Sampling the new Qantas first class lounge menu

Make time to enjoy the Qantas international lounge experience before your flight to New Zealand.

By David Flynn, April 20 2021
Sampling the new Qantas first class lounge menu

International travel is back - at least for the short hop across the pond to New Zealand – and so too are Qantas' international first class lounges.

And that means the return of the à la carte menu that's long been a drawcard for Qantas' top-tier Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers, along with first class passengers on the now-grounded Airbus A380s.

But let's be up front about this: it's not the extensive and fondly-remembered First Lounge menu of previous years, which at its best made the dining rooms more like a restaurant with a rather unique view.

That's because the shape of international travel in 2021 is vastly different. Qantas has only just restarted a limited number of flights to New Zealand, and those trans-Tasman passenger numbers will be well below pre-COVID levels for some time.

Even with the prospect of future bubbles to the likes of Fiji and Singapore, the bulk of overseas travel – to the rest of Asia, to the USA, to London – isn't expected to return until the end of 2021 (and the bulk of demand on those routes will take another year or two to return).

So for now, Qantas' international business class lounges will remain closed, with the Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges – for the first time in their history – welcoming business class passengers, Gold-grade frequent flyers (and their Oneworld Sapphire equivalents) and Qantas Club members.

The First Lounge menu has menu has been reshaped accordingly, Qantas' consulting chef Neil Perry tells Executive Traveller, to become "more of a premium lounge menu like we have in London and Hong Kong, while also recognising the importance of the First experience."

The result is a mix of familiar First Lounge favourites – Perry says he "had to do" the salt and pepper calamari, and the pavlova in a glass – alongside some dishes drawn from previous seasonal menus plus several 'crowd-pleaser' newcomers.

The seasonal menu approach has also been put on hold, but while there won't be a formal switchover to a winter menu come June, you can still expect some updates from time to time, especially in line with the availability of fresh produce. (And yes, we all hope the corn fritters make a comeback.)

The drinks list has also been pared back.

For the time being, there's only one cocktail on offer. Right now, that's a refreshing Mimosa...

... but over the coming months, watch for a "Longreach Fizz" created using Four Pillars' special QF100 gin, which mark Qantas' 100 years of flying and contains Australian botanicals including native lemongrass, macadamia and lemon myrtle.

Champagne's not on the menu at all – it's been replaced by an Australian sparkling in Seppelt's The Drives NV – although Executive Traveller has been told that a glass of proper French bubbles will be served on request.

Paired with the lounge's iconic salt and pepper calamari, it's the ideal way to celebrate the return of the Qantas First Lounge and your return to international flying.

As before, a breakfast menu is offered from when the Sydney and Melbourne lounges open through to noon; this is then swapped for an all-day menu until the lounge closes.

Note that the hours of the Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges are built around Qantas' flight schedule.

If there's a wave of flights in the morning, followed by a substantial gap until the next Qantas flight in the late afternoon or early evening, the lounge may well close for a block of hours between those flights: the basic rule of thumb is that it should be open three hours before the departure of any Qantas international flight. 

We've made the full menus (as at April 2021) available below as PDF downloads

The new Qantas First Lounge breakfast menu

A simple trio to start with, finish with or have on the side with a coffee: seasonal fruit salad, a croissant and a 'house-made' (lounge-made) muffin.

A tad healthier and more substantial – it's a generous serve, and surprisingly filling – is the Bircher muesli with apple, cranberry and hazelnuts.

Want to dial up the healthy breakfast vibe? Order the brunch bowl of a soft-boiled egg, goats' cheese, avocado, cherry tomato bulgur and green tahini.

Qantas first debuted this concept following research on the interplay of diet and metabolism when designing the menu for its non-stop Boeing 787 flights between Perth and London.

In short order they were rolled out to the domestic business lounges and international first lounges and proved very popular with the wellness-savvy set – and even if you're usually put off by the notion of 'hipster food', this one's worth a try.

At the other end of the scale sits the lounge's new 'signature breakfast' – scrambled eggs with bacon, a pork chipolata, spinach, tomato braised beans. It's a safe bet for crowd-pleasing 'casual cafe' fare.

If you want comfort food incarnate, try the buttermilk pancakes with a delicious cinnamon yoghurt, berries and maple syrup.

Last on the list is another reliable hit: a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. This one steps upmarket with leg ham and Gruyere on between two slices of rich brioche – "a softer, crispy chewy bread which brings  everything together", Perry tells Executive Traveller.

This one also appears on the all-day dining menu, because sometimes you just can't go past the simple delight of a good toastie.

The new Qantas First Lounge all-day menu

The all-day dining menu leads off with a dish which would cause a riot should it ever be dropped: salt and pepper squid.

'The squid' sees finely-sliced calamari dipped in egg white, then dusted in a mixture of plain flour, trisol, ground black and white pepper, and lightly fried until it's crisp and golden.

It's served with a side of Thai-style green chilli dipping sauce and aioli made in the lounge's own kitchen, plus – new to the recipe – a sharp, fresh cabbage salad.

New to the Qantas First Lounge menu, and the sole choice for vegans, is roasted cauliflower with a hummus of carrot, almond and a touch of garlic (freshly made in the lounge), zucchini, preserved lemon and hazelnuts.

The Tamarind chicken with eggplant, jasmine rice and lime pickle yoghurt (this one has previously appeared on the Qantas First Lounge menus as Tamarind duck) bursts with Asian flavours...

... and the lamb shoulder slow-braised in a Chinese inspired stock with chilli paste and noodles will definitely leave a tingle on your tastebuds.

To finish with a flourish: the signature 'deconstructed pavlova' in a glass, with seasonal fruit (at the time of writing, strawberries and passionfruit), meringue layered with marscapone cream, and topped with Persian fairy floss.

Also read: Maximise your Qantas Points with our roundup of the best credit card sign-up deals, beginning at a hefty 150,000 points.

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.

20 Apr 2021

Total posts 1

Burger  and fries and club sandwich all axed They were signature dishes since day one. That’s a pretty big headline to miss. 

The Qantas First Lounge has had plenty of 'signature' dishes but there's obviously not room on the menu for all of them, or they'd never have space for new dishes. Anyway, I think if they did have the burger and fries and club sandwich we'd have people complaining "this isn't very 'first class'!"  Qantas just can't win sometimes!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

Looks like a pretty good spread. Hopefully there will be a small 'winter refresh' at some stage and some warmer dishes will come back, I'm very much a fan of the corn fritters but I think a simple ragu could also be very good for winter months, maybe also a fish dish in there.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 101

Can anyone provide exactly the opening hours the Sydney first class lounge will be operating each day. I realise it will link in to departures for NZ but I am flying elsewhere and would like to know if it will be open when I get there.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 168

The lounge's opening hour will vary from one day to the next because Qantas' current flight schedule varies from one day to the next. Example: I was just looking at flying SYD-AKL next week, on Monday April 26 the Qantas website shows only the 1855 QF149 service but on Tuesday April 27 there's also the 0900 QF143.

As the article notes, Qantas says the lounge will be open three hours before the departure of any QF flight, so if you're flying with Qantas then it will be open three hours before your flight departs. If you would like to get to the lounge earlier then you'd need to see if there are other QF flights departing earlier on that same day. Not too difficult at the moment because Qantas isn't flying to many places, so just check the Qantas website and plug in Sydney to Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington, oh and Norfolk Island too I believe.

If you are not flying with Qantas but would have normally have lounge access, eg you might be on Cathay Pacific, then you'd still want to check the QF schedule for that day and hope it aligns with the timing of your flight. But with the latest QF flight to NZ being QF149 at 1855, the lounge would be closed by 1900 or even 1830 so if you were on an evening CX flight then the lounge will be closed for sure.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 101

Thanks Gold4Life. I am on Cathay and hoping the lounge will be open from 10.30am to 1.30pm for me.

Sounds like you're on CX100. I always liked that one, get to spend the morning in the QF F lounge for both breakfast and early lunch, have 'dinner' later on during the flight, then get into HKG late evening and by the time I'm at my hotel it's either head out to TST or Central or order up a club sandwich and hit the sack, depending on how I feel!

So as Gold4Life said, you will want to check the Qantas flight schedule for the day you're flying with CX, but I think you're going to be out of luck. The QF NZ flights all seem to leave between 9am (Auckland) and 10am (Wellington), and the next flight is then 7pm (Auckland).

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 101

AsiaBizTraveller - you are seeing what I am seeing. Shame, I always wanted to go into the Sydney first class lounge!

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 85

Really glad Qantas didn't go down the QR code ordering route like some others have done. Used this at a Virgin lounge and it was actually a bit of a pain, always nicer to talk with actual people like lounge staff and sometimes get their advice on some dishes.

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

Do green zone and red zone passengers share the First Lounge?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

There wouldn't be any 'red zone' passengers coming into the lounge, as red zone and green zones are only for arrivals. And anybody flying out to a 'red zone' country would be coming out from Australia so no risk there.

11 Jan 2018

Total posts 1

Is it only the 6.55pm flight to Auckland that allows one to try the all day dining in Sydney. I see Jetstar flights leaving at 1.30pm or 3.30pm depending on the day. Would the lounge stay open in the afternoon because there is a Jetstar flight or do they close it between 12 noon and 4pm (3 hours before 6.55 pm qf flight)

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

No, the lounges are only open for Qantas flights. If there's a Jetstar flight to New Zealand at the same time as a Qantas flight then that's a bonus, but I've read in another ET article that the lounge's opening hours are based on QF flights, not JQ flights, and I've seen it mentioned that on days when there's that 6.55pm QF flight, the lounge closes by noon and then opens again around 4pm.


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