A highlight of any visit to the award-winning Qantas First Lounge at Sydney and Melbourne is the seasonal menu created by a team of chefs from Neil Perry’s Rockpool Group.
Regular travellers in first class – along with Platinum and Platinum One members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, and their Oneworld airline equivalents – enjoy sampling the new dishes as well as revisiting hard-to-best favourites, some of which are regularly tweaked with fresh in-seasonal ingredients.
Here's our sampling of the new pre-flight delights for autumn 2016, which are now being served through to the end of May when the hearty winter menu kicks in.
Breakfast: served to noon
The Shaw River buffalo milk yoghurt is a standard of the breakfast menu, with the garnish changing to suit the seasons. In autumn this sees the yoghurt topped with fresh apple, honey and toasted hazelnuts.
Likewise, the buttermilk pancakes are now topped with plums poached in cinnamon spiced syrup and mascarpone.
"The standard breakfast items don't change, the only thing we do tend to change is the seasonal fruit we serve with the yoghurt and pancakes" explains Roger Barstow, who heads menu planning for the premium lounge and inflight menus.
"All that fruit has been sitting on the trees, ripening away, and right now it's at its peak and ready for us to use."
If those don't take your fancy we suggest standbys such as the sweet corn fritters with bacon, avocado, crème fraiche and tomato jam; Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon or leg ham; a whole egg or egg white omelette; or the simple delights of a bacon, lettuce, tomato & aioli wholegrain toasted sandwich or Croque Monsieur with leg ham and Gruyere cheese.
All-day: served from 11.30am
The ever-popular buffalo mozzarella remains on the autumn menu, once again partnered with juicy heirloom tomatoes and basil and finished with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
There’s also a light autumn salad which Barstow describes as "our take on a Caesar salad" with autumn leaves including radicchio, cos and witlof, tossed with parmesan cheese, crisp sourdough crumbs and capers and a mild anchovy dressing, then topped with grated boiled egg and a big pinch of fresh chives.
The anchovy dressing is prepared in the lounge's fully-equipped kitchen "with extra virgin olive oil, crushed anchovies and lime juice, then we fold through sifted egg yolk, white, capers and chives" Barstow says.
But why not just offer a Caesar salad? "Part of of the fun is being able to take some of the classics and do a little twist, a different variation on them" Barstow explains.
Care to try a salad with a bit more bite?
The Sichuan red chicken salad with black fungi and cashews begins with chicken breast slowly poached in stock, then shredded and tossed with thinly sliced vegetables, toasted cashews, sesame seeds and black fungi mushrooms.
That's then drizzled with a spicy dressing flavoured with ginger, chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorns "to really awaken your tastebuds," says Barstow.
Another autumn dish with a decided Asian flavour – indeed, one inspired by Rockpool's Spice Temple restaurants – is the Chairman Mao's Pork, which Barstow describes as "meltingly tender red-braised pork belly" served with stir-fried shiitake mushrooms and jasmine rice and finished with sesame and chilli oil.
Moving onto the black pepper chicken with a sweet potato puree, grilled broccolini and hazelnut burnt butter...
"This is thinly sliced chicken breast with the skin still on, seasoned with olive oil and black pepper and cooked on flat-top grill so the chicken gets really nice and crispy on the skin," Barstow says.
"Burnt butter or beurre noisette is normally a flavoursome butter in its own right, to which we add roasted hazelnuts so there's a double hit of nuttiness. This works really well with broccolini and sweet potato."
Autumn's a good time to tuck into pasta, so the Qantas First lounge is serving up spaghetti with braised bacon, roasted tomato, white wine and freshly-shaved reggiano parmesan.
"The bacon is brined pork belly, braised in white wine and herbs," Barstow says.
"We also take vine-ripened tomatoes when they're red, juicy, plump and full of flavour, puree them into sauce, then literally toss bacon and paste through the sauce."
There's always a fish dish on the menu, with autumn seeing a steamed blue eye fillet with pickled daikon, sesame and shiso vinaigrette.
"This is lightly steamed and a very healthy option," Barstow suggests. "The trevalla is a really opaque, moist fish which we serve with picked daikon radish, which gives it a whole new dimension and really awakens your tastebuds."
The Qantas First Lounge team makes its own shiso vinaigrette, Barstow says.
"We take shiso leaves, bruise them and allow them to macerate in rice vinegar for 24 hours, and then we make a dressing from that."
We also suggest keeping an eye on the menu's set of Market Inspirations for this ocean trout crudo with celery, apple, ginger and lemon oil.
Just be sure to leave room for dessert, which includes banana cream profiteroles with pecan caramel praline and a sharply cleansing yoghurt sorbet...
... a surprisingly light chocolate cream financier with grapes and sesame ice cream...
... or of course the go-to dessert of most Qantas First Lounge visitors: a 'deconstructed pavlova' dressed with passionfruit and strawberries.
Before, after or with your meal you can also check out new cocktails including a Fresh Gimlet (vodka, lime syrup and lime juice), a Kingston Punch (dark rum, lime juice, sparkling apple juice & mint) or a Gin Spritz (made from the bespoke Qantas Rockpool Four Pillars Gin with Aperol and sparkling wine).
If you're visiting the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney or Melbourne through to the end of May, click the links below to download a copy of the menu and start planning your first class feast!
Download: Qantas First Lounge: Autumn 2016 breakfast menu [155Kb PDF]
Download: Qantas First Lounge: Autumn 2016 all-day menu [225Kb PDF]
More exclusive Qantas articles from AusBT
- Expert tips for making the most of the Qantas first class lounge
- The five must-have dishes of the Qantas first class lounge
- Qantas to open new London Heathrow first, business class lounge
- The five best credit cards for earning Qantas Frequent Flyer points
- These Black credit cards earn you unlimited Qantas Frequent Flyer points
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT