Posts Tagged ‘meal’

One of the Greatest Eating Experiences of My Life

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I love eating, I do it a lot. Sometimes I really enjoy what I am eating, other times not so much. Sometimes it is somewhere in the middle. For me, an eating experience is more than just the food – it is the people who serve it to me, where the food comes from, and the location that I eat it in. All of these factors, if put together correctly, can create a life changing experience. And I, Jessica Davies, had one of these experiences in Manchester (of all places).

To me, Manchester is industrial revolution, cotton mills, and football. Sure, I know it is a growing city and the idea of there being good places to eat there doesn’t surprise me, but if someone had told me I would be overwhelmingly satisfied with an eating experience in Manchester I would have laughed and told them lying is a sin. But that mysterious person was right.

Ben and I went to visit our forth cousin (I don’t actually know what relation she is to me but she is my great grandfather’s sister’s granddaughter) who lives just outside of Manchester and she took us for a tour of the city. As it was a wet and soggy day, we tried to stay inside as much as possible and after visiting the John Rylands library, Lesley wanted to show us a new bar/restaurant that has opened up next door. To enter you go through a glass pyramid thing, down some steps and there you are. The restaurant is called Australasia and so I felt it appropriate that Ben and I go and visit it.

We weren’t feeling particularly hungry, however my appetite instantly sprang to life as soon as I saw the restaurant. Something inside me said, “EAT HERE!” and so the decision was made. The restaurant is a long rectangular shape that has been very well set up with tables in different sections to allow for large groups as well as quieter areas for small tables. It is light in colour and has lots of organic, wooden surfaces and lots of little details to look at.

Australasia

So pretty

The waitstaff were very friendly although half the time I had no idea what our main waitress was saying. Manchester accents are impossible. We were advised to choose lots of small dishes to share and so we did – choosing six dishes to share between the three of us. The food was what I guess is called “Asian fusion” with a very interesting mix of flavours from Japanese, Australian, British, Thai and Indonesian cuisines. And it was AMAZING.

Australasia menu

I felt at home

The food was beyond delicious – spicy, flavoursome and with some very interesting combinations of flavours and textures, I have never eaten anything like it before. All of the dishes had something interesting to say – the fishcakes with lemon grass were spicy and aromatic; the thinly sliced seared beef was tender, rich and juicy; and the pork balls were perfectly accompanied by a spicy salad that really had a kick to it.

Australasia fish

I even liked the seafood. Amazing.

Australasia Collingwood Dinkies

Collingwood Dinkies – little pies filled with different delicious flavours

Australasia tempura

Vegetable tempura – Pyramid style

Each time more food came out our mouths dropped at the presentation and then dropped even further when we came to eat it. Delicate yet strong, all of the food made me want to applaud the chefs each time it was placed on our table.

As we were eating the mains, I watched other dishes come out of the kitchen and declared that despite having eaten a rather large (and delicious) piece of chocolate cake for morning tea, I was going to need to eat a dessert. Thankfully, Ben is a fellow foodie and he had noticed the amazing concoctions that were arriving on other tables and he ordered dessert too. Lesley soon joined us as soon as ours arrived.

I am incapable of looking past the word “fondant” on a dessert menu and chose an espresso fondant served with hazelnut ice cream. A fairly simple description on the menu turned into one of the greatest desserts in human history being placed on the table in front of me.

Australasia fondant

WOW.

The fondant was cooked to utter perfection with a round, decorated piece of chocolate placed on top of the warmed pudding. As I cut into it, the chocolate melted and the fondant exploded into a gooey, oozing lava mountain.

Australasia fondant with goo

EXPLODE!

It was rich without being sickly and had a great combination of chocolate and espresso. The hazelnut ice cream was creamy and delicious and the plate was also decorated with three blobs of salted butter caramel (the ultimate accompaniment to chocolate) and clotted cream that was dotted with vanilla beans and decorated with mini meringues.

I want to marry who ever invented this dessert (sorry, Tom) because essentially they have placed every single thing that makes me happy on a plate, made it look pretty and then let me eat it.

Ben’s dessert was just as spectacular – a chocolate mousse cake served with cooked cherries. There was this amazing soft cherry foam that floated off the top of the cake. It was then served with a ball of miso ice cream which had originally put me off the dessert (plus I’m not a huge fruit with chocolate person) but turned out to be pure GENIUS. The miso added a wonderful hint of salt to the sweet chocolate and was really very delicious. Truly wonderful.

Chocolate pavé Australasia

Cherry froth!

We spent two hours eating lunch and by the time we eventually wandered up the stairs and back into the real world, the sun had started shining and it had turned into a beautiful day. Before we left, I paid a visit to the bathrooms to discover ‘dunny’ style toilets (upmarket dunnies, of course). It made me proud to be an Aussie, it did. Not really, but I am glad the best restaurant in the world (at least in my current little world) is a representation of my home country. The Poms can beat us in cricket but we cook the best food.

Not Disgusting At All

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Restaurants should really change the name “Degustation” because, in my limited but existing experience, they’re not disgusting at all. HA. Get it? Hilarious.

Anyway, moving on from that pun, while visiting the South-West last weekend, my parents demonstrated how much they love me by taking me to The Studio Bistro for a degustation. I think they REALLY love me. I have never had a degustation menu before but my ever growing love for food has made the idea of eating that many courses potentially the best possible thing to do. Ever. I was very excited.

The Studio is a relatively new establishment with an art gallery and restaurant under the same roof. At dinner time, they spread tables throughout the gallery so you sit amongst paintings and sculptures contemplating what you will purchase after you have had a few glasses of wine. What I really liked about The Studio was the lack of pretentiousness – while the food was of a high quality and there was a general feeling of elegance, I didn’t feel like I was under review or that I had to sit with my hands folded in my lap. This was potentially due to a couple of the wait staff who were clearly still learning the ropes of how to serve in fancy restaurants. Walk to table, place hand behind back, pour water from jug slowly into glasses…

Our dinner consisted of five main dishes, plus numerous little surprises in between. One of my favourite dishes was the amuse bouche – a slice of nectarine wrapped in cured ham. Very simple yet very yum. We had crab, hot smoked tasmanian salmon (an entire fillet – it was incredible), pork belly, fillet steak and then a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The salmon was a highlight – it melted in your mouth and has a soft smokey flavour. I had never tried pork belly before as usually the idea of eating that much fat doesn’t sit well with my stomach or thighs, so I was keen to give it a go. WOW. Who knew fat could taste so good? Well… lots of people, probably. But as a regular remover-of-skin-and-fat-from-meat, it was news to me, and I am pleased to announce that I ate every last drop of artery clogging flab. Amazing.

By the time we had reached the fillet steak, my stomach was questioning whether or not I really needed to eat more food. Shut up, stomach, was my response. The steak was beautifully cooked and despite thinking I was full, I managed to move things around in order to fit it all in. Then came the dessert.

When I had first read the menu I became instantly excited by the description of the dessert – Caraway and chocolate mousse cake with compressed stone fruits and vanilla. Oh, yes please. Sadly, the description was better than the real thing. I was expecting a real kick from the caraway but sadly I could barely taste it at all. Plus the consistency of the mousse cake was very strange – they had created multiple layers of cake, mousse, cake, mousse, but as a result, the cake had spread out through the mousse layers, giving it a very sandy texture. Mousse needs to be smooth – it’s a fact of life.

Chocolate cake

Degustation Dessert

I am still trying to work out how the stone fruit was ‘compressed’. It just looked and tasted like a piece of peach to me. Plus it was under-ripe peach to make things worse – the consistency was like eating an apple. The plate had a drizzle of a peach and vanilla sauce which was probably the highlight of the dish – lovely and refreshing. The dessert wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be.

I found that to be the case with many of the dishes in the meal – while the food was of a high quality, the ingredients were generally fresh and the presentation was nice (except for the steak that looked a bit like someone had thrown up on it), there was something lacking. Sometimes it felt that the chef was putting too many things on one plate, other times the combination of flavours didn’t quite work. There were also far too many dishes with carbohydrate-filled root vegetables so by the end of the meal you were feeling very heavy.

It has, however, sparked a new interest for me in long, multiple-coursed meals and I plan on trying some more. I suspect the French do it very well – it is their word, after all.