Virgin Australia’s business class passengers can once again enjoy meals worthy of being served at the pointy end of the plane, with the airline swapping out its snack boxes for plated multi-course dining on all domestic departures from today, Thursday March 25.
And there’s not a celebrity chef to be seen: the focus is on simple, modern and contemporary dishes with a casual cafe flair.
All made with seasonal locally-sourced Australian produce, the crowd-pleasers include smashed avocado and crumbled feta on sourdough; pumpkin and prosciutto salad; or a warming turkey, brie and fig jam sourdough melt.
“Our new business class menu and service design is high quality, relaxed, uncomplicated and exactly what our guests and team members have told us they want,” says Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, who also teased a mid-year price cut to make business class “more accessible than ever before (and) delivering better value for travellers.”
“We’ve really dialled-up the flavours in the food with the right seasoning and textures to provide a very competitive business class experience for domestic travel in Australia,” adds the airline’s General Manager Product and Customer, Sarah Adam.
Menus will rotate on a bi-monthly basis, with complimentary beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks all available round-the-clock, joined by staples such as tea, coffee and water.
Virgin Australia business class service times
Virgin Australia’s new business class dining will be available on every flight: service won’t alternate between being a ‘meal’ or a ‘snack’ depending on the time of day.
- Breakfast is served business in class on flights departing between 3am and 9:59am
- Lunch is served in business class on flights departing between 10am and 4pm
- Dinner is served in business class on flights departing between 4:01pm and 2:59am
Delivered on a single tray, meals will generally provide a main course, a side dish, or dessert, and either a bakery item or a cheese plate.
Passengers who are not particularly peckish – especially when flying after eating dinner on the ground – could therefore take the chance to order just a small side, a dessert, or simply enjoy the beverage service: but the main course always remains an option.
However, it won't be possible to pre-order 'special meals' to cater for dietary requirements such as gluten-free, vegan, kosher and halal, the airline has confirmed.
That's less of a problem for vegetarians as meat-free dishes will be available to order as part of the standard menu, being the same procedure as the airline previously adopted when dining in domestic business class.
Virgin Australia business class breakfast
Business class passengers on a 'breakfast flight' (any time from 3am to 9:59am) can select a hot or cold main. That choice comes served with a pastry, and a yoghurt or fruit salad.
Right now, the hero hot dish is a brioche roll served with ham, scrambled egg and tomato relish, pictured here aside Greek-style yoghurt with mango coulis, and seasonal fresh fruit:
A fresh alternative is Bircher muesli with cherry compote, shown with a Danish pastry:
An alternative breakfast option is that very Aussie smashed avo and crumbled feta on sourdough:
“It’s well known that when you’re high above the clouds you lose some sense of taste and smell, so this was a really important factor in designing the new menu,” Adam says. "Our food not only looks great, but tastes great in the air.”
Virgin Australia business class lunch and dinner
Flying later in the day, Virgin Australia’s business class dining menu progresses to offer salads and sourdough melts.
On the salad side, one option is this haloumi and quinoa mix:
Alternatively, there’s a pumpkin and prosciutto salad with rocket, slivered almonds, cherry tomatoes and olives, finished with rosemary:
Also on the menu, a turkey, brie and fig jam sourdough melt:
For something heartier, those with fond memories of Virgin Australia’s Luke Mangan pies will welcome Virgin's 2021 take on the popular dish.
The incoming choice is a lamb and rosemary pie with pumpkin and feta smash, pictured here with an antipasto plate, a chocolate delight cake, and cheese and crackers:
“Supporting Australian farmers and producers was another important factor in designing the menu, so we’ll have seasonal Australian produce from local producers in dishes throughout the year,” elaborates Adam.
Virgin Australia business class drinks
To go with that lunch or dinner, Virgin's business class flyers will see a selection of Australian craft beers or a home-grown red or white wines, including Grant Burge NV sparkling.
Virgin is also stocking up on spirits including Gordons Gin, Johnnie Walker Scotch Red Label, Jim Beam Bourbon White Label, Smirnoff Vodka and Bundaberg Rum, with alcohol available on all flights.
First impressions of frequent flyers
We asked several Executive Traveller readers who regularly fly business class with Virgin Australia – and often with Qantas, too – for their thoughts on the new menu.
The verdict was unanimous: they all rated the business class dishes highly, although not without some room for improvement.
For example, many voiced their concern that some meals could prove too small for hungry travellers on longer flights such as Melbourne to Cairns or from coast to coast.
How often meals would be rotated between different routes came up: as one reader suggested, "I might even get tired of that lamb pie after five or six times!"
But there was no doubt the menu gave them confidence that the new Virgin Australia was headed in the right direction, especially if it keeps its competitive business class fares.
Several also noted the menu was "very Virgin", and in line with the airline's decision to establish its own identity and carve out its own space in the market, instead of competing directly with Qantas and "trying to be a restaurant in the sky."
Iain Fogerty (company director, Brisbane): “The ham and scrambled egg brioche roll is exactly what I like for a quick breakfast on the east coast run. Likewise, the pumpkin and prosciutto salad is clearly for lighter dinners and I really like that idea. The addition of spirits in the drinks menu will make a lot of people happy: a gin over dinner will be well received."
Rodney George (finance professional, Sydney): “My first thoughts is that it looks fresh and simple, quite suitable for the triangle services and well-pitched for Virgin 2.0. There's a nice cafe/bistro feel, relaxed and informal, which is exactly where it needs to be headed. Virgin's onboard wines have always been decent and the addition of the Grant Burge is a nice touch."
Anne-Marie Norris (accountant, Brisbane): "The menu is step in the right direction, but I'd like to see some more variety, particularly at lunch. And I'd like to see a hot meal that isn’t in a pie, particularly for those guests wanting something substantial or who are watching their carbs. Where’s the chicken?"
Ron Knevel (education professional, Bendigo): “I like what I see. The dishes look healthy and offer sufficient variety, although some might find them too simple. The breakfast dishes and lunch offering is excellent and would definitely meet my needs. The dinner dishes are less appealing compared to Virgin's previous (Luke Mangan) offerings but it still makes me enthusiastic about their direction."
Agi Magyar (portrait photographer, Adelaide): "The two vegetarian options for breakfast both looking delicious and light – personally I prefer lighter options for breakfast, especially when flying. The vegetarian dinner of the haloumi and quinoa salad with antipasto plate, cheese and crackers offer nice variety and they look delicious."
Sergey Vznuzdaev (transport professional, Sunshine Coast) welcomed the return of “proper food and plenty of choice... but two tiny crackers and a minuscule piece of cheese don’t make a cheese plate, and a meat pie doesn’t inspire the perception of a business class as something that offers premium food.”
Vznuzdaev also suggested that in place of heavier hot food, Virgin – and Qantas, for that matter – could consider lighter options such as fish and soup.
Michael Corrigan (human resources and industrial relations consultant, Gold Coast): “The breakfasts look appetising and provide a balance between healthy and tasty. The variety offered for lunch and dinner is appealing, and the addition of a plated desert and cheese and biscuits are a great finishing touch that would go well with a nice wine.”
Corrigan, who holds Velocity Platinum as well as Qantas Platinum One status, rated Virgin’s new business class menu as “above what Qantas offers at the moment, although Qantas meal flights normally offer a choice between hot dishes except at breakfast.”
Additional reporting by David Flynn
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