Epicurean delights can be found in the most unusual places. After being loyal to Qantas until just before Alan Joyce grounded the fleet, I gave Virgin Business and their Lounge at Sydney airport a try. That was around 18 months ago and I was so impressed not only with the service afforded to me by the Lounge but also at the time, the Virgin Premium Economy offering, I switched brand loyalty and have not regretted it since.
Earlier in the year, Virgin Australia transformed its fleet and upgraded their aircraft to directly compete with Qantas Business Class. The "Premium Economy" offering was replaced with "Business Class" and I was one of the first adopters and have consistently been impressed even on the short-haul commuter flights between Melbourne and Sydney and vice-versa.
After flying Virgin flight DJ957 yesterday (10/12/12) from Sydney to Brisbane I thought it would be worth it to reflect on the food and beverage experience.
Normally I do my best to put a dent in the supply of "Fat Yak" that is found in bottles in the Lounge before boarding the plane. Business Class passengers are greeted enthusiastically at the forward entrance to the plane (and allowed to bypass the queue) where you are guaranteed space in the overhead compartment for your bags to rest. You are immediately offered a beverage whilst the passengers board and on this occasion I opted for some sparkling water which was served in a proper glass with a slice of lemon.
After departing on-time (which for me is a common occurrence on Virgin flights, compared to Qantas) the cabin supervisor, Hayley, introduced herself and advised me of the two Luke Mangan (Glass, Sydney; Salt, Singapore) designed and/or inspired food offerings. After the seat belt indicator was turned off, Hayley returned with a gin & tonic (beefeater gin with equal parts gin and tonic as she prepared it in front of me in a tall glass) and I decided on the Pumpkin and Feta salad. Normally I do not order food since I tend to have dining plans at the destination but on this particular occasion after flying from Melbourne to Sydney earlier and not eating all day, I was ravenous.
The meal that was presented was substantial when you consider the offerings typically found on aircraft. What has always impressed me is that you are provided polished and real utensils and enough to consume two light courses. The polished silverware is a nice touch.
The spinach base was fresh and chilled, as was the pumpkin. It was not too cold though. It was complemented by soft beans and very strong feta which was soft but not dry. All of the elements were rather fresh and worked well together. The bread that was provided was warm, but not hot but also soft. The butter was also formed and soft and easily mashed. Some care went into putting together this dish on the airline to achieve the various temperatures and it was obvious that the food was stored properly. A pastry was also provided (the second course) and was much colder than the salad, and was very tasty.
During service Hayley would return a few additional times to make sure that I was hydrated with a constant supply of Beefeater gin, which complemented the salad, which in turn with the bread and pastry would ultimately be able to tide me over until my dinner reservation at 9:00 PM.
Epicurean delights can take many forms and sometimes come in the most surprising places. It impressed me enough to write about it on this blog. If you get the change to fly Virgin Business Class, even if you can exchange frequent flier points for the Business Class option, it is really worth it as it also includes Virgin Lounge access, which is certainly a marked improvement on the Qantas Club, which incidentally I never renewed that membership when it expired a year ago.
Brisbane is never my destination of choice and I usually end up in Queensland by chance these days however on this trip, I remain grateful to Hayley and the crew of flight DJ957 yesterday for the great in-flight experience and making my first dining and drinking foray in the sky as I crossed into Queensland a great and seemingly memorable one.