The winter 2014 menu for the Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne sees a dozen new dishes plus some seasonal tweaks to long-time favourites.
And with so many tempting dishes to try, you'll probably end up hoping that your flight will be delayed.
As always, the breakfast menu is available from the lounge's early morning opening through to noon (how very civilised!).
A popular starter will be the Shaw River buffalo milk yoghurt with rhubarb, pecans and chia seeds.
This deliciously-flavoured natural yoghurt – made from whole buffalo milk, giving it a smooth, sweet taste – is a staple of the Qantas First Lounge breakfast menu, with the accompaniments changing from season to season,
The autumn menu saw the yoghurt served with honeyed apples, but for winter the apples are replaced by gently poached and lightly spiced rhubarb, dressed with lightly toasted and sliced pecan nuts and chia seeds.
Another First Lounge classic: buttermilk pancakes. For winter they're rugged up with a warmed apple compote, flavoured with vanilla, lemon and spiced maple ricotta.
Dollop on some extra maple syrup if you must, but we think you'll find the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves are all this stack needs to hit the spot.
The whole egg and egg white omelettes also get a winter reworking.
Here's the whole egg omelette filled with sautéed mushrooms, smoky Schulz bacon and a house-made (well, lounge-made) onion jam, finished with a sweet Merlot vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
The more health-conscious can steer for the egg white omelette with goat's feta, watercress and tomato. Trust us it doesn't taste even remotely 'diet'.
Stuffed with a creamy textured Meredith goat's milk fetta, it's accompanied by a light, fresh sauce of tomato and peppery watercress leaves.
Of course, plenty of familiar dishes remain ready to please, including the Bircher muesli; sweet corn fritters with bacon, avocado, crème fraiche & tomato jam; eggs florentine; eggs benedict with your choice of smoked salmon or leg ham; or the deceptively simple delight of a wholegrain toasted sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato & aioli.
The all-day dining menu takes over from 12 noon through to when the lounge closes, and here is where you'll find the largest number of winter warmers.
Back by popular demand is the buffalo mozzarella, which now has a sharper edge thanks to roasted red capsicum, grilled radicchio and mint.
The radicchio is char grilled and marinated in a sweet Merlot vinegar and in extra virgin olive oil.
Served with pieces of sweet roasted red capsicum and fragrant mint and parsley leaves, it's dressed with the Merlot vinaigrette from the radicchio.
Tuna lovers will be tempted by the grilled sesame tuna with red cabbage and shallot salad.
Yellow fin tuna is marinated in a mix of sesame, shao xing, light soy, five spice and fermented red bean paste, then ever so slightly grilled to rare.
It's sliced and served up with a crisp red cabbage, shallot and coriander salad – dressed with five spice shoa xing, sesame, ginger, lemon and soy.
If you're in the mood for really hearty seafood, we suggest the mussels with tomato, garlic and saffron rouille.
Rouille (which means 'rust' in French) is a traditional accompaniment of garlic, saffron, chilli and olive oil with breadcrumbs, while grilled schiacciata bread is at the ready to soak up the mussel-based sauce.
The mussels are regionally-sourced, so at the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney you'll be served Kinkawooka mussels, while Melbourne's menu boasts Sea Bounty mussels from Port Philip Bay.
Still on seafood, we come to the morish grilled mulloway with toasted barley, roasted cauliflower, leek and salsa verde.
This is a medium-sized slab of Palmers Island Mulloway, sustainably farmed from near the NSW coastal town of Yamba.
It's carefully grilled to achieve that slightly crisp skin while keeping the flesh almost melt-in-your-mouth tender, then served with a nutty flavoured salad of toasted barley, fried cauliflower, pickled onion and capers, with a fresh salsa verde of parsley, dill, mint, lemon and olive oil.
The autumn menu's fettuccine with ragu bolognese makes way for a dish is based on classic fettuccine carbonara: soft egg, bacon, roast garlic and parmigiano reggiano.
The pasta is tossed with a reduction of white wine and roast garlic, bacon and Reggiano parmesan, topped by a very softly cooked egg which you then stir into the pasta by the diner to create a sauce for the dish.
Each seasonal menu at the Qantas First Lounge features at least one dish drawn from a restaurant in Neil Perry's Rockpool empire. In winter it's the stir fried cumin lamb from Perry's Spice Temple regional Chinese restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.
Australian lamb shoulder is stir fried with cumin seeds, garlic, mushrooms, pickled mustard greens and chillies, then served with steamed bread pockets which are made in the lounge's kitchen.
The idea is that you pop open a bread pocket, spoon in some lamb and chow down.
We're tipping this to be one of the hits of the winter menu. It showcases quality Aussie lamb with an Asian touch and it's not only delicious, it's fun to eat!
Now we step from that east-meets-west mix to a bit of 'deep down south' with buttermilk fried chicken with celeriac slaw, soft white polenta and hot sauce.
We know what you're thinking: fried chicken in a first class lounge? Well, as fried chooks go, this is a pretty classy version.
It's corn-fed chicken marinated in buttermilk to season the meat and enhance its juiciness, then gently steamed before being floured and then fried until crisp.
(If you're gluten-intolerant, just ask the restaurant waiters to have the flour coating left off the chicken.)
It's served with creamy white polenta and a fresh apple and celeriac slaw, with chipotle tabasco sauce on the side.
The buttermilk fried chicken is said to go best with a beer and a ticket on the QF7 flight to Dallas.
After all that, we hope you've still left some room for dessert.
And winter just isn't winter without a little indulgent comfort food. Cue the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding.
This traditional bread and butter pudding is made with pain au chocolat and Valrhona chocolate, set in a silky milk and cream custard.
The top is baked crisp, then a scoop of white chocolate ice cream perched on top to melt into the warm pudding.
The hazelnut financier is carried over from the autumn menu, but with poached quince replacing autumn's grilled plums.
The fruit is the seasonal component in this dish, so the lounge actually began serving it with poached quince last month, and partway through winter as quince becomes more scarce this will be swapped out for a different fruit.
The foundation remains a fragrant hazelnut and almond ‘financier’ cake studded with fruit pieces (the quince is poached in cinnamon, vanilla, star anise and lemon) and toasted hazelnuts, served with vanilla ice cream and a pear sauce.
Last but never ever least: the lounge's famous 'deconstructed' pavlova in a glass.
The winter pav is partnered with yoghurt gelato, pineapple and lime.
Delicately passionfruit-flavoured meringue is layered with marscapone cream, fresh pineapple, lime granita, yoghurt gelato and dehydrated pineapple, before being garnished with vanilla floss.
If you're visiting the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney or Melbourne through to the end of August 2014, let us know what dishes you ordered and how you rate them!
Click the links below to download the Qantas First Lounge Winter 2014 menu ahead of your trip so you can start planning your first class feast.
Download: Qantas First Lounge - Winter 2014 Menu, breakfast [60KB PDF]
Download: Qantas First Lounge - Winter 2014 Menu, all day dining [60KB PDF]
Mouth-watering photography in this article by Chris Chamberlin
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