Sunday 10 September 2017

Friday night @ Australasia

Friday was "date night" (can't express how much I cringe at that term), which was made significantly better as Australasia had invited me down to review their updated menu. Some people who read my blog (shout out to my dad) might remember when I was last invited to Australasia to review their Sunday menu, or when I took my mum (years ago) for afternoon tea to celebrate Mother's Day. We had a lush meal last time and I was really excited to go on a Friday night when everyone there would be celebrating the arrival of the weekend. 

This had the potential to be a lovely pic had I not been impatient to get to the table haha
When we arrived it was buzzing, really 'chatty' and upbeat, with lots of people looking ready to have a good night. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but the lighting in that place never fails to amaze me. I always forget that I'm underground thanks to the soft, golden glow and white wash walls. They'd also added mirrors since I'd last been, which helped bounce more light around. 

We started off with cocktails: a smokey old fashioned for James and the Australasian porn star martini for me. 

James always gets the smokey old fashioned and I really like it too so it was win win. My martini was gorge - Grey Goose, lychee liqueur, lemon, mango, vanilla, fresh passion fruit and a shot of sparkling Chardonnay (any Belinda Blinked fans out there will know how much excitement that brings!).

We opted to choose from the 'local' menu - (choosing small dishes to share) and our waiter recommended 3-4 dishes each - which is right up my street. I dislike it when you go for the sharing plates option and a waiter recommends a silly number like 2 each. 

So, safe in the knowledge that we had around 6 to 8 dishes to choose from, we got stuck in. 

Salmon sashimi (x6 pieces) was first on the list, it's got to be done. 

We also chose prawn nigiri (x4 pieces) and the Avocado, mango and broccoli Californian rolls (x4 pieces). 

Edamame beans with lashings of lime and salt accompanied this and made up the first part of the meal. 

I love wasabi, and even more so in Australasia when the waiter grates the fresh stuff right in front of you. Please note: I found it so much stronger than usual wasabi, and that's coming from someone who loves spice. There were a good couple of coughing / eye watering fits during this, much to my embarrassment. 

The way the salmon is served is pretty cool, and I was a big fan of the avocado Californian rolls - the floral detailing stamped on the rice made it look really pretty.

We'd also ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc to go with the meal, and our waiter gave us some good advice on which bottle to have (this didn't feel pushy, it was the same price), but the flavours would compliment our choices better. Or something. Either way, it was lovely.

For our next round of small plates, we chose:

Prawn tempura (a classic), Yakatori chicken skewers and the best named dish... 'ANGRY PRAWNS'  (both from the Robata grill menu). We chose the latter on the name alone, although I did ask what they were, and they're in fact tiger prawns. We also almost ordered scallops sashimi but very quickly changed our minds when we remembered that they would be raw, so opted for the 'hand-dived scallops, cauliflower, carrot and ginger'. 

Let me start with the Angry Prawns. Oh my gosh. If you could only have one dish, make sure it's this one. I feel bad in saying that as all the plates we got were delicious, but these prawns were absolutely insane. Meaty, almost creamy, with a rich sauce, we could've eaten this dish three times over (it's £13.50 for three prawns so make every bite worth it). 

Next up, the chicken skewers. These were right up my street and the portion size was massive. To me, the marinade was almost like a satay, with a spicy but sweet dipping sauce. I really really enjoyed this dish and was pleasantly surprised with how big the skewers were. 

The scallops were lovely too. I have to be in the mood for scallops, and it's one of those food items that I can't really think about what I'm eating when I'm chewing it (anyone else?!), but the texture of these was lovely, not slimy or tough, but had a melt-like quality I've not experienced. The cauli / carrot / ginger puree was a really nice addition too.

We were stuffed. Which naturally meant one thing: dessert menu. 

James was really keen for the Chocolate Dome (it's amazing), and we'd had it last time so you know, needed to try it again, just to be sure we liked it. It comes with molten caramel sauce that they pour over a chocolate dome, it melts and reveals salted caramel icecream and peanuts. YEP. It's actually divine. We demolished it, and also ordered another scoop of icecream to go with it. 

Our serving staff were so friendly, offering helpful advice on what to get and generally looking after us to make sure we were having a good time. Looking around as well, the staff are all so busy but calm, there's a real emphasis on making sure people have a relaxed, amazing experience. 

We never once felt rushed or that the waiters were hurrying us up, and so after we'd been chilling out in a dome coma and they asked if we wanted anything else, espresso martinis seemed like a great idea. 

Going on a Friday night was the perfect way to start the weekend (we ended up 'out out' so Saturday morning was a struggle), and I really couldn't recommend it any more if you're looking for a Friday night treat. Also, the playlist was fab - so many Jessie Ware remixes and just generally 'my type' of chilled music.

It's really funny reading this alongside my last review - I'm clearly still a huge fan!

Naturally, I'm reviewing this place and so wouldn't be posting unless I'd had a good time - I'd like to say though that not many of the staff knew we were reviewing and they were so polite and friendly. 

Australasia remains to be a classic favourite of mine on the 'Manchester scene', and I'm so glad that eighteen months on I'm able to give it as glowing a review as I did then. I've been back in between the two reviews for drinks etc and will no doubt be drinking espresso martinis there again soon... 
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