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Qantas has some big plans for its domestic and international lounge network, including an all-new first class lounge in Singapore, a refurbished business class lounge in Sydney and plenty of other revamps in a pipeline which will end with 85% of the airline’s existing lounges either newly-built, refurbished or refreshed over the past five years alone.
Australian Business Traveller sat down with Neil Perry, Qantas’ Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service at the unveiling of Melbourne’s revitalised Qantas Business Lounge this month to find out more about what travellers can expect on the dining front in some of the Roo’s future lounges.
First things First: Qantas’s new Singapore lounge
Set to open by the end of 2019, the upcoming Qantas First Lounge at Changi Airport will feature à la carte dining as in the airline’s flagship Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles lounges, but planning for the opening is a little more involved than creating a menu alone.
“We're working with David Caon on this: he's looking at the design, and we're looking at how the food style should influence that, but also how the design should influence the food style,” Perry shares.
The Singapore First Lounge will also adopt a food theme, in the same way that Melbourne’s new Qantas Business Lounge now features a Spice Bar, although with plenty of time until the opening date, Singapore’s new theme is still being decided.
“It’s super exciting to have a full kitchen at our disposal when we're designing a (lounge) menu,” Perry continues. “It just gives us an opportunity to take all the great work that's being done in the current Qantas Singapore Lounge, but dial it up to another level.”
Whatever the menu, however, there’s one item Neil and his team wouldn’t dare omit from the Singapore first class lounge: the salt and pepper squid, a favourite of many frequent flyers in Qantas’ other first class lounges and the invitation-only Chairman’s Lounges.
“We will be doing that!” he affirms strongly.
Dining in Qantas’ Singapore business class lounge
With the opening of the separate first class space in Singapore, Qantas’ existing all-purpose lounge at Changi will become a ‘business class’ facility, but Perry is quick to share that there won’t be a reduction in the dining amenities offered here when the first class lounge opens.
“The business class lounge will continue as-is,” and with top-level travellers moving over to the new Qantas First Lounge and the existing business class lounge also gaining more seats, “it’ll give everyone more space, which they need because of our throughput.”
With Qantas currently turning many passengers away from its Singapore lounge due to capacity issues, Perry explains that today’s lounge “was never designed to have two or three A380s arrive at once.”
“Linda and her team, and the people in the kitchen all do an amazing job of juggling everybody and somehow finding as much space as they possibly can, so they’ll really appreciate the new First Lounge, as will the passengers.”
Sydney’s new international business class lounge
With a revamped Qantas business class lounge at Sydney’s international terminal also due to open by the end of 2019, passengers here will gain a signature dining experience as previously announced, which Perry explains will be a little different to Brisbane’s international lounge further north.
“We'll mirror more along the lines of what we're doing in Singapore and Hong Kong, so there will be a couple of dishes of the day,” rather than directly replicating Brisbane’s ‘breakfast hatch’, which closes after the morning meal.
“We want to take Sydney away from being just the ‘buffet business class lounge’ of the past, because if you look at that lounge today, it's one of our older business styles, so when the new one hits, I think everybody will really like it.”
Signature cocktails will also be added to the menu, hinting there'll also be a full-service bar.
Melbourne’s newly-revealed Domestic Business Lounge
Finally, after much anticipation, refurbishment works at Qantas’ Domestic Business Lounge in Melbourne have been completed, with travellers now treated to an Asian Spice Bar offering a variety of meals prepared fresh to order from a rotating menu, in a nod to Perry’s Melbourne Spice Temple restaurant.
AusBT review: Qantas domestic business class lounge, Melbourne Airport
“The fried rice is inspired by the one that we do at Spice Temple, as are the stir-fried noodles, and the vegetarian wontons,” which regulars to the restaurant may have tried before – at least in variation.
“We can also do different dumplings, so we’ve got the flexibility to continually change and dial up more of the Spice Temple dishes, and we already provide a lot of those in-flight, too,” Perry adds.
But with Melbourne having many similarities with European culture and dining – it’s Australia’s coffee capital for a start, and the home base of Perry’s Rosetta Ristorante – we asked what nudged spice ahead of stracciatella.
“Well, we’re in a city with a really great tradition of Chinese and other Asian food, obviously as well as the great Greek and Italian and Mediterranean. We just felt from what we'd done that something unique, different, and Asian-based would be really appreciated.”
“But we're not pushing people into ‘Spice Temple only’ dining – on the other side of the buffet, you can still get Western food,” Perry assures. “We're also not forcing Asian breakfast on people: we’re doing a fairly traditional Western breakfast.”
“That said, I'd love to see congee and soup and stuff there in time, and if Melbourne cries out for it, we can move in that direction.”
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Qantas.