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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.
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.
AusBT review: Delta Sky Club, New York JFK
Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounges
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:
AusBT 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.
AusBT review: S7 Airlines business class lounge, Moscow
United Airlines’ Polaris Lounges
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!
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounges
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:
AusBT review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Los Angeles
Over to you, AusBT 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!