The Best in First-Class Dining
Lobster thermidor and vintage Champagne: airplane food as fine dining.
When it comes to first-class food and beverage service, airlines are upping the ante. Quite a few have enlisted celebrated chefs like Joël Robuchon, Guy Martin, and Jacques Le Divellec, who teamed up to create dishes for Air France’s new La Première, while Charlie Trotter does menus for United. More attention is being paid to quality ingredients: Qantas features all-natural Australian Wagyu beef and free-range Barossa Valley chicken. And to wines: British Airways offers 18 crus classé Bordeaux, and most first-class crew members on Japan Airlines are certified by the Japan Sommelier Association. “Food,” says SeatGuru.com founder Matt Daimler, “is really a big differentiator that can take first class up a notch or two.”
Though it must be requested in advance, lobster thermidor is a staple on Singapore Airlines flights from Singapore, thanks to passenger demand. The dish goes from blast-chilled to 400 degrees in an onboard convection oven.
Japan Airlines spent three years developing a process to ensure that its soba (served cold) is authentic in aroma, taste, and al dente texture. It even created a special cart for its soba service, which is offered on demand.
Nothing says first-class like vintage Champagne. Cathay Pacific pours Krug Grand Cuvée, and Jet Airways does Dom Pérignon. More unexpected, Lufthansa serves Laurent-Perrier Millesime, and Air France the ethereal Billecart-Salmon.
Chef on Call
Royal First Class passengers on Thai Airways’ long-haul flights from Bangkok can now preorder meals online from a menu of 22 options, ranging from a traditional Thai Tab-tim fish soufflé to prawn curry to ostrich steak.
In October Lufthansa will revive its 1959 eight-course Senator menus, right down to the silver service. The dishes are a culinary time capsule and include a mixed grill with maître d’hôtel butter and Long Island duck with glazed chestnuts.
On its Tokyo–Hong Kong route during winter, Japan Airlines serves fugu, or globefish, a Japanese delicacy whose liver and ovaries are highly toxic. Only chefs with a special license (JAL has a dozen) are allowed to prepare it.