Australasia is almost a no brainer – especially when it comes to a late lunch catch up with a friend.
There’s something a little decadent about an afternoon off to be a ‘lady that lunches’ anyway – where you can spoil yourself in a lengthy chat, a glass of wine or two, and more than just a hurried sandwich, or clock watching because you know you’ve only got a little time to be back at your desk.
So to do it with a little Pacific flair, feels that little bit more indulgent – especially so when I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad dish at Australasia. And a new menu meant that it was beyond time for a lunchtime revisit.
Perhaps the biggest issue at Australasia is what to eat. Alongside their a la carte menu, their lunch menu is a little bit moreish – so it’s a good job you can have two of the lunchtime dishes for £12, three for £16 or four for £21. Between the two of us, my date and I nearly had the entire menu – go hard or go home?
Some dishes haven’t changed I’m relieved to notice. The vegetable tempura is light, crispy and served with a dip that’s a little addictive, and all to easy to not just dunk the vegetables in, but to use instead of soy sauce for everything else.
Onto the sushi and it’s hard to go wrong with the quality on offer. I opted for the Temaki seaweed rolls with salmon and robata beef (I’m going through a salmon on everything kind of phase), whilst my date chose the Futomaki with yellow fin tuna, daikon and avocado.
Both dishes were pretty and, more importantly, delicious. The quality of of the fish will out, lots of flavour, but not too much fat, and plenty of pickled ginger, of which I am a huge fan.
My date also picked the poke style tuna – served on a bed of ice, this took a nod from the poke bowls so popular in Hawaii, lots of fresh ingredients, well flavoured, and another dish that lets the ingredients speak.
My second vegetarian dish was the salt and pepper tofu with rice crackers and cucumber salad – I adore the contrast of soft creamy tofu with crisp cracker, and though I’d have happily stepped up the heat and the salt and pepper a notch or two, and maybe tone down the hoi sin sauce, it was still full of flavour.
Another new addition is the stir fried mussels with chilli, sweet basil and peanuts. It’s a generous dish, with plenty of shellfish, and Thai led flavours.
My final dish was the seared teriyaki beef, peanut and baby mixed leaf salad with sweet chilli dressing – the layers of fresh salad, rare beef and crispy slightly sweet onion are addictive, and it’s a disappointment when you look down and realise that all that remains is a dressing smeared plate.
Whilst my date’s last selection before dessert was the tempura spiced pork and jasmine rice dumplings – soft meaty comfort food.
Of course, you can’t be a lady who lunches and eschew dessert. So we didn’t.
Whilst I’m not a chocolate pudding fan, my date assures me that the chocolate souffle with chocolate sauce and raspberry sorbet is worth the wait. Especially when you make a suitable hole in the top of the souffle and pour in the sauce. It’s a decadent finish to a lazy lunch.
I, however, went for something fragrant with the jasmine, apple and vanilla panna cotta with green apple sorbet. Soft, panna cotta, slivers of dried apple, and a gentle sharp sorbet refreshed the palate and I laid down my spoon with a satisfied sigh.
Australasia isn’t an every day venue (unless you are richer than I) but consistency, quality and service mean it’s always going to be a real treat.