Australasia has been on our list of restaurants to visit for a few years, I've been for cocktails and meetings in the past but the call of subterranean dining in Spinningfields never quite tempted me in for a full meal. But last weekend, we ventured down the polished steps to experience it for ourselves.
Honestly, I expected it to be more style over substance, a place to take people to show off or somewhere you're likely to spot a footballer. In fact, the day after we went for dinner, David Beckham hired out the whole place for a last minute meal, as you do!
Read on to see if I've changed my mind about Australasia (and most importantly, to see what we ate!)
Stepping into the dining room feels like you're stepping into a beach resort; lined with whitewashed brick walls, bleached wood and perfectly cream decor. It's an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city into an oasis of calm (and cocktails).
The kitchen is situated towards the back of the restaurant, behind a tinted glass wall so you can see the chefs delicately compiling intricate dishes at the pass.
The wanderlust menu takes you on a trip across Asia and Australia with a range of small dishes and bigger plates, it has a little bit of everything from sushi to suckling pig. Ideal for sharing with big parties or just between the two of you, it's means everyone can have exactly what they want, whatever their taste.
The wine list is on an iPad, something I would usually think was a bit pretentious, but it's actually really handy, especially for people like me who are less than confident with French pronunciation!
We decided to opt for a few small dishes (around 3 each is enough for dinner) from a range of different styles, with a little guidance from our lovely waitress who was incredibly helpful. For the first couple of dishes, I chose the Yellowfin tuna sashimi (£12) and Joe went for the smoked duck 'dragon rolls' (£7).
After one bite of the Yellowfin tuna sashimi simply served on a bed of ice with a slice of lime, all of my previous thoughts about Australasia evaporated. It was perfection, in fact, just writing about it is making me hungry! Joe's dragon rolls were great too, but I'd definitely be interested to go back and try a few more flavours, both the salmon in black rice and tuna, chilli and mango options are calling my name.
I'm obsessed with tempura courgette flowers, so I had to order the tempura soft shell crab and courgette flowers (£12.50), they were very delicate and delicious, but the could have definitely had more flavour. The pork wonton (£7.50) on the other hand wasn't lacking any flavour, it was potentially my favourite dish we had on the day, I just wish I had a big bowl of them right now!
Equally as delicious were the hand dived scallops with caramel pork and apple (£13.50), a combination of indulgent pork belly combined with the succulent scallops, what's not to like?
We ordered the majority of our meal so we could share but Joe ordered the fois gras brulee with lavas bread and roasted pistachio (£13) mostly for him, I'm not overly keen on fois gras but he assured me it was spot on.
We seldom have dessert when we go out for dinner, instead opting for a cheese board or a dessert wine to finish off the meal, but we must have had a sweet tooth that day as we both chose a sweet dessert! All of the desserts are priced at £7.50.
I was sold on the chocolate dome with salted caramel and blackberries (you had me at chocolate Australasia), and the presentation did not disappoint. Just take a look at the video of the hot salted caramel melting the chocolate dome on my Instagram! The actual dessert itself was pretty uncomplicated after the initial splendour of the presentation; a pool of melted chocolate, ice cream and salted caramel with blackberries dotted around, it tasted great but would have been slightly underwhelming without the spectacle.
Joe went for the ginger and green tea cheesecake, which he loved so much I didn't even get to try a spoonful!
Safe to say my initial idea of Australasia has been firmly changed, the food felt like fine dining but wasn't pretentious in the slightest and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable, we would have happily sat at the table for hours after our meal chatting away if we hadn't had places to be and people to see. I'd wholeheartedly recommend Australasia, whether it's for a few plates of sushi during a day of shopping or for dinner. It can get pricey if you get carried away with the small plates, but it doesn't have to at all.
I can't wait for our next visit there! To find out more about Australasia and to see the full menu, visit their site here.
*Our food was complimentary, but as always, all opinions are my own. And sometimes Joe's if I let him..