Welcome to your new favourite beach bar in Manchester.
Yes, you read that right.
Describing itself as “a stylish but laid back slice of modern Australian life, down-under in Manchester,” Australasia has always been a port-of-call on a grey day for an injection of sunset coast vibes, but earlier this month their new terrace bar Sunset opened and immediately set the local Instagram community alight.
The spectacular decor errs on just the right side of a frothy bubblegum pink delight, with whitewashed wooden tables, wicker chairs and banquettes adorned with squishy linen cushions in varying shades of pink ombre, with an occasional floral print thrown in for good measure. The terrace is encased by trellises laden with a clever mix of real and artificial flowers, while the pink and white striped tiled floor begs to be snapped – it’s a pity I had my less than photogenic winter boots when we visited, since the rain had temporarily returned that day.
Clare and I has popped along to try sunset by Australasia’s new exotic afternoon tea experience, accompanied by masterfully blended cocktails designed to transport you to faraway shores. The two-course afternoon tea begins with a Bento box of sunshine-infused sushi and deliciously light Asian fusion dishes, including mini bowls of beef broth which are poured at the table, salmon and tuna sashimi, California rolls with Peking duck and crispy yum yum rice squares. Fresh wasabi was grated for us at the table, and the accompanying soy sauce dipping dishes were a vibrant jewel green, creating a pleasing colour pop against the gold chopsticks and cutlery.
Although there is an extensive selection of prosecco sorbet blends and sparkling spritzers on the sunset cocktail menu, the afternoon tea is accompanied by either a frozen Sunset Porn Star or glass of Mirabeau pure rosé. I opted for the former – a passion fruit infused slush puppy of a cocktail, with prosecco shot traditionally served alongside – while Clare (almost nine months pregnant now!) opted for a splash of the rosé topped up with soda.
Each of the savoury Bento box offerings were served in their own little bowls and dishes, and every single one was delicious. It was a great way to try out many of the dishes on the main Sunset menu, and while I’m hard pressed to choose a favourite amongst them, I think the yum yum squares (fried rice with spicy tuna and avocado) and aromatic shabu shabu beef broth studded with oyster mushrooms just about edge it.
The main menu also has a wide vegan selection which I’m keen to try next time I visit. I’ve heard wonderful things about the popcorn tempura (tempura battered fresh sweetcorn dusted with chilli salt) from my friend Sam, and spotted a couple sharing a platter of the vegan sushi (which includes mango & red pepper and asparagus & pressed watermelon California rolls) which looked divine!
The Bento box polished off, we took a moment to photograph the whimsical wonder that was the Bento tower of desserts, while letting the first course settle. Seriously, the presentation of this afternoon tea was second to none and it almost felt a shame to pick out our first desserts and ruin the display!
The selection included mini chocolate caramel domes – drenched in hot caramel sauce from a small glass teapot on arrival – accompanied by ginger cheesecake, panna cotta, pistachio and passion fruit macarons and finally – my fave – coconut friandes. These were so delectably syrupy, yet not cloyingly sweet, and I would happily have these daily with a rich, dark afternoon coffee. Seriously, it’s an option sunset should really have on their menu..
My only bugbear with the Sunset afternoon tea is the lack of actual tea on offer. I’d expected that when we moved to the dessert Bento box there would be a selection of light, fragrant Chinese teas to choose from but alas. The only option was to indulge in another cocktail (which I did happily, of course!)
It’s funny because I’m not even really a tea drinker, but I guess the idea of an ‘afternoon tea’ really does equate to tea for me, even if it is an exotic take on the traditional ritual. That said, once I got over the initial surprise at the lack of tea on offer, the apple and melon sparkling spritzer I choose hit the spot, and was a nice refreshing accompaniment to the dessert portion of proceedings.
Given that it’s Afternoon Tea Week I’d certainly recommend getting yourself down to Sunset by Australasia and giving their new offering a whirl, even if just to gawp at the delectably wanderlust-y interiors. It’s well worth a visit for just the ‘gram potential in my book!
→Sunset afternoon tea is served 12 noon – 6pm at Sunset by Australasia, The Avenue, Spinningfields
Our afternoon tea was provided complimentary in return for this review, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are, as always, my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.