Manchester deserves a dinner Grear, but the brilliant and showy Australasia leaves the city – and Jay – emptiness
1 The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester (0161 831 0288). Meal for two with wine and service, £ 110
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece explaining that, if asked in a restaurant I review how the meal I always say: "Fine." I try to say in how my seven-year-old son said, when asked about his day at school. "Fine," as the boy pushed by Daniel simply means that the day passed without incident. He is still alive, as are all people he comes into contact. Nothing to see here. Go your way. The fact that my "fine" is usually a big fat lie, it covers all eventualities on a sliding scale of "The leader is the Messiah reborn" to "Kill me now, so I have to eat another bite" is neither here nor there. does the job fine.
Then I went to Australasia in Manchester and it was really great. Grindingly, jumps well. There was a pair of vertices. There was a lot of bottom. Between firn was a mediocrity. Anyone who has followed my adventures eat in Manchester, a city I love and that I always travel hopefully find it very familiar. And Australasia, a brewery with a disorder cavernous pan-Asian menu, is very, very Manchester. It is bright and fragile first impressions – not that they always get those rights. The receptionist looked panicked when my friend came to me, despite the place being a full tenth. They sent him to the bar while they prepared the table and never offered him a drink.
If I had to be unreasonably cruel, I would say, with stairs down the right side of the road in a room with white-washed brick walls bare, it looks like a comfortable upscale consumer. But I'm not that cruel. Instead it looks like a hair salon is high end. The huge underground room is dressed in shades of cream. There are pieces of the tree between the benches cleared and a lot of hanging lights. Thrums youth music. A glass wall provides a view of an open kitchen where young men with floppy hair do things very specific to the pass.
The shame is that these very specific things do not add up to enough on the plate. The menu, which is divided between small plates and a few large, wandering around Asia as a backpacker trying to avoid returning home, and with an equal lack of attention to detail. Two tempura soft-shell crab and zucchini flower is good, very good. I've had worse and I was much, much better. Four pieces of tuna nigiri sushi, while not actively bad, were enormous. Chunky. They were the kind of thing you could crouch behind to keep the wind off. Forget the quality and usability of the width.
Tuna rolls and crispy shallots were also overengineered, but there was absolutely no sign of the crispy shallots. Pink slices of beef with teriyaki sauce drops were, so you know, very well. A salad of shredded papaya displayed good knife work, but it was completely underdressed. It should have a real accident and zing. It had nothing. The worst dish of the lot was a piece of blackened cod, which was overcooked and tasteless. Yo! Sushi does a better version of one third of the price.
And then dessert. Stay for dessert. A different sensitivity comes in. Make a soufflé flavored with mango is tricky. Even when pureed fruit can be so mush and bone marrow. It was as light and bouncy round as an illustration of a Donald McGill postcard. It came with a glass teapot to warm mango sauce to be poured inside so that it all balanced and shaken. A chocolate cake, espresso oozing was just as good. This came with a scoop of ice venerable nuts and a dribble of salt caramel sauce. None of these dishes was very good. They were much better. Yet despite this high point I left, I so often do in Manchester, disappointed. I wanted beautiful. I wanted bright. I'm fine. And at these prices, it's not good enough.
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Submited at Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 9:00 am on Restaurant by john
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