I spent the weekend in Manchester, visiting one of my best friends who has run away, back up to the North. There aren’t a huge amount of advantages to this, but it was very nice to get away for the weekend and see somewhere new(ish). Living in the area, she has a rather good knowledge of the local places, or at least the ones worth knowing, and so booked us a table for lunch at Australasia.
Walking into the restaurant required entering a small glass pyramid, not unlike a Honey-I-Shrunk-The-Kids style louvre and going underground. Given its subterranean positioning, the entire establishment was light and bright whilst retaining its atmosphere, with delicate creamy yellow glows being emitted from low hanging lamps over each table (I was a little concerned that I would bang my head on ours, but apparently the the height and position were designed with clumsy people like me in mind).
There was no rush to have us seated and were invited to have a drink at the bar before we sat down for lunch, if we wished. We did. Naturally. Shortly after, we were lead to our table. The pale wood tables, cream wicker chairs and nautical cushions very much echo the restaurant’s name, and it is possible to briefly forget you are several foot below a major, damp, British city and could instead be on the other side of the world.
There are a couple of ways to eat, we were informed by our very attentive, friendly waiter, as he handed us our menus, one carefully annotated with gluten free options for my friend. We could either opt for several sharing dishes, which would mainly consist of Japanese, South East Asian fusions, or we could choose a starter and a more traditional main course, called ‘Big Plates’. We decided a main and a dessert would go down well.
I went for the cep buttered corn-fed chicken with girolle mushroom fricassée (nope, not sure what that all means either), whilst my friend selected the duck breast with butternut squash, quince and roasted hazelnuts, each with a side of sweet potato and rosemary mash. Given the number of fellow diners, the arrival of our food was speedy and beautifully presented. But they didn’t sacrifice substance for style in either dish. The flavours worked wonderfully and each mouthful was as exciting as the previous. I was quite disappointed when I finished what was a fairly generous portion.
For dessert, and this really tested my decision making ability, I plumped for the passion fruit soufflé with pistachio ice-cream and
coconut sauce, based on the principle I couldn’t make it myself, and Charlotte had the lemon crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet. It whisked me up and took me off to food heaven, where I stayed for the cosmic duration of soufflé’s life. It as just…I have no words. And it came with unexpected honeycomb crunchy bits. It was a bit like receiving diamonds for your birthday and then discovering you’ve been bought the mine too. Sort of, I imagine.
All in all, it was splendid. Definitely somewhere to go next time I venture upwards.