Date: 25 Jul
Aircraft: Boeing 767
Departure: 1010 hrs (wst)
Score: 7/10 stars
The highly competitive domestic long haul business class sectors in Australia have resulted in service levels changing dramatically on the lucrative Nullarbor routes from Perth to the major Eastern States ports in Australia. Now, if you take a wide bodied service from say Perth to Sydney, you can recline in a fully flat bed (the old international business class pod), eat at your leisure from a menu and enjoy the linen-clad perks we’ve always experienced at the front of the plane, but delivered with new vigour and, it must be said, in the case of Qantas, significant and genuine enthusiasm from cabin crew.
If dining aboard is a matter of concern, then the food and wine service across the Nullarbor has also greatly improved.
A digression: One of the great innovations in aviation in recent years – TCAS, Cat IIIc autoland and carbon fibre fuselages aside – has been the button hole in the Qantas Business Class napkin. It’s also a primary newbie indicator (PNI) at the front of the plane. At first the new J Class flyer is clueless, then they see others with their napkins attached to their top button and, with a confected ennui, sheepishly follow suit. But it’s with some satisfaction that one sees the newbie patting the napkin down on to his Pelaco shirt front while a small smile of satisfaction crosses his face. Not knowing about the button hole makes eating in the air difficult and potentially messy. Why is it then that the very useful button hole napkin concept has not been extended into the non-aviation world? This truly is one of life’s big questions. Homewares stores, take note.
But I digress.
QF42 left on time, more or less, and with a 4.5 hour transit, service began at a leisurely pace. Menus, previously only available on international business class flights, were distributed. The trendy restaurant terminology “plates” has been appropriated at the Q kitchens: the menu had a “small plates” section and a “main plates” section. The term “entrée” or “starter” is just so last decade.
Sweet corn chowder with garlic croutons and a salad of slow roasted carrots with prawns, almonds, labne (cheese made from draining the moisture away from yoghurt) and the ubiquitous quinoa (pronounced kin-wah) were the two small plate options.
The carrot dish gets a big tick. The baby carrots were nicely al dente; the labne was well seasoned and texturally good (overly drained and it becomes gluey and cloying, underdone and it is too runny) and the garnishes lived up to expectations: crunch from the almonds and prawns which had retained moisture, a big win in airline cookery where overcooking is regarded as a sensible health and hygiene standard.
Mains – four of them to choose from – read well. The thought of braised beef cheeks didn’t do it, but the hot smoked salmon with green tea noodles and a sesame soy dressing was a hugely generous serve, even if it was, in fact salmon with potatoes and rocket. Presumably green tea noodles and soy went MIA on the day.
This dish was dramatically under-seasoned and bland. Apparently it’s difficult to excite taste buds at flight level three zero, but you’d reckon the kitchen would know that and overcompensate. Having said that, the hot smoked fish was first class and the spuds were nicely cooked and dressed.
Cheese is, well, cheese. The cabin crew deserves a big tick for ensuring that the cheeses were served at cabin temperature. Service of cheese fridge cold is a no-no in any restaurant, but it is attention to detail often forgotten on the ground, let alone in the air. And I have had Qantas cheese plates in the past that could set your teeth chattering.
But, by far the cleverest thing about this meal, was the introduction of an amuse bouche service as drinks orders are being taken. Business class meal service can take a long time, so if you’re in row 6, there’s every chance the economy cabin crew has fed everyone in Y class before the business crew get to you. For most of us, this matters little (it’s not as if you’ve got to be somewhere) but there are enough alpha male flyers who loathe waiting for anything for these delays to have become a problem.
The amuse bouche – in this case a flaccid, but well flavoured square of frittata – solves the problem. The alpha in 6F has been paid attention to; he’s been fed and he has a drink in his hand. Happy days.
See the Virginn Australia review here: https://www.airlineratings.com/news.php?id=86