Sampling the menu at the Qantas Singapore first class lounge

If you’re visiting the Qantas Singapore First Lounge, bring your appetite with you...

By David Flynn, December 4 2019
Sampling the menu at the Qantas Singapore first class lounge

Singapore's Changi Airport has an all-new first class lounge, and it's arguably the best on the block – especially when judged by the à la carte dining room.

The Qantas Singapore First Lounge takes the same approach to pre-flight dining as its siblings in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles, with a seasonal menu designed by Neil Perry, one of Australia's most accomplished chefs, whose collaboration with the airline stretches back some 22 years.

"I've always wanted to have a Rockpool restaurant in Singapore, and I've very pleased than (Qantas CEO) Alan Joyce paid for it and David Caon designed it!" Perry jokes.

Neil Perry, Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service at Qantas.
Neil Perry, Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service at Qantas.

Perry's long love affair with Asian food – which took local form at his Spice Temple restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne - finds a unique crossroads in the melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian dishes.

"I just love the food up here," Perry tells Executive Traveller as we relax in the newly-opened Qantas Singapore First Lounge. "I think Singapore is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.  It's a great place, so easy to get around and the language is mainly English. And yet the food is not sanitised, it's really authentic."

Perry first visited Singapore in the mid-1980s, and now travels to the Lion City several times each year. One of those trips is for the city's Formula One race in September, where his Rockpool restaurant features at the exclusive Paddock Club.

After serving close to 1,500 guests through to 11pm, Perry and his team usually head to one of the city-state's colourful hawker markets for their own dinner (a mainstay, despite its reputation as a mere tourist magnet, turns out to be Newton Circus: Perry is a regular at stalls 30 and 31 for satay, black pepper crab and grilled stingray).

It's no surprise, then, that a variety of Singaporean influences have shaped the menu at Qantas' Singapore First Lounge, from some obvious signature dishes to subtle touches based around just one or two local ingredients.

Click here to download the current (December 2019) Qantas Singapore first class lounge menu

Dining at the Qantas Singapore first class lounge

Nestled away near the D Gates of Terminal 1 – watch for the mezzanine level escalator next to the Hermes store – the Qantas Singapore first class lounge is open daily from 2.30pm to around midnight.

Of course, entry isn't restricted to first class passengers on Qantas' daily Airbus A380s from Singapore to Sydney, Melbourne and London.

First class flyers departing Singapore on fellow Oneworld airlines such as British Airways plus Qantas partners Emirates and Air France are also deemed loungeworthy.

There's also a very warm welcome for Platinum and Platinum One members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme (and the invitation-only Chairman's Lounge), and their Oneworld Emerald equivalents.

Other Oneworld airlines flying from T1 include British Airways, Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways, with Malaysia Airlines at the nearby T2 and Cathay Pacific at the more distance and troublesome-to-get-to T4.

The Qantas Singapore First Lounge, aka Neil Perry's first Rockpool restaurant in Singapore.
The Qantas Singapore First Lounge, aka Neil Perry's first Rockpool restaurant in Singapore.

Over half of the Qantas Singapore First Lounge is given over to the dining room, so as to cater for the 5-8pm rush hours before Qantas' evening wave of flights to Australia and the 'crush hour' of short-stay passengers in transit on the flagship QF1 and QF2 superjumbos to and from London.

The seating area at the furthest end of the lounge, closest to the open kitchen, is nominally set aside for Qantas' first class, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge passengers.

While the tables are not reserved per se, Executive Traveller understands that the maître d' will escort passengers to this 70-seat space based on their travel class or status and, except for the busiest times, guide other travellers (mainly those holding Qantas Platinum or Oneworld Emerald status) to other areas of the dining room.

The all-day dining menu features a handful of starters, a half-dozen mains and a trio of desserts. None of these is especially large, apart from the generous laksa bowl, so you can certainly sample a few appetisers up front.

While waiting for your mini-feast to begin, try one of the speciality cocktails such as a Merlion Blush (a Sling-style mix of vodka, cranberry and grapefruit), Calamansi Mojito (white rum, calamansi and mint) or Tamarind Talisman (Jameson whiskey, tamarind and lemon).

The Merlion Blush and Calamansi Mojito are two unique cocktails at the Qantas Singapore First Lounge.
The Merlion Blush and Calamansi Mojito are two unique cocktails at the Qantas Singapore First Lounge.

If Champagne is more your style, the current choice is between Joseph Perrier Brut NV, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV and Taittinger Prestige Rosé NV.

Being a Qantas first class lounge, the legendary salt and pepper squid is hard to pass up. Crisply fried and served with a Thai-style green chilli dipping sauce and aioli, it's a mainstay of the Qantas lounges at Sydney, Melbourne, LAX and London/Heathrow and a must-have for many regular visitors.

If the salt and pepper squid is global, the tea-smoked duck breast with pickled cabbage and Chinese mustard is decidedly local.

Adapted from Perry's Spice Temple restaurants, this sees duck breast poached in an aromatic stock containing Sichuan peppercorns, then smoked over a mixture containing jasmine tea. Once cold, the duck is thinly sliced and served with pickled cabbage and a spicy Chinese mustard dressing.

The grilled skate (stingray) takes its cues from one of Perry's favourite Newton Circus hawker stalls. It's marinated and grilled with a sambal made from lemongrass, tamarind, chilli, turmeric, shrimp paste and ginger.

"We then hit it with a bit of burnt butter, calamansi lime juice and some capers," Perry explains. "So it's a really nice little fusion, but its roots are definitely in Singapore."

Buffalo mozzarella is a popular starter from Qantas' Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges, but with a slight Asian finesse.

"With marinated cherry tomatoes, cucumber and pea shoots, it's all looking very European," Perry says. "But we throw some soybeans in to give it that texture and crunch, some creaminess and nuttiness, which gives it that little bit of Singaporean flavour."

Positioned halfway between starters and mains is the always-reliable club sandwich with chicken breast, bacon, slow-roasted Roma tomatoes, cos lettuce and aioli on wholegrain bread.

Both the club sandwich and the sourdough poached eggs with butter-sautéed shiitake and enoki mushrooms and salsa verdé are said to be popular with travellers alighting from QF2, whose timezone-confused stomachs often lean towards a light brunch-style meal rather than a full dinner.

But if you've got room for one main meal, it will probably be the signature laksa with crayfish.

This is based on a fragrant laksa paste made from dried shrimp, candlenut, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and galangal. The paste is blended with coconut milk, fish sauce and water to create a delicious broth, and filled with fresh, long rice laksa noodles, fish cake, cray fish meat, bean sprouts, egg and tau pok (fried bean curd puff).

"Laksa is of course is a very Singaporean dish that would normally be chicken or prawn, but we've put a bit of luxury around it by adding some crayfish," Perry says. Laksa also appears in the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge from time to time, as one of the two plates of the day, but sans crayfish.

The stir fried black pepper beef is "another dish we have on the business class lounge menu from time to time," Perry says, "but we wanted to have it here because I think it's really representative of a Singaporean flavor. When you come to Singapore you're probably going to have pepper crab or pepper prawns or pepper beef."

The Qantas Singapore First Lounge version sees beef sirloin marinated in oyster sauce, light soy and chicken stock; then stir fried with red capsicum, black pepper, garlic chilli, spring onion and ginger; and served with steamed jasmine rice and a fresh coriander garnish.

If you lean towards fish rather than meat, the lounge features a grilled barramundi sustainably grown and ocean-farmed by Kühlbarra in the Straits of Singapore, just off the island's southern coast of the island.

"We keep this very Western in its execution, but this is a locally farmed product that's really awesome. I tasted it and I gave it the big tick, which I don't always do with barramundi," Perry admits.

The barramundi is served on a grilled lettuce wedge with finely sliced fennel, dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and sourdough breadcrumbs, and topped with a butter made from green herbs, anchovy, garlic and lemon, then garnished with finely chopped chives.

The chicken with crispy eggplant salad and mustard greens presents a slightly Chinese skew on a Western dish.

"It's that kind of fun that we can have here," Perry elaborates. "Crispy eggplant and mustard greens are very Chinese, and then we put a ginger and shallot dressing made with sesame oil over the top."

Should you be craving something decidedly European, the pappardelle with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, green olive, basil and parmesan will hit the spot.

The wide egg pasta ribbons and finely sliced zucchini are sautéed with garlic, lemon and green olive, then served with tomatoes that have been slow roasted in red wine vinegar with thyme and parsley, and garnished with fresh basil, parsley, finely grated parmesan and a sprinkle of chilli.

As with any visit to a Qantas First Lounge, we strongly recommend that you leave room for dessert. Let's also set expectations: the classic 'pavlova in a glass' made famous at Sydney and Melbourne isn't to be found at Singapore, with Perry aiming to create this lounge's own seasonal signature dessert in the coconut and mango sorbet.

"This is packed with beautiful tropical flavour in mango and coconut sitting on a layer of sponge cake, and then caramelised palm sugar syrup goes over the top, with toasted coconut and chopped mango. We think that's going to become a real signature here, like the pavlova is. It's such an Asian flavour, but in a sense it also harps back to something that Australians kind of understand."

As with the pavlova, the component fruit in this dish will change regularly with the seasons and allow regular travellers to enjoy something a little different on each visit.

That said, there is a dessert in a glass: it's the Torta di Verona with blueberries and toasted almonds.

Torta di Verona translates as "cake of Verona" and is a local specialty in the northern Italian town best known as the setting for Romeo and Juliet (although we expect this pre-flight delight will never be a story of woe).

Brioche is toasted, soaked in marsala and amaretto, layered with mascarpone whipped with egg and sugar, and finally topped with blueberries in syrup and toasted almond flakes.

If you're asking about our favourite dessert at the Qantas Singapore First Lounge, it's got to be the chocolate fudge cake with sesame sorbet, Pocky sticks and Milo.

While the dense chocolate fudge cake is a global citizen, it gets a Singaporean visa courtesy of the sesame sorbet, Pocky sticks and Milo, the Aussie-born chocolate malt powder that's much loved across Asia.

Changing up the menu

As with other Qantas first class lounges, the menu here will be refreshed every twelve weeks – although the seasonal variations will be less pronounced in a country which has just two seasons, those being 'hot' and 'hot and wet'.

"It won't be so much the season, it'll be what's inspiring us, what we've seen on the street," Perry explains. "We've already started talking about that, some street food influences like a tofu hotpot which we'd want to sophisticate that up. Maybe it's stuffed eggplant and a little bit of protein and turns into something really, really interesting, plus a couple of Western things that might be able to flow in and flow out."

Perry is also keeping an eye on what dishes on the debutante menu could become so popular that they have to remain. "The squid's the number one seller by double anything else, currently, and the club sandwich has really got some momentum over the last few days."

"So if those signatures play well, we'll have to keep them on. And then we'd probably look at changing a couple out of the out of the starter and two or three of the main plates."

But any dish that makes the cut must also be quick to go from kitchen to table, given that so many of the lounge guests are in transit on QF1 or QF2. "The crunch happens so quickly," Perry says.

"We make sure that everything can be served quickly, nothing takes more than 10 minutes. You've got to be confident that you cab sit down, order and eat, and then go and have a shower, or if you shower first you've still got enough time to have a bite to eat. That whole thing is our primary focus here, actually."

Click here to download the current (December 2019) Qantas Singapore first class lounge menu

David Flynn travelled to Singapore as a guest of Qantas

David

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

04 Jun 2015

Total posts 69

Had a good 6 hours to kill in this new lounge on sunday as QF36 was cancelled and i was moved to QF38. Started with the squid and the tea smoked duck which were both excellent. I thought the squid was abit crispier than syd/mel which was nice. Then had the barramundi which was also excellent. The heart of cos lettuce on the bottom was fantastic full of flavor from the fish and the butter. I saw alot of serves of chicken going out that looked great too. The olives they serve when you sit down are also delicious, and the cold towel is a nice touch. I returned to the dining just before departure for the laksa which was really nice, though i thought the lobster didnt add much flavor wise, i actually only ate one piece. Finished with the mango dessert, another winner. QF have hit a home run with this lounge i was very very impressed. The staff were all great and so happy to be working there from my convos with them, and it shows in their service. The Pier has been dethroned as the best lounge in asia, in this writers opinion.

Also while not in this article i thought the daylight LED's in the shower would be a bit of marketing puff, but i was surprisingly woken up, or should i say sobered up, when using them. They would be great when transiting from london.

24 Feb 2015

Total posts 22

Hopefully they maintain the standards! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Apr 2013

Total posts 16

I fly pretty frequently with QF in Business or First between Aust and the US, i have held my platinum status for quite a few years. I am plant based vegan and the food offerings in the lounges and on-board is so sub-standard its not funny. Obviously Neil Perry or Qantas has not put any thought into what they offer to Vegans! What i was served in first from LAX to MEL recently was a disgrace!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 25

Not offering a full menu to a minority of people such as vegans is not a disgrace, merely slightly disappointing. It is your choice to be vegan, as it is Qantas choice what they offer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Sep 2013

Total posts 15

Won't get a chance to try this anytime soon but keen to see the new summer menu in Sydney. The spring menu was a disappointing to say the least.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 13

Going there in 2 weeks...can't wait. Excited to try a few of these recommendations out.

iM
iM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 53

Lucky enough to spend a few hours there with my wife just after it opened. The service was excellent and the laksa... to diet for. Looking forward to a return visit and well done Qantas on returning proper first class facilities to Singapore.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 161

Thanks, David. You've really done a great job there in that description. Many Thanks, Cheers!

09 Apr 2017

Total posts 9

Am loving the idea of a calamansi cocktail, as my first port of call in the city is to one of the shops that sell cans of the juice!

Ummm, can we use this lounge on arrival, or is this for departures only?

It's just a normal departures lounge, even though at Changi T1 the arrivals and departures are all intermingled. But I would not be surprised if 'on-arrival access' was a special perk for Chairman's Lounge members!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 91

I remember when Neil's menus began on Qantas. In all these years I've never once been impressed!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2374

Hi all - sorry but we had a tech SNAFU with the download link for the menu, this has now been sorted and the link is working now.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 442

Why is Neil Perry so smug in that pic? Qantas have never won any awards for their food in the lounge or on board-that in itself is telling. On board 'First' class food is woeful to the point some cabin crew I know are embarrassed to work in the cabin. How about some effort in the on board menu now Neil and Alan?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 28

Yawn. What is it about Neil Perry that's so special? I don't fly first on Qantas, but I do fly business, and the food always lacks vibrancy and interest. Compared to business food on JAL, BA, Singapore, Air NZ and Cathay it's a bore. Australia has some of the best cuisine in the world with unique, relaxed multi-culturalism a feature. Cities like Melbourne and Sydney are at least on par with any other capitals in my opinion, yet the Qantas offerings are as dull as dishwater and do not reflect the current state of play in Oz cuisine. I can't work out why Perry is so inextricably linked to Qantas, when our country has so many great chefs and restaurateurs who don't get a look in.

iM
iM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jul 2016

Total posts 53

Having come up the through the FF ranks and spent my self-made money to get access to this level, I'm dismayed by the negative comments. When I first made QF Gold my wife used to laugh when I spoke about FF things and called me "Oh my Gold". Now she calls me 'Pratinum' if I mention the salt and pepper said wasn't up to standard or there were five or six coffee beans on the expresso martini instead of the requisite three. What gets up my nose more than anything else is the sense of entitlement from those whose employers pay them to fly in premium cabins and who believe it's a right. If you're so precious you're jaded by Neil Perry's offerings or you think the food or service is better on XYZ airline then off you go. Qantas doesn't need you.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 374

I had the salt and pepper squid then the barramundi and finally the mango coconut sirvet... All very nice as i thought the new lounge was. My only point... Dress code needed for the lounge. Cant unsee thonged feet.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 28

Just a little note iM, I do pay for my tickets out of my personal hard-earned cash. I too have come up through the Qantas FF ranks. My comments are directed at Qantas being better, not due to any sense of personal entitlement.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 548

I do note the menu is quite common across lounges. Only a couple of unique dishes the duck and the skate. Some others have more local dressings.


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