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Spring is finally here, and that means another seasonal refresh for the Rockpool dining room menu at the Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne.
To whet your appetite, here are the highlights of the breakfast and all-day menus through to the start of December (when the Summer menu kicks in) so you can plan ahead for your next visit, with links to download a PDF copy of each menu at the end of the article.
Qantas first lounge breakfast menu (served from 5am to noon)
As always, the breakfast menu sees few new dishes – mornings are the realm of reliable go-to favourites, from the sweet corn fritters and wholegrain toasted BLT sandwich to Eggs Benedict and whole egg or egg white omelettes.
However, the Rockpool chefs always mix things up a little by folding seasonal ingredients into selected dishes.
For Spring, this means giving the popular buttermilk pancakes a tropical topping of mango, coconut and a drizzle of 'Qantas honey' from beehives on the roof of the nearby Qantas HQ.
The latest iteration of the "healthy breakfast bowl" – which is in fact available all day, as it's ideal ahead of a long flight – is built around a warm kale and sorrel salad with avocado, quinoa, poached egg, sesame and linseed.
Continuing the “healthy bowl” concept with a compilation of blanched kale tossed in soy, quinoa, linseed, sorrel, avocado, poached egg, pickled ginger and sesame, then dressed in a blend of tamari, lemon juice and olive oil.
As this is not an overly large dish, it hits the spot for a light breakfast or an entree into a more substantial lunch or dinner.
Qantas first lounge all-day menu (served from noon)
The mozzarella-based salad is a steadily evolving dish, and often features tomatoes in summer, but for Spring it includes fennel, baby beans, sunflower seeds and a green olive tapenade. This is a cow's milk mozzarella made in Sydney by Paesanella of Marrickville, a family business run by second-generation Italians native to Napoli.
A similarly light starter is the delicious poached chicken and leek tartine with asparagus and watercress sauce (the sauce is made from watercress, spinach, onion, garlic and a little cream).
Sustainable saltwater Humpty Doo barramundi from the Northern Territory has become a bit of a fixture of the Qantas First Lounge menu over recent years, and it's served with zucchini sauce, asparagus, green peas, green shallots and basil, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
If you're noticing a lot of greens on those plates so far – well, it's Spring, and as Qantas Rockpool Chef Alex Woolley explains, "Spring is all about greens – asparagus, peas, beans." Of course, savvy travellers know how important it is to get some greens into their diet.
In the mood for something a little warmer and heartier?
Try the roasted field mushrooms, served with green lentils (cooked with bay, thyme and red wine vinegar), shallots roasted with white wine, and crisp sugar snaps, then dressed with salsa verdé then garnished with fried shallots and fresh parsley leaves.
There's an interesting Asian play with white miso ramen with roast pork, beansprouts and mustard pickles. This dish sits halfway along the ramen continuum, which spans from "salty, light and clear to rich, pork-heavy and thick", chef Wooly explains.
The pork belly is slowly roasted with sake, tamari, honey, tea, garlic and ginger, then served with a light broth based on chicken stock and flavoured with white miso, garlic and soy milk. On top are spicy pickled mustard greens, soft boiled egg and beansprouts.
Many visitors to the Qantas First Lounge enjoy the duck, which this time around is a stir-fry braised in a Chinese-inspired stock of ginger, soy, star anise, cinnamon, mandarin and chilli, and served with black vinegar, choy sum, cashews, chilli and jasmine rice.
Moving more into the territory of meat: a beef brisket with pickled daikon, shallots, sesame and ginger. The brisket is slow-cooked in beef stock, light soy, garlic, onion and ginger, then seared and glazed in its cooking liquid.
That's a lot to choose from, but be sure to leave room for dessert.
New for Spring is a tropical pineapple and mango salad with coconut, ginger and chamomile sorbet, topped with toasted coconut flakes.
There's also a delicious (and flourless) chocolate and hazelnut cake made with Frangelico served with a soft mascarpone cheesecake mix, then served with mascarpone and caramel bananas.
Finally, the lounge's signature 'deconstructed' pavlova swerves into Spring with fig, raspberry and strawberry, alongside the foundation of passionfruit meringue and yoghurt gelato, topped by Persian floss.
This combination of seasonal ingredients isn't a lock – it depends entirely on "what comes in from the market each day," Wooly says, "so the pav can change completely from one week to the next." Other likely ingredients across Spring include mango, pineapple, lime, lychee, strawberry and raspberry. "There's a whole bunch of flavours we can choose from," Wooly enthuses.
The Qantas First Lounge has also introduced two new Australian varietals onto the wine list. The Jim Barry Assyrtiko 2018 from Clare Valley is a little brighter than a Riesling with a clean steely edge that exposes the fruit's natural flavour; while the Seppeltsfield Nero d’Avola 2019, from the Barossa Valley, is a juicy, plummy medium-bodied red.
You can download a PDF copy of the Spring 2019 menus for the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney and Melbourne at the links below: