Checking out the new winter menu at the Qantas First Lounge

By David Flynn, June 5 2013
Checking out the new winter menu at the Qantas First Lounge

Winter is with us, and for many business travellers and frequent flyers that means a chance to sample new pre-flight delights at the Qantas First Lounge.

These seasonal menus are a centrepiece of superchef Neil Perry’s approach to dining at Qantas’ flagship lounges in Sydney and Melbourne.

Read: How seasonal menus are crafted for the Qantas First Lounge

Perry’s winter 2013 menu for the Qantas First Lounge, which will be introduced this week, sees a bevy of winter warmers alongside perennial favourite dishes, although some of those have also been tweaked to take advantage of cool weather produce.

The new dishes will be introduced at the Sydney lounge on Tuesday June 4th, and Friday June 7th in Melbourne.

Read: Behind the scenes – fine dining at the Qantas First Lounge 

Jessica Sly, who heads up a six-person team from Rockpool working full-time with Qantas on the airline’s business class and first class catering, explains that the latest menu’s winter dishes “are almost like comfort food.”

“You don’t want it to be too heavy but but it’s got to have that feel of winter” Sly notes, adding that while the portions “are generous they’re not massive, so it’s all about being able to try a few dishes.”

Jessica Sly shapes the seasonal menus at the award-winning Qantas First Lounges
Jessica Sly shapes the seasonal menus at the award-winning Qantas First Lounges

Here are the highlights of the new menu. 

Breakfast (served to noon)

“We don’t make substantial changes to the breakfast menu” Sly says, “partly because we’ve got so many signature dishes and people come to the lounge knowing exactly what they want.”

“But also, with breakfast if you do really great eggs, bakery and a few light options then everyone’s happy.”

But if you want to try something different, check out the buffalo milk yoghurt topped with rhubarb and hazelnuts and the wholegrain toast with ricotta, slow roasted capsicum & extra virgin olive oil.

“We’re using lovely fresh cows’ milk ricotta and the capsicums are slow-roasted in olive oil to make them tender and sweet.”

All-day dining (served from noon)

There are far more changes in the all-day menu which spans from lunch through to dinner.

The popular buffalo mozzarella remains on the menu, of course – “that’s one we wouldn’t dare pull out!” Sly laughs – but now it’s served with caramelised pear & radicchio.

“Pears are definitely more of a winter fruit, and mozzarella goes really well with sweet and savoury components” Sly says.

“The cut side of the pear is covered with a little bit of sugar and then grilled so it’s caramelised, then we roast the pear in the oven until it’s tender.”

Meanwhile, the robust leafy radicchio is grilled in olive oil and finished off with what Sly calls “a quince balsamic, which is balsamic vinegar with quince through it, which we reduce to a sticky balsamic for a really unique flavour. The sweetness ties together the radicchio and the creaminess of the mozzarella.”

Pork meatballs in roasted tomato sauce with pan fried polenta & Swiss chard
Meatballs in a first class lounge? Hold your judgement until you’ve tasted these morsels, which Sly says are partnered with polenta “because a very different combination than meatballs and paste.”

“Polenta is fairly substantial but you end up with a satisfying winter dish that’s not over the top.”

“We have a few meatballs made with beautiful pork and sourdough soaked in milk to lighten the mix, and a light sauce made with vine-ripened tomatoes.”

Duck broth with soy duck, wild mushrooms, farro & watercress
This is a good example of a dish with substantial wintery ingredients brought together in a combination which sits light on the stomach, Sly says.

“Duck is quite rich and robust, and the mushrooms have that earthy feel, but all the ingredients are served in a light broth.”

Grilled snapper with laksa sauce, Asian vegetables and chilli sambal
“Laksa has a coconut and milk base so it’s quite rich and dense but we’re using it with the snapper as a sauce rather than a whole soup, so it’s still light yet substantial” Sly says.

Chorizo, preserved vegetable & goat’s cheese tart with olive oil pastry
“This is a shortcrust pastry made with parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil” Sly says.

“We cook that off until it’s golden and crusty, and the other ingredients are added almost like a salad on top of it - fried-off chorizo, vegetables, goat’s cheese, peppers and a few different herbs.” 

Wagyu carpaccio with potato, egg & caperberry salad, mustard mayonnaise
“The wagyu is seared on the outside, sliced paper-thin and we dress the plate so the wagyu carpaccio is completely covering it.”

“That’s brushed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and seaosning, then we add a really simple salad potatoes, just-set eggs, capers, caperberries and anchovies, plus a tiny dollop of mayonnaise mixed with mustard.” 

Thai style hot and fragrant chicken stir fry with jasmine rice
“Australians love to eat stir-fry, and in the kitchen at the Qantas First Lounges we’ve got induction appliances including a wok that’s incredibly hot and very good for stir-fry.”

“For this dish we use chicken thigh fillet and our own in-house stir fry sauce which combines Chinese and Thai flavours – there’s some oyster sauce, dark soya fish sauce, sesame oil, palm sugar, Chinese rice wine and chicken stock.” 

Black Angus minute steak with potato puree & spiced red wine sauce
This is another mainstay dish where the accompaniments are changed depending on the season, Sly says.

“We often do the steak with a butter, like a Café de Paris butter, but this time we’re serving it with a sauce using red wine and quite a few different spices such as thyme, cinnamon, star anise and white pepper, with a little port.”

“It’s reduced right down until it’s almost sticky, then we season it with a little aged red wine vinegar and whisk through some butter to put back some viscosity and body.”

And for dessert...

It’s hard to imagine you’d have any room left for dessert, but pace yourself, if only to try the lemon madeleine cake with crème brulee, which Sly readily admits is one of her own favourites.

“You take a slice of this soft finger of lemon cake and scoop it through the crème brulee, it’s an absolutely beautiful!”

Sly says she’s also working with the lounge’s gelato supplier Gelatomassi to create a new new gelato flavours for winter.

Market inspirations

On top of that dizzying array of dishes is a selection of ‘market inspirations’ which always includes a vegetarian meal and a seasonal soup.

“This is where we’re really driven by market produce and our chefs within the lounge” Sly explains.

“We could change those dishes every few days, depending on what we see in the markets, which is also influenced by the weather.”

“More often than not, seasonal produce doesn’t come in right at the start of the season, so it’s often better to being this in throughout the season as it becomes available.”

Read: Expert tips to make the most of the Qantas First Class Lounge

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Thanks for posting the menu, I will be there tomorrow (and will do my advanced planning of the dining today ;)) so right on time to sample the new menu! Will take some pics of the new menu if I can and share.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2515

Please do snap some shots, KG, and emaoil them to me so we might share them with readers (I was unable to take snaps during my interview with Jess last week).


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

No problem, I intend to arrive early so will definitely take a seat near the pass and snap whatever comes past and obviously sample some of the food as well. I did see they have a Torbreck on the wine list, it is going to be a good stay in the lounge!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Yes, thanks David for including links to the menu - nothing beats having a look at what's on offer. The sweet corn fritters on the breakfast menu sound very nice indeed. I did laugh on your comment regarding the meatballs, because I must admit that is exactly what I though (an overhang I think from the Qantas Club menu from a few years ago - where meatballs were a regular afternoon item, especially in Canberra) but a snazzied up old favourite could be quite popular. 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2515

GippsFlyer: that was my first thought was well when i heard 'meatballs' - I mean, you know they'll be better than the average meatball, but all the same there's a little instant disconnect (same as Neil Perry's Macaroni & Cheese!).

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

OMG.....PORK meatballs!!!

...of course you won't be able to order them if you're flyng to Dubai...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

LOL!!! I am in the lounge now devouring some prior to my flight to DXB!

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