Qantas rolls out a ‘retro menu’ at its first class lounges
Take your tastebuds on a trip down memory lane…
Visitors to the Qantas international first class class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne this month will find several new items on the menu which aren’t actually ‘new’ at all.
Indeed, they’ll present the traveller’s tastebuds with a blast from the past as Qantas marks 25 years of its dining collaboration with chef Neil Perry.
That relationship began when The Good Weekend magazine featured Perry, Tetsuya Wakuda and other renowned Aussie chefs sounding off on how airlines could improve their inflight meals.
Qantas tasked Perry to make good on his word, starting with a redesign of the airline’s Boeing 747 first class menu in 1997.
That one-off consulting role gradually expanded to see Perry become Qantas’ Creative Director for Food, Service and Beverage, overseeing premium menus in the air and at domestic and international lounges.
It’s a monumental task which sees Perry and his team develop more than 700 recipes per year, including those featured on inaugural and seasonal flights to the likes of Rome and Bengaluru.
To celebrate this quarter century milestone, the Red Roo and the hatted Rockpool chef dove into the recipe archives to bring back some of Perry’s most popular dishes.
Here are the special dishes added to the all-day dining menu of the Qantas First Lounges at Sydney and Melbourne across November.
Crab, pork and green mango salad
One of the longest running dishes in Perry’s repertoire, the crab and sweet pork salad has been a recurring fixture on Qantas inflight menus since the early 2000s.
He created this dish following a trip to Thailand in 1989 where he was inspired by the pairing of sweet and salty crab with rich sweet and spicy pork, complemented by a hot, sour and slightly sweet nam jim dressing.
And it’s not a large dish, so feel free to add one to your standing order
Duck ragú with pappardelle
This dish was part of the first Neil Perry-designed Qantas inflight menus from 1997 and was inspired by a trip to the north of Italy at the beginning of his career.
The ragú remains a long-standing classic dish that has been featured on Qantas menus all around the world, including several turns in the Qantas First Lounges winter menu.
Torta di Verona
Perry was first introduced to the tiramisu-like Torta di Verona at Sydney dining destination Taylor’s and it’s been a favourite ever since.
Dressed with blueberries and toasted almonds, it was among the featured desserts on the December 2019 launch menu of Qantas’ Singapore first class lounge.
Coming all the way from the 2017 opening of the Qantas London Heathrow Lounge, this ‘mistaken’ Negroni of Campari and sweet vermouth is lightened with sparking Prosecco in place of gin, although it still retains a pronounced quinine edge that some will find overly bitter, while others will be ordering seconds (and thirds).
If you’re headed for one of the domestic or international Qantas Business Lounges, here are some of the dishes you can expect to see (availability will vary by lounge):
Roast pumpkin with red curry sauce, coconut and green chilli sambal (vegan): This curry is an homage to Perry’s trips to South East Asia, which have inspired many dishes featuring the aromatic fragrance and complexity of Thai ingredients. Dishes in this style are regularly featured across Qantas menus because of their satisfying and delicious flavours.
Fettucine with Ragu Bolognese: Inspired by Perry’s trips in Northern Italy, this dish is simplicity in its essence and first appeared on the Qantas International Business Class menu in the early 2000s.
Meatball sandwich on ciabatta with tomato ragout: From his visits to Chicago and New York during his early years with Qantas, Perry absolutely loved these simple street food examples of the American Italian food tradition –tasty meatballs and tomato ragu on a sandwich. The subs have been perfect for inflight suppers and snacks in Qantas lounges since 2009.
Kung pao chicken bao with Sichuan pepper and cashews: Perry fell in love with the interplay of aromatic spices, dried chilli and numbing Sichuan peppercorns at a Sichuan restaurant in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. These bao filled with kung pao chicken – and many other variations – have been a feature across all Qantas lounges from 2012, particularly the Singapore Business lounge.
Three cup chicken with bok choy and jasmine rice: On his first trip to Shanghai with Qantas early in the 2000s, Perry loved the balance of flavour that comes from the fragrant addition of three equal measures of soy, black vinegar and sesame oil at the end of cooking.
Barbecued prawns with lemon and aioli: Fresh prawns cooked on the barbecue is quintessentially Australian in its simplicity and delicious flavour and showcases the quality of seafood available in Australia. Barbecued prawns featured at the opening of the Perth International Lounge when Qantas launched direct flights between Australia and London in 2018.
Reflecting on the past 25 years, Perry reveals local tastes have become more adventurous, with access to native ingredients allowing the team to incorporate some uniquely Australian flavours.
“In 1997, gourmet pizza, fusion food and chocolate lava cakes were among the most popular dishes,” Perry recalls, as he reflects on a year whose pop-cultural highlights included the Motorola flip-phone, The Spice Girls and Titanic.
“Fast forward to today and Australians have embraced a wider range of cuisines from around the world, from Japanese to Indian and Middle Eastern dishes and we have loved introducing customers to some of these new flavours.”
Perry says it’s not only been “fantastic to see a broader curiosity around international cuisines” but also embracing native ingredients which have “allowed us to incorporate some really terrific and uniquely Australian flavours in our dishes such as finger lime, Kakadu plum and lemon myrtle.”
Additional reporting by David Flynn