Turning 21 in Australasia, MCR

Tucked underneath Spinningfields and down some slick marbled steps, the glass covered entrance opens up to a softly lit, casual dinning space.

Heady, background beats play in the bar while the murmur of conversation, keeps the restaurant area feeling busy but not too overwhelming. The decor is light and understated. Drift wood ornaments and beach wood distracts from the cold, wet Manchester evening above us.

The menu is packed with exotic combinations, embracing and adapting far eastern flavours.

As you might expect from this kind of mix, fresh fish features heavily, and the starters are mainly a mix of sushi and sashimi.

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A platter of 14 pieces for Β£25, between three, isn’t quite what you’d call value for money. But there’s no denying that this elegant slab is more varied and of better quality than your usual yo-sushi lot.

The waiter even grates your wasabi in front of you. No expense or flourish is spared in Australasia.

As the meal progresses it soon becomes clear that the bigger the plate, the more unusual the flavour combinations:

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Their crispy suckling pork belly is paired with a helping of delicate pineapple curry. The optional side of sticky coconut rice comes cocooned in a lotus leaf wrap.

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(The lighting in Australasia is not set up for taking photos… instead the ambient lighting sets the perfect atmosphere for a mellow, laid back dinning experience)

The roasted duck breast, tender and succulent, is accompanied by beautifully seasoned shiitake mushroom croquettes and a scattering of fresh mango.

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A vibrant dish, served with just the right amount of sweet, mango sauce.

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The croquettes are lightly fried for a light, crisp texture.

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Even a simple filet steak is treated with the same artistic flourish.

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When dining in a place like Australasia your automatic reaction wouldn’t be to go for the chicken, however, their saporous corn-fed bird is paired with truffle foam, asparagus and dainty little mushrooms.

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A far cry from your usual, unimaginative chicken breast, these cuts are brushed with a rich sauce and topped with a delicate foam.

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A lot of effort goes into the presentation of their mains, and the artistry doesn’t stop when it comes to deserts:

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Subbing out the usual buttery biscuit base for circles of crisp brandy snaps, their ginger and green tea cheesecake is unique in more ways than one.

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The chocolate soufflΓ© with raspberry sorbet comes with your own mini glass teapot, filled with chocolate sauce to drizzle over your pot of warm, chocolatey goodness.

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If you chose not to indulge in their many chocolate-based sweets, the brown sugar parfait with caramel, juicy citrus fruit and a side of sorbet is the perfect palate cleanser.

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It all comes tucked up in this tiny wooden box.

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But a must is their melting chocolate dome with salted caramel and blackberries.

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As the chocolate collapses, the salted caramel cascades on to the plate and little bits of crunchy sweets are revealed, nestled within.

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If you’re not entirely sated then it’s time to wind your way through to the back of the restaurant, past the open kitchen bustling with Australasia’s many chefs, and up into Grand Pacific – Australasia’s cocktail bar.

Serving the same combinations as the restaurant, moving up into Grand Pacific just gives you the opportunity to progress your night without stepping out into the cold.

Their signature cocktails are highly recommended, and just an extension of the artistry seen in the dinning area below.

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While these cocktails aren’t cheap, they’re definitely worth a go.

Their banana pancakes (yes, that’s a drink) with cariel vanilla and banana liquor tastes like a very creamy milkshake.

While their kiwi crush is sharp, zingy and sweet:

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Turns out your actual 21st birthday can be really underwhelming when you are forced to spend the day revising for university exams and everyone else is busy at work.

However, when you do have time to celebrate, a place like Australasia hits the spot.

It’s not the kind of restaurant you’d go everyday but, even still, the theatrics of the dishes aren’t too over the top. The mindful staff are careful not to let the flourishes get too fluffy and out of hand. And all the flare and artistry are there to serve moreΒ than just an aesthetic purpose.

If you’re looking for carefully crafted food and a calm sophisticated atmosphere, Australasia, in the heart of Manchester, is the place to go.

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