It has been YEARS since we’ve flown anywhere. Talk about pathetic, right? Our last flights included a honeymoon to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a volunteer/intern trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. Of course being the young and broke 20-somethings we were we flew coach. And, needless to say the food was less than desirable. Most surprisingly there’s a reason for the food tasting less than stellar (other than the fact that it really just might be gross).
At a private VIP 5-course tasting during Taste of DC with British Airways and Michelin Star award winning Chef, Simon Hulstone (a consultant for British Airways) – of The Elephant restaurant in Torquay, Hulstone explained that when flying people actually lose about 30% of their ability to taste. To compensate for this, airlines often douse their food in salt, or strong spices to make up for the lack of overall flavor. Yuck.
By working with top chefs – Simon Hulstone included, suppliers, nutritionists, and molecular gastronomists British Airways has developed what is called “Height Cuisine” – food that has specifically been designed and tested to provide the fullest flavors when consumed at a high altitude (30,000 feet). In addition to their food research, British Airways has also researched the finest wines that compliment the dishes served on board. Don’t be surprised though if what you end up drinking in the air is not a typical wine you would buy at home or a restaurant. To ensure the best flavors possible, British Airways first tests the food on the ground and ranks it from 1 to 10. Then they hop in a plane to test and rate the food at altitude making any adjustments necessary to ensure their passengers will have the best culinary experience possible.
Umami, otherwise know as “the fifth taste” (a separate flavor from salty, sweet, bitter, and sour – corresponding to the flavor of glutamates) tends to be what diners crave at high altitudes. People who otherwise may not be so inclined are more likely to drink bloody mary’s (or even just tomato) juice while flying. Hultone’s tasting menu gave us a better idea of exactly how one creates dishes for those flying by walking us through his preparations and showing us which ingredients are incorporated because of their umami flavor. Beef, mussels, seaweed, parmesan, cabbage, tomatoes, goat cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and chocolate are all encompassed by the umami taste, and are few examples of what one will find on British Airways’ menus.
First class dining flyers (or would that be flying diners?) traveling from from DC to London now have options with British Airways’ new flexible dinner service. Customers now have the option of choosing from the a la carte menu which boasts exquisite dishes made from best local produce and presented on a formally dressed table, or (and this would be our choice) they can choose the five-course tasting menu option with wine recommendations to go with each course. British Airways also now offers a new champagne supper that includes a choice of three variations of champagne, an a la carte menu with lighter meals, and light bites including liquid chocolate from Hotel Chocolat.
One doesn’t need to fly first class to get a taste of delicious menu offerings. The Club World (business class) DC to London route menu includes Roasted Fillet of North Pacific Cod with grilled baby fennel and Provencale vegetable braise, Grilled Fillet of Beef with golden chanterelle mushrooms, Anna potatoes, spinach, and bordelaise sauce, Black truffle Risotto with sugar snap peas, and Roasted Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas with guacamole and cream for main courses. Guests of British Airways have the option to order a starter, main course, and dessert (or cheese service), along with the champagne supper offered after 10pm.
We understand that traveling First class or even business isn’t always economically feasible, especially with a family. World Traveler Plus (premium economy) and World Traveler (economy) aren’t left out. World Traveler Plus guests receive a pre-takeoff choice of sparkling wine or non-boozy drinks, warm bread, complimentary snacks during the flight, three-course meals with choice of entree and main course from the Club World menu, and complimentary bar service. Similarly World Traveler customers receive a three-course meal with choice of entree, complimentary bar service, and bar snacks.
Washington Dulles International Airport recently began flying British Airways’ new Airbus A380 aircraft between Dulles and London Heathrow; the first and only nonstop A380 service between two capitals. And British Airlines also unveiled its new and improved lounge for business and first class travelers departing from Dulles. Allowing guests to dine before flying (with a private dining room designated for First class customers), the new lounge encompasses 10,000 square feet of space able to accommodate 200 flyers while featuring intimate bar areas, complimentary wines and spirits, business facilities, fine dining, shower suites, and a private VIP area – perfect for those looking to relax or continue working while traveling.
Whether flying First Class (obviously this is the best choice) or economy, it’s apparent British Airways has thought of everything with their new airbus A380 from the “height-cuisine” outstanding dining options to on-demand seat-back entertainment with more than 1,600 hours of programming (130 movies & 650 tv shows) and an extensive audio collection, two larger decks, more comfortable seating, the quietest cabin noise, better fuel efficiency, larger storage bins, and cleaner air. Boarding is also made simpler with more check-in desks on A380 routes, lounge call times adjustments to enable customers to reach their gate on time, extra assistance in directing customers, and a new welcome team.
However once one lands in London, where does one eat? Simon Hulstone has recommended his Top 5 favorite places and favorite dishes at each for all you jetsetting “foodies” hitting the London culinary scene:
- 1. Fera by Simon Rogan at Claridges Hotel: “The Duck Heart and Pomme Puree dish is outstanding as well as [the] Rabbit Confit with lovage.”
- 2. MEATliquor: “Deep Fried Pickles and the Dirty Chicken Burger are favorites.”
- 3. Goodman in Mayfair: “Any steak with the truffle fries and bearnaise.”
- 4. Hibiscus in Mayfair: “Squid and Tripe ragout with pigs ear and parsley bread is a game changer.”
- 5. Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table: “Hotdogs and champagne out front. Amazing 10-course tasting menu out back.”
With all of the upgrades and inclusions, we’re beginning to think flying doesn’t have to suck. (We’d seriously travel by car anywhere than fly.) It might be time to put that vacation fund to good use, even if it’s only for the in-flight dining experience. But, who are we kidding with Hulstone’s list of favorites we’d probably never stop eating on or off the plane.
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