I leave the comfort of the American Airlines Flagship Lounge and head to the boarding gate for the long flight to Hong Kong. I am flying with Cathay Pacific and this is my first long-haul flight with them (I have previously traveled from Hong Kong to Tokyo with them – you can check out that review here).
I settle into the beautiful suite, which has a large (over-sized) chair with an ottoman and an expansive three windows to view the journey. The suite is open (not enclosed) and has beautiful wood grained finishes, the upholstery is a beautiful light beige and the interior of the suite is padded with soft leather. A large dining table is stored to the left of you near the window. You can easily adjust your seat with the touchscreen controller and you can even enjoy massages from the seat.
The suite has remote controls for lighting and the in-flight entertainment in the side with a storage section beside for your essentials (passports etc.) during the journey.
There is a large 17-inch TV screen which is stored in the side of the Suite. Next to the TV screen (to the right) is a mini closet for storage of suits and shirts while you’re in your pyjamas during the flight. The TV screen detaches and moves directly in-front of you when you decide to view the in-flight entertainment. We are also provided with BOSE noise-cancellation headphones for the journey.
Today the champagne served on-board is Krug Grand Cuvee.
The Krug is zesty with good structure and mouthwatering acidity. The flavours of citrus fruits dominate on the palate with notes of apples, nuts, a little honey and brioche with some bite of sweet spice in the finish. It’s a refreshing way to start the flight.
Soon we have lift off and views of the US east coast are so beautiful as we jet away to Hong Kong. The route to Hong Kong flies North of the USA over the arctic and then down through Russia, China and then into Hong Kong.
Caviar and Champagne
The first course is caviar served with traditional garnishes of blinis, chive creme fraiche and chopped egg paired with the Krug Grand Cuvee.
Cathay Pacific source their caviar from Calvisius. They use Calvisius Venise which is a Siberian caviar from Calvisano, a town in the province of Brescia, Italy. The area is rich in spring water and the purity of the water creates an excellent ecosystem for the sturgeon which provides the caviar. It takes approximately seven years for the sturgeon to reach maturity for harvesting and they are given the best of care throughout.
The caviar has a dusky color which when placed under the light has a beautiful “hidden” translucent glow. The texture is delicate and jelly-like with a light moisture but not too slimy. There is a beautiful minerality to it which is quite indescribable. The caviar is Malassol (which means it has ~3% salt), so there isn’t the deep salinity in flavour found in most other caviars.
The egg, cream and blinis allow for a nice companionship with the caviar but do not overpower of interfere with the main object of the dish. The champagne has the perfect tart sweetness and acidity to pair with the richness of the caviar. There is sensual transcendence to the whole taste experience.
The soup today is a Truffle Potato Leek Soup
The soup reflects the truffle with deep rich earthy flavours balanced by the creamy potato. The leek is a nice textural contrast in the soup. It’s a simple dish which is executed quite well.
Maine Lobster, Mesclun Salad, Sieved Eggs, Capers and Lemon Oil Vinaigrette
The dish is really about the lobster. The lobster has its natural flavour intact with a rich natural salinity and texture – a sign it hasn’t been overcooked. It is a difficult dish to execute on-board.
The lemon and acidity in the dressing cuts through the richness of the lobster and the capers provide a streaky tartness while the Mesclun salad is chilled with a nice crunchy texture.
I love the triangulation; the richness of the lobster, the acidity in the dressing and the of the Krug combine to deliver a lovely taste experience.
Seared US Beef Fillet, Prawn and Cheddar Cheese Gnocchi and Seared Asparagus
The dish is beautifully prepared. The beef is succulent and juicy and to be honest compares to a good restaurant. It has a rich buttery flavour and has been flawlessly executed. Every mouthful offers the beautiful charred outer part of the beef with the rich juices of the rare centre. A true taste sensation.
The gnocchi the super soft and has the rich creaminess of the cheddar flowing through it. The gnocchi’s sweet starchiness balances the salinity of the beef nicely. The crunch of the seared asparagus is a welcome textural contrast. There is a mini gratin of sorts shaped as a bowl with a beautiful prawn on top. The prawn is nicely done and not over cooked with a light spice / pepper flavour. It adds a bit of surf and turf vibe and makes for the aesthetics of the dish.
This is probably one of my favourite airline dishes, it fires on all cylinders, presentation, textures, flavours, little contrasts and a touch of style.
Chateau Lynch Bages, Grand Cru Classe, (2004), Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
The Chateau Lynch Bages is the ideal wine to pair with the beef. It has strong cassis and cherry aromas. On the palate the blackcurrant fruit is there but has made way for the tobacco, vanilla, dark chocolate notes which have emerged over time. The wine has a little spice in the finish and there the wonderfully smooth tannins which are perfect for the beef. The age (c. 13 years) has helped it develop and I must say it punches well above its weight.
As the afternoon drags on I feel like I need a nap to adjust to the time zone and plus I am quite tired. I ask the crew to make the bed and it is super comfy. The seat transforms into a wide fully flat bed, A large thick comfy mattress is placed under and a 500-thread-count (so I am told) cotton duvet is placed on top (I didn’t personally count the number of threads, so I’ll take their word for it). The pillow is a dream and I drift off to sleep soon after the bed is made.
Pyjamas from PYE Hong Kong (as shown above) are 100% cotton, the pyjama top is buttoned all the way through like a shirt and the pants have deep pockets. There are matching slippers and eye mask. They are super comfy and a good match in terms of colour to the amenity kit.
Cathay provides Aesop branded pouches are gifted to passengers in first class. Inside you can find an Aesop hand cream and lip cream along with a dental kit, earplugs, a wooden comb, and moisturising cream, lip cream (most useful product on any flight) and a sleep mask. Note the bag below the amenity bag is the case for the pyjamas.
I have to say, I love the bag, it’s compact and useful. However having tried the amenities on Qatar and JAL; I think Aesop products are probably not quite there for a First Class product. Those airlines provide a larger selection of branded amenities compared to the two Aesop products provided by Cathay.
Little basket of snacks are brought out to tide you through the sleep if you get peckish.
Coffee, Wine & Reflections
When I wake we are jetting through Greenland and the Arctic as the plane takes the polar route through to Hong Kong. The view from above is stunning and here I am with my two vices – wine and coffee; awake and immersed in the views below.
Looking out the window of plane evokes certain emotions in me…. The beauty of the Greenland and the Arctic is in stark contrast to North Korea and the conflicts in the Middle East. The world has such a capacity for immense beauty and incomprehensible pain at the same time. The fact that we are in a large metal object hurtling through the skies (at a rate of knots) over the most beautiful oceans, clouds, ice-caps and land formations is something that makes you feel lost, alone and vulnerable.
Like my flight from Sydney to Dallas on Qantas (you can check out that review here), I am reminded of another quote from Carl Sagan;
“You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”
It’s so true, as I think these thoughts, the beautiful flight attendant comes along to chat to me. Our connection to others makes the feeling of emptiness disappear as we are lost in conversation. The service on this flight is wonderful; even as a seasoned traveler I can learn so much from the crew on their favourite places to visit, insider recommendations and even what to expect on my next Cathay flight.
Before landing, dinner is served. The dinner menu is somewhat less extensive than the lunch menu. The timing is a little early given the landing time for the flight into Hong Kong. I do debate whether I have something on-board or dine in the lounge.
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
A bowl of fresh fruit is brought out as fixed entree for the dinner service.
The bowl is refreshing and healthy with a range of tropical fruits and berries. I was more focused on the fruit concoction in my glass however; as I continue with the Chateau Lynch Bages for dinner.
For the main course there is a choice. I opt for the Stir-fried Beef, Chive Flower and Oyster Sauce with stir fried Choy Sum and steamed Jasmine Rice
The beef is rich and fatty with the deep salinity and flavour of the oyster sauce intertwined. The choy sum and mushrooms are good accompaniments to the beef with crunch and earth flavours. Like all stir-fry dishes, the salt (from the various sauces) in the dish tends to be quite strong and the natural flavours of the beef do get a little lost in the mix.
Don’t get me wrong; it is definitely a very good stir fry, the beef was tasty, however the beef fillet Cathay served for lunch was a stand-out and this didn’t quite compare.
Wolf Blass Estates of Barossa; St John’s Barossa Shiraz, 2012
Cathay Pacific is having a special wine promotion with a sample of Australian wines in addition to the main wine list. The Flight Attendant recommends I switch to the St John’s Barossa Shiraz. I reluctantly agree given my love of the Chateau Lynch Bages, but I agree, nothing ventured nothing gained.
The wine is lovely; the wine has beautiful aromas of dark berries mixed with hints of mocha. It’s rich and dense with a nice velvety texture with lovely dense dark fruit flavours and earthy notes rounded off with ripe tannins. It’s nice but isn’t quite the Chateau Lynch Bages, so after a glass I switch back and pair the stir fry with the Bordeaux.
I settle into watching Mad Men – I love that show! I love the style and charm of the 1960s. Some days I wish I was an advertising executive.
Soon after dinner the captain lets us know we are about to land in Hong Kong. I compiled a little video of the flight with a few choice moments including the landing. It is such a beautiful city to land into and the sunset made it extra special. I hope you enjoy the clips.
The background tune I have used is “Wake Me Up” by Avicii – I don’t own the rights to the song.
The service on Cathay is quite flawless. It is difficult to spot a moment where something was left out, wasn’t attended to or simply forgotten. The cabin crew were very engaging and obliged every request throughout the flight.
The standard of dining is quite something; a caviar course, Maine Lobster, US Beef Fillet at the standard which one would expect in a decent restaurant. The wine list was very extensive and very thoughtful given most in-flight wine lists rarely offer wines more than five years of age. I am a blanc de blanc man and I do prefer Salon or Taittinger de Comtes to Krug; however that is just personal preference.
In terms of the rest of the product; the amenity kits (and to be honest this is an issue across most airlines) don’t quite hit the mark. However that’s probably the only real drawback. The in-flight entertainment selection was broad to suit most tastes, the PJs were super comfortable and well designed and I have to say the seat and bed were probably the widest of all the first class cabins I have been in.
A very solid First Class service and product from Cathay, making a very long journey extremely enjoyable.