There's more to KLM's flagship non-Schengen Crown Lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport than first meets the eye.
While the main space has recently undergone a significant revamp and expansion having now doubled in size, one floor above that, there's an even more exclusive area for those who know to ask: Blue by KLM – a bar on one side, and a fine dining restaurant on the other.
With a menu designed by chef Joris Bijdendijk of the Michelin-starred RIJKS restaurant in downtown Amsterdam, Blue by KLM showcases ingredients and dishes local to The Netherlands, with high-end flair – and of course, airport views.
However, Blue by KLM is considered separate to the general Crown Lounge, with dining (and drinking) here attracting a charge. This applies to business class passengers, top-tier KLM and SkyTeam frequent flyers, and even members of the invitation-only Club 2000 and 'Skipper of the Flying Dutchman' tiers.
What's more, to make a reservation, the traveller and any dining companions need to already have access to the regular KLM Crown Lounge. If not, this is charged on top when making the booking (most applicable to Flying Blue Explorer and Silver members).
Whichever way your access is arranged, the single-page menu [PDF, 101kB] divides your meal choices between "dishes" and "platters": confusing for first-time visitors, as platters aren't actually sharing plates as the name implies. Instead, they're akin to main courses, whereas 'dishes' are more like starters.
Generally speaking, items under the "dishes" heading take at least 10 minutes to prepare, while "platters" take at least 20 minutes: or longer for the lobster which comes in two courses.
With Blue by KLM opening from 7am until 10pm daily, reservations can be made through the KLM website, via the 'manage my booking' section of the KLM mobile app, by emailing [email protected], or by calling +31650030360.
You may also be able to secure a booking on the day by speaking with lounge staff. During quiet periods, this sometimes sees a 15% discount voucher provided, but is never guaranteed.
Dining at Blue by KLM in Amsterdam
When it's your time to dine, follow the signs towards 'Sky' from within the KLM Crown Lounge by taking the lift or escalator upstairs.
On taking a seat, it's not long before an amuse-bouche appears – in fact, it could practically be an appetiser – comprised of a bite-sized rice-based cracker with a larger snack, tastily mixing a cauliflower mousse with rice, anchovy crumble and finely-chopped spring onion.
A table visit from the chef then comes with a strong recommendation of the restaurant's signature dish: the beetroot millefeuille.
Using a Japanese Mandoline to slice the beetroot into fine layers, the vegetable is then cooked in its own juice to evoke a fruitier flavour, before being reduced into a glaze in which the beetroot is coated, which furthers that effect.
Finished in a dashi beurre blanc sauce with a hint of soy and drops of parsley oil to balance the dish, the end result is beautifully fresh and refined: and not what you might otherwise picture when visualising beetroot as a hero ingredient.
Also from the "dishes" section of the menu, the North Sea crab provides an interesting blend of locally-souced seafood with flavours similar to that of a Thai green curry.
Dressed in langostine oil and topped with herring caviar, it's another 'must try'!
Taking an eye to the "platters" part of the menu finds it hard to look past the half lobster in two courses – best enjoyed by one person, despite the name.
The first course serves up a lobster claw infused and balanced with flavours of seaweed and grapefruit, swimming in a 'Dutch-style' sauce with drops of parsley oil.
On the side, warmed bread from the kitchen is most welcome, and in this case, serves more as a complement than a snack when enjoyed with the seaweed butter.
The second lobster course plates the tail with an onion compôte mousseline (savoury mousse) and a prawn hollandaise.
Hollandaise, of course, was one known as "Dutch sauce", so its appearance here isn't surprising – but this rendition turns a sauce most commonly paired with breakfast egg dishes into something more complex and sophisticated, with the flavour of prawns blended in.
This course, as with the other dishes above, also pairs well with a local white wine: the Apostelhoeve Riesling from Maastricht, available by the glass.
Those with room for dessert can also be tempted by Dutch cheese from the restaurant's dedicated 'cheese room', among other bites.
Dining at Blue by KLM: the verdict
As far as airport lounges go, the meals served at Blue by KLM are easily among the best you'll find on your travels, being on-par with a high-end city restaurant.
However, when you're paying top dollar for those delights, you fairly expect nothing short of perfection – particularly when a host of other airlines serving Europe offer complimentary in-lounge fine dining to business class passengers or top-tier frequent flyers.
At London's Heathrow Airport alone, for example, that roster includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic, joined more broadly around the world by lounges like the Air Canada Signature Suite in Toronto, Emirates' first class lounges in Dubai, and Qantas' own flagship first class lounges.
In fairness to KLM, the airline doesn't offer first class, which means no separate KLM first class lounge for frequent flyers to use: but it'll be interesting to see whether this experience is eventually made gratis for Flying Blue's most-valued frequent flyers, to better-compete with what other major airlines are offering both in Europe, and at their own home hubs, free of charge.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
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- Dining at Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred The Fat Duck, once recognised as the best restaurant in the world
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