Virgin Australia has rolled out its upgraded lounge menu, with award-winning Aussie chef Luke Mangan challenging Qantas consulting chef Neil Perry in a Masterchef-style contest for Australia's airline business lounges.
So what's new? It's not a total overhaul – many of the staples remain – but Mangan has added several items across the board and replaced some suppliers in an effort to boost quality.
The first day of the new menu saw party pies plated around to travellers at Sydney's lounge during lunchtime and single-serve pizzas as a 5pm snack, alongside the standard soups and deli-style selections of cold meats, greens, dips and dolmades.
Roast beef, smoked turkey and corned beef have joined ham and salami on the lunch menu for a DIY sandwich or platter, with cous cous and pesto pasta (below) added to the continental side of the counter.
For after dinner or any anytime snack, travellers can grab a wedge of camembert or peppercorn cheddar cheese (shown above), or a deliciously moist chocolate mini-muffin.
Virgin Australia is cheekily promoting The Lounge’s ‘all-day barista service’ as a shot against Qantas, whose business lounge barista service is restricted to 5am-11am weekdays, even though Virgin's barista has always been available around the clock.
What eagle-eyed coffee addicts will notice are delectable new cookies and new cups (no, we're not kidding about the cups) while a green, jasmine and pear tea joins the current selection of Madame Flavour gourmet teas.
Mangan's efforts are more noticeable in the new range of wines.
One the bubbly side is Seppelt Fleur de Lys Cuvee Chardonnay Pinot Noir and a Brut Les Petites Vignettes Burgundy Pinot Noir Chardonnay.
Straight whites include a crisp dry Lindeman's Early Harvest, Annie's Lane Riesling plus Chardonnays from Wynn's Coonawarra and Abel's Tempest.
If your taste leans to red there's a Bailey's Shiraz, Wynn's Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz and Hubert's The Stag Pinot Noir.
The fruit juices have been sourced from new suppliers and will be rotated each week, while the salt & vinegar chips have been ditched for a light-tasting natural and slightly-salted popcorn.
Australian Business Traveller has been told that Mangan’s lounge menu will change every month, and will also be rotated through each lounge so that travellers flying between Sydney and Melbourne for example won’t see the same meals at both ends of the journey.
This will include the rotation of soups between mornings and evenings – for example, Sydney may have tomato soup at breakfast and pumpkin soup in the evening, while Melbourne would have the serving order reversed.
If you're passing through a Virgin Australia lounge over the next few days, share your thoughts on the new menu in the comments box below.