Behind the scenes: Qantas first class lounge winter 2023 menu
Take a sneak peek at the winter 2023 menu coming to Qantas’ flagship Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges.
Executive Traveller exclusive
For visitors to Qantas’ flagship international first class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, one of the highlights is the seasonal menu of the lounge’s à la carte dining room.
Each season sees a dozen new dishes appear on the menu – but what goes into shaping these pre-flight delights?
Join Executive Traveller in the Sydney First Lounge kitchen for an exclusive behind the scenes preview of the Qantas First Lounge winter 2023 menu, which launches in the first week of June.
Dining with the seasons
Each morning sees a flurry of travellers heading out on Qantas flights to Auckland, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, along with partner flights of Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and American Airlines.
For those passengers, the Qantas First Lounge’s breakfast remains comfortingly familiar – go-to meals of eggs, toasted sandwiches, corn fritters, pancakes and a ‘big breakfast’ combo.
Served from 5am to 11am, the Qantas First Lounge’s breakfast menu “is all about the classics” explains Chef Alex Woolley, a ten-year veteran of the Neil Perry Consulting team.
“They’re all really familiar things, they’re all things people want, because people are a bit less adventurous at breakfast.”
As a result, the breakfast menu is more about seasonal tweaks rather than wholesale replacements.
For example, winter sees the buttermilk ricotta pancakes dressed with poached pears, hazelnuts and Qantas Honey (yes, that’s a thing: it comes from beehives on the roof of the nearby Qantas headquarters).
“We know the pancakes are super-popular, so we like to offer them with our seasonal garnish… but there’s always maple syrup available if people would rather have that.”
The healthy vegetarian breakfast bowl also gets a winter makeover into a buckwheat, mushroom and sesame spinach bowl, served with a poached egg and a ponzu dressing, topped with a ‘mayonnaise’ made from silken tofu.
This proved the most challenging for Woolley and the Qantas First Lounge chefs.
“It’s got a lot of components that all taste delicious and balance really well, but it ended up being a lot of steps to get onto the plate, we had a little bit too much going on.”
And time is of the essence during that frantic morning peak period – because the Qantas First Lounge is also like a busy restaurant, with the kitchens at Sydney and Melbourne serving as many as 1200 diners per day, and often several dishes per person.
To feed those famished frequent flyers, a house rule is that no dish on the menu should take longer than eight minutes to prepare.
The kitchen team carefully workshopped solutions to “get the process right, to simplify the meal but keep it tasty, keep the crunchy things crunchy and soft, and make sure the hot things stay hot.”
“We try and design everything so that it's a simple assembly and cooking process while still delivering something that’s really fresh, big-flavoured and tasty,” Woolley recounts.
All-day dining delights
The Qantas First Lounge’s ‘all day dining’ menu comes on at 11am and runs through until the lounge closes, and this is where most of the new dishes debut.
But long-time repeat visitors to the Qantas First Lounge will recognise a few old favourites making their a post-pandemic return.
That includes the poached mussels on brioche topped with celeriac and Café de Paris butter…
… and a stir-fried duck seasoned with a sauce of chill, black vinegar, ginger and garlic, served over jasmine rice with roasted cashews and fresh coriander.
“It’s just a really tasty duck dish… we’ve had various iterations of this, but we haven't had this particular one on for a long time,” Woolley reflects.
Here’s a dish we tip to be a knockout hit of the winter menu: this comforting bowl of silky udon noodles with slow-roasted pork, a soft-boiled egg, toasted sesame, garlic and a toasted Nori sheet of dried edible seaweed.
There’s also a vegetarian dish which we encourage any carnivore to try: roasted sweet potato with wilted spinach and a dressing of preserved lemons, caper and currants.
Woolley nominates this as his pick of the lounge’s winter menu, thanks in part to the dressing: “a nice Italian-style salsa that’s sweet, salty and sour, with olives currents and pine nuts and a little bit of chilli.”
“We’re hoping to get baby sweet potatoes we can cook whole, because then you also get this nice crispy skin,” he adds.
“We’re also looking at a soft cashew-based vegan cheese which we're hoping to put on – it replicates that tangy goat-feta style of cheese which can go really well with sweet potato and keep this a plant-based vegan dish.”
To the many travellers choosing to eat lighter before their flight, Qantas recommends the grilled snapper perched on a grilled lettuce wedge with finely-sliced fennel dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and sourdough breadcrumbs.
The menu development session closes, as all good meals should, with dessert.
The lounge’s ever-popular ‘deconstructed pavlova in a glass’ showcases a variety of fruits throughout winter, based on “what’s best during the season,” Woolley says.
“Raspberries are still good… at the moment we’re on the tail end of plums so they are in the pavlova at the moment, but that will change in the next little while.”
“Winter bananas from Queensland can be really good, and then halfway through winter Queensland's strawberries start and they're amazing. So it's really what the chefs are hearing from their suppliers and when new things start, we'll put them on.”
But there’s always at least one new tempter to hit the dessert menu.
For winter that’s a toasted brioche layered with rosemary poached pear, drizzled with caramel sauce and served with a rosemary and vanilla pastry cream, ginger yoghurt sorbet and julienned toasted pecans.
Cocktails with a winter vibe
Complementing the Qantas First Lounge’s Winter 2023 menu will be a selection of new Australian wines and bespoke cocktails.
Lexie Bucholtz, from the Neil Perry team, reveals there will be several cocktails inspired by Qantas’ New York flights which take off from June 14, such as the Manhattan Spritz – featuring American whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and rich Amarena cherries – and the light Southside Fizz with mint, soda and Brookie’s Gin from Australia’s Cape Byron Distillery.
“We also want cocktails that are something special, not your standard cocktails,” explains Bucholtz, “and something that's refreshing, very easy to drink and lower in alcohol,” saying Qantas’ preference is towards “a lighter aperitif-style offering.”
“If someone asks for something that's not on the cocktail menu but within that lighter aperitif-style, we’re able to serve that… but when it comes to things like martinis and double-shots, that’s not our style.”
And like the food, the latest cocktails to be poured at Qantas First Lounge have “a wintery feel”, explains resident mixologist Charles Phillips.
"Winter cocktails often have this grounded backbone… for a winter menu I would use elements that have spice, earth and warmth to them,” he tells Executive Traveller, citing flavours such as “beetroot, green apple, pepper, winter strawberries and Amarena marinated cherries.”
He nominates the Red Eye as a good example for its blend of Allie's Heartbeet juice “which features beetroot, green apple, lime and ginger, mixed with Vodka and Tonic to create a spicy, complex winter cocktail.”
The new See Yuzu mocktail combines a lime and yuzu soda with honey and orange bitters and sprig of rosemary.
The winter 2023 menu lands at the Qantas Sydney First Lounge on Tuesday June 6 and at the Qantas Melbourne First Lounge on Thursday June 8, followed by similar seasonal menu refreshes at Qantas’ Los Angeles and Singapore first class lounges.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Behind the scenes: Qantas first class lounge winter 2023 menu
18 Sep 2020
Total posts 3
Any chance of Qantas changing the cutlery any time soon? I find the knife to be quite painful to hold in my left hand, it's clearly designed for those that use their right hand.