever tasted, beautiful fish presented with creativity and flair. The california rolls were also excellent, the texture of the crunchy shell crab with vegetables encased in home-made sushi rice - it just felt like a bear hug for your tummy and couldn't wait for what was to come next.
While we waited, I perused the wine list (which comes in the form of a digital machine given to you by the waiter.) It features life-size mock-ups of your chosen drink so appearance can factor into the decision-making process. It was all very new-age and slightly intimidating but a welcome novelty. Being a work night, I was happy to see the 'by the glass' options were not only plentiful but outstanding.
I decided to sod it given I was only having one and splashed out on the the Riesling, Blank Canvas - from Marlborough, New Zealand. At £9 for 175ml and £12.60 for the 250ml serving (naturally) it's not for those months you're penny-pinching.
But for when you're not...
I've never had a better wine. There, I said it. And I've tried a lot. My preferred is red, hands down if I'm honest, but we'd ordered all fish so I decided to take a risk and couldn't be happier I found this beauty. Delicate with a very subtle aroma, it was sweeter than I expected but the perfect balance and ever so slightly perfumed. The food was excellent, but this for me was the star.
We went for the sweet potato kissed with teriyaki dressing, grilled seabass fillet with cucumber salsa and the robata grilled asparagus with sweet sesame glaze.
Seabass is a personal favourite but this one was notably good, perfectly crispy on the outside with soft fragrant flakes that absolutely melted in your mouth, the fresh salsa was a surprisingly delicious accompaniment, and married with the sweetness of the grilled potato - I realised that my usual order at the Friday night chipper will never be the same again.
Sounds a little bizarre considering the artistry of some of the other dishes on the menu, but the asparagus was one of my favourite dishes from this place. Trust me, you've never had it quite like as in Australasia before.
Served on little wooden spears and chargrilled, the concoction is drizzled with the richest sesame coating I have ever tasted and sprinkled with crunchy seeds. I could have eaten about 20 of them and still wanted more.
A truly stand out vegetarian dish to match the whole experience.
If you're looking for a place to impress or to take a date look no further. Spinningfields may seem like a cliched place to go for a special occasion but in terms of environment, quality of food and wow-factor, this is your venue folks. Top marks.