The beginning of each new season sees a refreshed menu for the award-winning Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, and this week Australian Business Traveller sampled the new dishes for spring.
Breakfast: served to 11.30am
The Shaw River buffalo milk yoghurt is a standard of the breakfast menu, with the garnish changing to suit the seasons. With spring that means passionfruit, banana, toasted coconut shavings and honey from Kangaroo Island.
Likewise, the popular buttermilk pancakes are now topped with fresh strawberries, juicy pieces of blood orange and brown sugar mascarpone.
“The strawberries and brown sugar are a really good match” says Alexander Woolley, one of the chefs from Neil Perry’s Rockpool team who develops the Qantas menus.
“Also the blood oranges which come in at the tail end of winter go really well with a lot of the things that arrive in the spring.”
Each season also sees a twist for the omelettes.
Inside the whole egg omelette are slices of grilled chorizo, goats fetta and a semi-sweet Romesco salsa of roasted red capsicum, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, red wine, vinegar and spices.
“Romesco usually contains almonds but this one doesn’t, so it’s okay if you are allergic to nuts” Woolley notes.
The egg white omelette remains a top choice for health-conscious travellers, and is filled with ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes “semi-roasted so they’re still juicy.”
Don’t forget: a smoked bacon and organic egg brioche is also available for breakfast but doesn’t appear on the menu – it’s an unlisted ‘by request’ dish.
All-day dining: served from 11.30am
No-one would dare take the buffalo mozzarella off the menu of the Qantas First Lounge, and most regular visitors are eagerly awaiting the summertime return of the tomatoes.
But they’ll not be at their best until nearly “the end of the season, around two months’ time” Woolley explains, “so for spring we’ve swapped the garnish to broad beans, mint, shaved fennel and a slice of mild and sweet prosciutto.”
“Broad beans, peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas, the late end of the artichoke season – that’s spring for me,” Woolley tells Australian Business Traveller.
“And I’m really hanging out for asparagus to come into season” Woolley says. “They’ll go into a pasta and hopefully we’ll do one of our ‘market inspiration’ specials of asparagus and rich hollandaise, which is a simple, beautiful and classic dish.”
The all-day dining menu often features sashimi, either as a standard dish or a special ‘market inspiration’ treat. This time it’s available every day in the form of Black Cobia, which is a sustainable pond-farmed fish from near the Great Barrier Reef.
“It’s a really rich textured fish with lots of good clean flavour and a clean after-taste” Woolley tells Australian Business Traveller. “It’s excellent as sashimi, very lean and sweet.”
After being briefly marinated in olive oil and lemon juice the strips of Black Cobia sashimi are served on chargrilled schiacciata bread with a creamy horseradish and onion puree and topped with chervil, dill and chives.
Australian lamb has also become a bit of a regular on the Qantas First Lounge menu. The cumin lamb shoulder is slow-cooked, then “grilled to crisp off the outside, with toasted cumin and coriander seeds so the outside packs a bit of a punch.”
It’s also got a bit of a Middle Eastern feel, Woolley explains, being accompanied by cous cous “and roasted carrots cooked in all-spice and cinnamon.”
Given that Neil Perry is a fan of Korean food it’s perhaps no surprise to see Bibim Gukso on the spring menu.
“It goes with this warming-up kind of weather” Woolley says of this cold noodle and vegetable dish served with Kimchi, seared Tasmanian Cape Grim beef fillet and topped with a soft yolk egg.
“I'm a big fan of cold noodle dishes and with a mix of kimchi, thin Somyun wheat noodles, sesame, soy and vinegar, this dish is sour and hot and a little bit funky.”
The casarecce pasta is “more of a late winter dish” says Woolley.
“It’s a fairly bold-flavoured pasta with sweet vegetables, although not all the veggies I want are available on the first day of the season, like asparagus, so we’ve taken advantage of late winter veggies like artichokes and radicchio, which we grill and then marinate in vinegar and olive oil.”
It’s topped with grated bottarga salted fish roe, “so there are lots of big flavours in this dish.”
Fancy some fish? The grilled blue-eye trevalla is served with Chinese-style braised lettuce and rice noodles “which have a really great silky-smooth texture” says Woolley.
After sampling all the new dishes, we reckon the crispy duck will prove a hit among frequent flyers.
“This is a twice-cooked duck, one of Neil Perry’s favourite ways to cook duck” Woolley recounts.
“It’s marinated in soy, rice wine, garlic, ginger and dried mandarin peel, left overnight, then steamed at a low temperature and cooked on the bone to keep juices in.”
“Then we pull the bones out, put it into the fridge and have it fried up to order, which crisps the skin.”
The duck is served with broccolini, shiitake mushrooms, spring vegetables and a ‘ginger and sesame oil scented’ jasmine rice.
The standby Black Angus minute steak and chips even sees a little spring surprise, with winter’s truffle butter making way for a subtle Japanese-influenced butter which sees “kombu seaweed and bonito flakes cooked and softened, then blended up like purée and whipped into the butter, so you get a bit of smokiness and salt” says Woolley.
To finish off the spring 2014 menu – if you’re not already finished off – there are two new desserts.
The banana and maple tart is “a little piece of puff pastry with slices of fresh banana, salty crunchy pretzels tossed into dulce de leche caramel to make a praline, and banana bread gelato from Gelatomassi.”
For a sweet chocolate hit, try the cinnamon churros with Valrhona chocolate creme and blood orange jam.
Of course, the ‘deconstructed’ pavlova in a glass is still on the menu, “we just change the flavours” says Woolley. “We’ve got strawberries and passionfruit, with mascarpone and yoghurt sorbet for a nice fresh acidity.”
If you're visiting the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney or Melbourne through to the end of November 2014, click the links below to download a copy of the menu and start planning your first class feast!
Download: Qantas First Lounge: Spring 2014 Menu, breakfast [120KB PDF]
Download: Qantas First Lounge: Spring 2014 Menu, all day dining [120KB PDF]
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT