A Qantas degustation: sampling the A380 first class tasting menu

By Chris C., August 12 2014
A Qantas degustation: sampling the A380 first class tasting menu

Just how good can airplane food be? If you're flying first class with Qantas the answer is "astoundingly good".

The ten course tasting menu offered in first class on Qantas' flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo is closer to something you’d expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant on the ground than flying high at 40,000 feet... and with sommeliers to pair up dishes with the perfect wines, you’ll be forgiven for blurring the lines between the two.

Join Australian Business Traveller as we work our way through the mouth-watering tasting menu on a recent Sydney-Hong Kong flight in Qantas first class.

A first class welcome

We had to hold back during the preflight visit to the Qantas First Lounge – no mean feat when you're in one of the world's best first class lounges and tempted by the seasonal winter menu.

After boarding the Qantas A380 and settling into our first class suite, out came warm nuts, fresh olives and a glass of the sumptuous 2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs.

With a crystal-like boldness infused with a vibrant, well-balanced mix of citrus, white peach and hints of gun smoke, it’s the perfect way kick off a truly 5-star meal.

Both the prawn toast and the crostino with porcini mushroom pâté and cornichons arrive shortly after departure – of course, with more champagne…

On today’s flight, the prawn toast is a great sample of the gastronomic delights that await our arrival in Hong Kong, layering an appetising mix of ginger, garlic, shallots, sesame oil, fish sauce and king prawns between thinly-sliced, crumbed and fried sourdough bread with a side of sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Then, it’s on to the pâté… grounded by a mix of sautéed button, Swiss and shiitake mushrooms, thyme, port, lemon juice, reconstituted porcini mushrooms and topped with cornichons, we’re left wanting to ‘sample’ just a few more of these tasty treats…

Nevertheless, it’s time to set the table for the courses to follow, which the crew do impeccably:

Starting us off is a glass of the 2011 Lost Valley Cortese

With its crisp and zesty citrus tones, it’s the perfect wine to both match and transition away from the Taittinger… but for the caramelised fennel and onion soup with croutons, we’ll finish out the bubbly.

This is where on-board meal preparation really becomes noticeable – the croutons aren’t mushy in the slightest, and come together with both vegetable stock and crème fraiche to complete the dish, seasoned before our eyes.

On the side is a warm roll for dipping, but we found the combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Pepe Saya butter stood well on its own.

The main courses...

Intertwined into today’s tasting is a seasonal dish: garlic and herb butter Moreton Bay bugs.

You won’t find this one anywhere on the menu, although as we also discovered with the Qantas First Lounge wine list, it never hurts to ask what else might be available.

Served with a celeriac purée and contrasting grilled, whole green shallots, it comes as fresh and juicy as you’d expect on the ground, and matches perfectly with the Lost Valley Cortese we’d sneakily ordered in advance.

Back to the ‘regular’ first class fare, it’s time for the pastrami with grilled vegetable salad...

It's served with a salad of chargrilled capsicums, sweet potato, green zucchini and slow roasted tomato, topped off with a smidgeon of goats curd and a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to give the meat a nice little kick.

There's still plenty of time to spare before landing…

… so we took the chance to try two of the reds aside the pastrami – the 2010 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir, and the 2010 Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 9 Hunter Valley Shiraz:

The ever-so-slight mellifluousness of the Mornington Peninsula pinot noir, brought about by a powerful palate of plump strawberries, red cherries and silky tannins, makes it a better complement to the sweetness of the pastrami.

While still enticing, the darker Hunter shiraz is best saved for the next course…

Now comes the difficult decision – it’s a choice of a seared blue-eye with XO sauce with stir-fried oyster mushrooms, Asian greens and fragrant rice, or a Rockpool Bar & Grill-style grilled lamb loin with fregola, almond and preserved lemon, chimichurri sauce and cauliflower gratin.

It’s a tough call, but with plenty of Asian-style meals awaiting us in Hong Kong, the lamb is one of the Flying Kangaroo’s can’t-pass dishes…

… plus, it comes with the deliciously cheesy cauliflower gratin…

… and a salad of baby cos, radicchio and frisée with palm sugar vinaigrette.

Incredibly tender and cooked to perfection, the lamb was a real winner. Even though you’ll find a similar dish on the business class menu (instead with pumpkin almond couscous and chimichurri sauce), it doesn’t detract from the first class experience in the slightest.

In fact, that’s also true of a number of the menu items, such as the caramelised fennel and onion soup and the pastrami plate – which also aren’t exclusive to first class. Yet, with the standards so impeccably high and with more to choose from than merely ‘starter, main and dessert’, the tasting menu is definitely worth making room for.

That brings us to the cauliflower gratin on the side, which is best likened to the ‘dinner’ version of a well-made crème brûlée… a crisp layer of cheese and breadcrumbs blankets the dish, while underneath lays a succulent bed of cauliflower.

You’ll want to taste them all together, and even if your (admittedly spoiled) children are joining you in first class, we can’t envision even the fussiest of vegetable eaters passing on this gourmet masterpiece.

Just desserts...

Like most seasoned foodies, we reserve a ‘separate stomach’ for dessert. Hey, with a cheese plate this decadent, it’s near-essential…

On the menu today is a firm and fruity Jurassic d'Été Affiné, made from the milk of cows grazing in the Jura Mountains in France, Switzerland and Germany and left to ripen over 10-14 months.

We're also treated to a four-week-old Italian Saporini – a soft, white mould cheese drawn from the milk of cows, sheep and goats – and a tasty French Roquefort, aged for three months.

If the cheese, strawberries and cream and other accompaniments don’t satisfy your sweet tooth, you could of course lean towards the baked rhubarb and apple shortcake with double cream – but we’ll save that one for next time.

For a light, more acidic match to the cheese plate, try a drop of the 2008 Lillypilly Noble Blend dessert wine, with poignant yet pleasing cues of passionfruit, lychees, pineapple and tropical fruit. Or, for something darker and more debonair, you simply can’t pass up the Seppeltsfield Paramount Collection Rare Tokay.

Capping off a great meal are handmade Cacao chocolates – including a scrumptious and smooth coffee/caramel ganache...

... along with a choice of espresso coffee.

But wait, there’s more…

And, if you’re still not ready to burst, you can order the signature steak sandwich with tomato and chilli relish at any time throughout the flight.

Served on a warm, French-style baguette with fresh rocket leaves, a minute steak joins with a rustic, ‘homemade’ tomato and chilli relish to form the centrepiece of Qantas’ premier inflight menu.

With so much food to devour on board, you’ll want to stick to a light meal in the Qantas First Lounge, or risk struggling to squeeze in those last few chocolates and skipping the delightful steak sandwich later in the flight…

Try Qantas first class for yourself

Chris Chamberlin travelled first class on the Qantas A380 at his own expense (but like any savvy frequent flyer, he bought the ticket with points rather than cash).

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

03 Jan 2012

Total posts 96

Chris, I have to agree that Qantas 1st tasting menu is fantastic. I often use 45,000 pts to upgrade to 1st for Sydney to LAX.  The service provided is also always 1st class! But my tip would be, avoid 1st for the route back from LAX as the USA prepared food isn't so good on the way home, IMHO.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

Catering is generally always stronger out of Australian ports, for Qantas First, I've found. I believe that has to do with the fact that Qantas has to rely on third party contractors in overseas ports, whereas they have much more control over quality for the Qantas catering affiliated company servicing the Australian airports.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 203

Totally agree with 521303; QF's First Class food is totally first class and often better than many good restaurants on the ground.  I too use points for the J-to-F upgrade on the SYD-LAX or SYD-DXB-LHR flights when the quality of the catering is noticeably better.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Aug 2013

Total posts 11

When do they serve the degustation on QF9 now that it leaves at 22.00?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 40

Good question. I will be on this flight next month but I seriously can't see myself opting for it even if it's available due to the very late departure time. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

I would hazard a guess that it would be served after leaving DXB in the morning, slotting nicely into brunch for the early-afternoon arrival of QF9 into LHR?

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 315

I love the fact that Family Guy was being watched!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

It was completely by chance that The Drunken Clam appeared behind my shot of the wine bottle and the row of wine glasses, but when I spotted that shot, I had to include it!

19 Apr 2013

Total posts 20

Chris, thanks for the report - very hungry now! Later this month I am doing SYD - HKG in First with Qantas, but will be flying on the 747. Do you know whether the tasting menus is still available on that aircraft? Thanks! Tom

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

Hi Tom,

Yes, you'll still get the tasting menu on QF127 to Hong Kong regardless of whether you end up in first class on the A380 or the Boeing 747. Enjoy!


19 Apr 2013

Total posts 20

Hi Chris, 

Thanks for the info and I most certainly will enjoy!


Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 38

Frankly as a person who has consulted to airlines widely world wide, I think this menu looks terrible; The only thing that looks edible is the Gratin and Cheese plate. My advice is get new consultants or fly another carrier!!!!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2437

If that was your job application, you really need to work on that cover letter... :P

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

An excellent, well detailed report Chris, and I liked spotting Family Guy in it too :-)

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 45

The first class tasting menu is available on lunch and dinner flights  ( when lunch or dinner is the first service ) 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 379

Chris hi. I just flew QF in F on SYD-HKG. Going up on 747 and back on A380 in July. Service was sensational. I didn't opt for the tasting menu but went for al la carte menu and was just like the service....sensational. You have to hand it to them....they do first class  like no other.  As for the comments from 'Performa'....sorry you are wrong in every way. Strongly suggest you try Qantas First. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 38

As for those comments made by Chris and Adam, who seem easily pleased, maybe you would like to have a look at CX HKG - LHR 1st class which is THE standard expected these days. You guys really need to get out more and see the WORLD!!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Feb 2015

Total posts 1

Slightly off topic, but does anyone know if you can invite a "dinner guest" from another class to join you for a meal? For example, if I had a friend travelling J class, could he come down and have a meal in First? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 58

Sounds great. A pity I can't afford First. Just one little note, you should sip the Lillypilly with the cheeses, and save the Seppeltsfield Tokay for the chocolates and coffee. Two perfect matches.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 58

....and Taittinger Comtes might be the best First Class champagne on any airline. Superb.

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