The best dining rooms in business class airport lounges

By Chris Chamberlin, June 19 2019

Plenty of business class lounges offer promptly-made signatures or ‘dishes of the day’, such as you’d find at Qantas’ Melbourne Spice Bar or at one of Cathay Pacific’s many walk-up noodle bars, but some business class lounges go above and beyond in the dining stakes, with full à la carte service.

Normally a feature reserved for first class lounges – and even then, only the best of them – here are just some of the business class departure lounges where you won’t be expected to graze from the buffet.

Air Canada’s Signature Suite lounge

Location: Toronto Pearson Airport’s international departures area.

Who gets in: Exclusively for Air Canada Signature Class passengers taking long-distance international flights from Toronto, although passengers who booked or upgraded their ticket using frequent flyer points are not admitted. Unfortunately, Air Canada’s Toronto-Vancouver-Sydney flights depart from the domestic area at Toronto Airport, so you’d need to be flying further afield for access here.

What to expect: Joining a range of signature cocktails, premium spirits and Champagne (Moët & Chandon), you can graze on dishes like foie gras, pork belly and mushroom risotto to start, with main courses spanning smoked sablefish, grilled lamb, roasted corn fritters and more.

Read: Air Canada debuts new Signature Class business class

Delta Air Lines’ flagship Sky Club lounge

Location: While Delta operates lounge facilities at a variety of airports, you’ll find this dining room at New York JFK T4.

Who gets in: ‘Delta One’ business class passengers, Delta and SkyTeam business class (and first class) travellers on international flights, Velocity Gold and Platinum members and AMEX Platinum and Centurion cardholders flying with Delta, Delta Sky Club members, SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers travelling internationally, and more.

What to expect: As with all Delta lounges, there’s a buffet, but if you park yourself at one of the dining tables, you can order from a varied menu of small plates and soups, sandwiches, large plates and salads, sides and desserts – and there’s a separate Kosher menu as well, for those with dietary requirements.

My last visit saw me order something simple, knowing I’d have more to choose from on board (bound for Los Angeles in Delta One), and the freshly-made chicken club sandwich hit the spot:

Each table also provides handy AC and USB power outlets, so if I’m flying solo and hoping to get some work done before my meal arrives – or in between courses – I’ll set up my laptop on one side of the table, and switch seats to dine, making the best use of my time.

However, regardless of how you entered the lounge, à la carte meals are chargeable, with the obligatory tip on top.

Executive Traveller review: Delta Sky Club, New York JFK

Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounges

Locations: London Heathrow T4, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Bangkok, Beirut

Who gets in: Business class (and first class) passengers of Qatar Airways and its Oneworld partner airlines departing from the same terminals, although there’s no access for Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald frequent flyers, unless flying in business or first class.

What to expect: Beyond the buffet – which is quite extensive, even by first class standards – the Premium Lounges’ dedicated dining rooms offer a wide selection of à la carte dishes, ranging from salads, soups, seafood and the expected Arabic mezze platters to start…

… with main courses inspired from around the world, whether you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern, Indian, Western or Asian cuisines, or a delicious plate of pasta:

The wine list also offers a choice of Champagne – on our last Premium Lounge visit, between Laurent-Perrier Brut and Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé – and in London at least, a stockpile of Lindt chocolates that you’re welcome to scoop into a takeaway box and enjoy later during your journey:

Executive Traveller review: Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounge, London Heathrow

S7 Airlines’ flagship business class lounge

Location: Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, accessible to both domestic and international flyers.

Who gets in: Most S7 business class passengers – except those on Business Basic fares – along with Gold- and Platinum-grade frequent flyers of S7, Qantas and Oneworld (Sapphire and Emerald); members of Priority Pass, LoungeKey and DragonPass; and guests who purchase access for ₽3,000 (A$64) at the door.

What to expect: This lounge is a little different to the others, in that it’s not ‘fine dining’: instead, focusing on simple food and great local flavours across an extensive eight-page à la carte menu, but still with table service.

Sticking to Russian favourites, I can strongly recommend the savoury pancakes filled with beef, onion and spice with sour cream on the side…

… as well as the home-made pork dumplings with broth and sour cream:

However, while the lounge’s buffet offering is complimentary, à la carte dishes are chargeable, even if you’re an S7 Airlines business class passenger. The asking prices are very reasonable though – ₽380 (A$8) for the pancakes and ₽470 (A$10) for the dumplings – and international credit cards are accepted.

Executive Traveller review: S7 Airlines business class lounge, Moscow

United Airlines’ Polaris Lounges

Locations: Currently available in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (Newark) and San Francisco, with planned openings also for Hong Kong, London, Tokyo (Narita) and Washington DC (IAD).

Who gets in: United Polaris business class (and first class) passengers on long-range international flights, as well as Star Alliance business class and first class flyers jetting internationally at their point of international departure.

What to expect: For the health-conscious traveller, United’s vast menus offer things like power green smoothie bowls to keep those calories down…

… but there’s no shortage of more substantial dishes, such as the Polaris burger, fish and chips, tacos, churros…

… or of other snacking bites, like arancini:

United’s menus also offer wine pairing suggestions... including a Prosecco-based Mimosa aside any of the breakfast dishes!

Executive Traveller review: United Airlines Polaris business class lounge, Los Angeles

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounges

Locations: With flagship lounges at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and New York JFK, you’ll also find Clubhouses at Newark, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Johannesburg.

Who gets in: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) passengers, Flying Club Gold members, Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold and PPS-level members. On trans-Atlantic journeys, Delta One passengers and Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members also get access, with some Clubhouse locations having broader access lists.

What to expect: Start your journey with a barista-made coffee or cocktail while you peruse the menu – perhaps, the airline’s signature ‘Virgin Redhead’: an alcoholic mix of sparkling wine, berry liqueurs, Bombay Sapphire Gin and fresh raspberries…

… before moving on to starters like salt and pepper squid…

… healthy main courses such as bamboo steamed salmon with Asian vegetables…

… more indulgent bites like the signature Clubhouse burger…

… and finish with the excellent miso donuts with honey caramel sauce:

Executive Traveller review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Los Angeles

Over to you, ET readers: what are some of the other great business class dining rooms you've enjoyed over the years? Share your experiences via the comment box below!

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

Aidan

Aidan

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 117

Nice post. I like the range of food offered by United. Great light and substantial options. Hope to try it some day.

drsimon50

drsimon50

qantas

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 113

what a great article - thanks chris

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Closer to home "The House" in SYD is not too shabby either when it comes to their food offerings with table service.

1Worldfreqflyer

1Worldfreqflyer

29 Jun 2016

Total posts 19

The Cathay Pacific lounge at Mel airport is tiny, there's never any seating as it is always full and the food offering is basic. The relatively new CX lounge at BKK airport offers the same boring food time and again and is always almost to capacity as all eligible Oneworld frequent flyers get to use it. The first class lounge in HKG is still good however since they changed catering companies from the Peninsula to Premium Plaza the quality and offering and actual service has never been the same. The business lounges are almost full all the time with nothing to amaze you when it comes to food. If in HKG I prefer the QF lounge these days... gone are the days when a first class lounge was sheer luxury, the QF First Class lounge in Syd is still good but always so busy and once you have been to it so many times you don't really find it too exciting, the Accor group should think of introducing variety to its menu and add that extra little 'je ne sais quoi'....

VintageDom

VintageDom

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Oct 2012

Total posts 6

Thoroughly enjoyable read.

Agree about the service in the Wing in HKG - it's a bit hit and miss. I still enjoy the first lounge in SYD - the challenge is to try for an afternoon/evening flight. All except one have been in the morning. Such first world problems! LOL!

Disappointing that some of the lounges are charging if you sit and order a la carte - have paid a premium to fly and now I have to pay again?

h15t0r1an

h15t0r1an

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 20

Accor Group are also running the QF Lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 3 and it also lacks a "je ne sais quoi". Most people seem to be recommending the lounge for the gin bar.

crosscourt

crosscourt

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 348

Good piece. You may want to do part 2 and then part 3 as a series as a suggestion.

anbt22

anbt22

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

17 Oct 2018

Total posts 1

Word of warning - for some bizarre reason Delta will not allow you into the lounge of an F ticket in JFK T4 if your ticket is to the Caribbean! Not even my AF Platinum worked. Go figure...

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