Qantas First Class Lounge (Sydney)
I arrive nice and early to catch my flight for my around the world adventure. I will be flying to Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Lisbon, Madeira, Paris and London. In excess of 36,000 miles around the globe. It’s pretty exciting!
My journey begins on a wet and rainy (and might I add cold) Sydney winter morning as I head to the airport to check-in. Sydney Airport’s Express Lane through Immigration and Security is closed making for long queues but I manage to weave my way through the crowds and find myself in the lounge nice and early.
I tuck into a delightful Eggs Royale and pair it with a flat white to awaken my senses and a glass of champagne to suitably dull my senses ahead of the long flight.
I had a lovely spa treatment (The Sydney Signature Treatment) before boarding. It entailed a beautiful foot massage with a clay mask on the back and a short back massage.
After that I felt all refreshed and boarding commenced for the flight.
I am seated in Suite 1A in First Class today. Qantas’ A380 First Class cabin is laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration. The cabin is located on the lower deck of the aircraft where there are 14 suites in the cabin.
The open suites are spacious with sufficient storage areas next to the window in the wooden compartment. The suites have a theme of light / neutral tones with beige upholstery, wood grained surfaces and crème leather bands above the seat and on the arm-rest. Each suite is encased in a light cream shell which encloses the seat. The overall structure of the suite provides sufficient privacy notwithstanding that fact it’s an open suite. Seat 1A does provide the most privacy of all the suites and you certainly do feel alone in the sky. The seat has an ottoman against the window for a guest to share during dinner.
The seat is quite flexible and there is a mini seat controller on the side which can adjust the seat to any angle and recline. This is unlike other First Class Suites such as Etihad and the Old Singapore Suites where it’s either a bed or a fully upright seat. You can actually lounge in this seat. As a note during take-off and landing, the seat faces forward and away from the window and the IFE screen, but for the majority of the flight (dining, watching movies and cloud gazing) the seat angles away from the aisle with a swivel such that you face the window.
The selection on the inflight entertainment selection was extensive but the issue is I have traveled a fair bit in the last 3-4 months, so I have pretty much seen most of the content. The music selection is also pretty extensive if that’s your thing. I do prefer TV dramas (like CSI, NCIS etc.) and wish there would be more of these added to the mix. I ended up watching La La Land again and listened to a few of my favourite tunes at the end of the flight.
The screen appears to be smaller in size relative to some of the other carriers I’ve flown with and the controller is not as responsive as some of the other carriers. I note Japan airlines, Cathay and Qatar have full LCD control pads and I could even watch my movie in the Etihad control pad.
The Tasting Menu
I opt for the tasting menu and the canapes were served on arrival onto the aircraft.
The canapes today are the Caviar Tartlet with Cauliflower Puree and Ocean Trout Tataki with Soy Jalapeno and Cucumber. The caviar tartlet was crumbly in the mouth, with the burst of the caviar salinity and the smoothness of the puree. The Ocean trout tataki has a bite of the jalapeno, the salinity touch of soy and the refreshing cucumber which melded nicely to the strong flavours of the trout.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc (2007) Champagne
Of all the First Class champagnes this would have to be my second favourite. It is only superseded by JAL’s offering of Salon on all flights ex-Japan. It’s a beautiful Blanc de Blanc champagne. It’s a nervous moment when they reveal the champagne for the flight; I have been previously saddled with the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill and Veuve Cliquot Grand Dame and definitely prefer the Comtes.
There is expressive citrus, hints of brioche and mild notes of mint on the nose. A beautiful flourish of white peaches, minerality – a wonderful tapestry of lushness, freshness and sensual purity. It’s a dream; the reason it’s such a favourite. It’s got a little hint of floral notes and lemony mint sparkle in the finish – a truly wonderful experience.
Roast Pumpkin Soup with Garlic and Thyme Croutons and Herbed Crème Fraiche
The soup is pretty decent; a lovely texture and and creaminess flow on the tongue. I am not sure if I’m the only one; but my favourite part of any soup course is the crunchy croutons. It was a simple elegance of style to start the menu.
Flametree SRS Walcliffee Chardonnay (2016), Margaret River, Western Australia.
There is the beautiful aromas of citrus and pears which allure the senses. On the palate there is a touch of pears, honeydew an gentle notes of hazelnuts with a rich buttery and vanilla finish. It’s a decent wine to pair with the soup.
Fraser Isle Spanner Crab with Celeriac, Green Peas, Brown Butter Dressing and Hazelnut
Qantas do a seasonal special on flights ex-Australia and today it was the spanner crab. Thankfully it was also on the tasting menu, so I didn’t have to choose between the two.
The spanner crab is an amazing dish and probably one of my favourites on the Qantas menu. This dish it’s all about the crab; the spanner crab unlike most of its other brethren swims forward (it doesn’t crawl sideways), they reside in very pristine waters of Fraser Isle and actually have a diet, more akin to a culinary aficionado, of scallops, prawns and other tiny crustaceans…. On second thoughts, I envy their diet. This combination results in beautiful succulent and flaky meat. I attended a function by Qantas many years ago where the owner of the company which supplies the crab to Qantas described the difficulties in catching these beautiful specimens and that fisherman have lost their lives in the pursuit of this exclusive crustaceans.
The succulent crab meat (more akin to lobster or a Moreton bay bug) is sweet and rich in flavour and stands on its own. There is a smokiness from the brown butter dressing and a nice textural contrast offered by the peas and the crunchy hazelnuts. A very nice well-rounded dish which doesn’t need much culinary flair given the standard of the produce. This was also recommended to be paired with the chardonnay, but I actually sipped on the champagne which was a more appropriate pairing.
Rockpool Bar & Grill Style Cape Grim Beef Fillet with Potato and Cabbage Gratin and Broccolini
Cape Grim is on the north-western tip of Tasmania. For those of you who follow me from overseas, Tasmania is an island off the south-eastern coast of Australia. Given its isolation, this part of the country (with the absence of large buildings and pollutants) has the world’s purest air and rain which is ideal for pasture and grazing all year round. It rains for around half the year to ensure the pastures are continually nourished. The superior quality of pasture and the cow’s ability to graze almost all year round is critical to the quality of the beef. The beef is aged appropriately to ensure maximum flavour.
The beef is cooked well, a bit more medium than the medium rare I asked for, but nonetheless it’s good. The nice smokiness of the charring and the centre is moist. The rich flavour and beautiful texture make for a very nice dining experience. This beef fillet here is probably second only to the the steak I had on Etihad First (Abu Dhabi to New York). The gratin, which is “baked in dish” is the epitome of comfort food, with its rustic rich creaminess and tangy seasoning and I do love the lush fresh broccolini.
There were wine pairing options and I did opt for both; Cape Mentelle, Cabernet Sauvignon (2014), Margaret River, Western Australia and Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier (2016), Canberra District, NSW.
I know the Clonakilla is highly acclaimed but it was a bit too young, it had a hit of spice which just rubbed me the wrong way.
I opted to focus my attention on the Cape Mentelle; fitting given my West Australian heritage. There were beautiful cherry, vanilla and berry aromas which proved quite alluring. On the palate a harmonious tapestry of dark berries and cassis dominate with delicate touches of smoke, pepper, herbs and cedar which begin to appear – as the bottle continues to flow over the afternoon you can even taste a hint of menthol appearing. Beautiful fine tannins do work nicely with beef and gratin.
It was such an experience to enjoy a wonderful dish and to enjoy the view of the clouds as the plane made its way across the Pacific Ocean.
Spice Template Inspired Caramel, Chocolate and Sesame Ice Cream Sandwich
The tasting menu did dictate the chocolate mousse but I had a good discussion with the flight attendants on the range of desserts and settled on the ice cream sandwich. There’s a mix of sweet crisp caramel and chocolate coating and the delightfully mellow ice cream which hits the spot. It’s not a stylish dessert but it did the trick.
Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny
I pair it with the Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny. On the nose you definitely can sense the smoked raisins and walnuts which is quite a sensation. On the palate its less intense than I thought (or previously remembered). It’s like a liquid fruit cake with a touch of spice and aniseed. Much better than the dessert wine and I think it went better with the ice cream in any event.
I love the new bedding on Qantas. The mattress pad is super thick and soft and the linen (provided by partner Sheridan) is luxe and the pillows (mix of whites and creams) are definitely a winner! The duvet cover has a lovely cream colour which is different to the dark navy on the prior version. Overall the bedding matches the tones of the broader cabin very well. I have a glass of the Cape Mentelle and drift off to sleep in the clouds as the sunset approaches.
The PJs and Amenity Kit
Qantas supplies PJs and an Amenity Kit in First Class. I have mixed views on the PJs and Amenity Kit. I do love these Martin Grant designed PJs they have grown me since my last Qantas flight. The Navy and black is stylish and has its charm. It is very comfortable too! The first-class amenity kit is not quite at the standard of the leather pouches from Etihad, Emirates or Singapore Airlines… its essentially a pencil case.
However, the contents are pretty useful; there is a a collection of products from Aurora Spa Rituals (ASPAR); a hand cream, lip cream, facial mist (which is my absolutely fave) and face moisturiser along with a Rexona deodorant, some decent socks, earplugs (probably not needed given the noise cancelling headphones) and a dental kit. There is also a new addition; a padded eye mask which may be useful to some passengers.
I awake as we approach into LAX and sit up on the bed and gaze at the pitch black skies awaiting for the sunrise. The crew commence the breakfast service and I am torn between my desires for the pancakes on the menu and the need to have a lil’ detox. I yield to my health consciousness and opt for the healthier breakfast.
Poached Eggs with Pearl Barley Kale and Spinach Salad tossed nuts and seeds and pomegranate and yoghurt dressing.
These are one of the better eggs I’ve had onboard and if my memory serves me right, it’s the first time I’ve had poached eggs in the sky. The beautiful runny yolk bursts out of the egg white capsule and coats the barley, kale and spinach with its rich gooey goodness. The nuts and seeds provide some nice textural touch and the pomegranate adds a little sweetness.
Botanica Cold Pressed Green Juice with Kale Silverbeet, celery apple a cucumber and Lemon.
I pair the breakfast with a lovely glass of green juice which proves refreshing. Oh and I just couldn’t resist another glass of champagne before landing. It’s got fruit in it so it’s like a liquid fruit salad… well kinda!
I definitely enjoyed this flight and for me that’s a sign of an amazing experience – how do you feel when you’ve landed. The service was very attentive and always on the ball. I didn’t have to ask twice for anything. The crew can make all the difference and on this flight, they were especially friendly and nothing was missed. The bed was comfortable and I got a good night’s sleep. The mattress and blanket were one of the better ones in the sky and I especially loved the pillow and the cabin temperature was also spot on (in some airlines it can be like an oven). The suite is showing its age, but on balance if I had to choose an open suite, this is spacious, comfortable, offering decent privacy and a very flexible seat which can be a bed, chair or semi-recline lounge.
The centrepiece of Qantas approach to dining is there is less culinary flair compared to other airline’s First Class dishes, but the produce is carefully sourced and can stand on its own with little culinary effort. This is particularly the case with the Cape Grim Beef and Spanner Crab. That’s not to stay I don’t prefer good plating and culinary art but you can’t go wrong with decent produce.
I have mixed views on the wine list; I’ll take the Comtes over Dom Perignon and most other First champagnes out there (even Cristal) but I would like to see some international wines creep onto the list. Some of the wines on the list are too young and basic. A few more aged wines would be preferable. I also think they shouldn’t be using the David Caon glasses in First, as the long-stemmed glasses are the way to go.
This flight (QF11) technically goes through to New York, however just to clarify; the QF11 Sydney to Los Angeles is an Airbus A380 flight. The Los Angeles to New York (JFK) leg is also a QF11 flight but is on a different aircraft (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) which ironically is the aircraft which flies from Brisbane to Los Angeles. The transit is not easy; you land in LAX and have to clear Immigration and Customs, collect your bags and transfer them and then clear security before catching the flight to New York.
Even with automated passport gates and express security passes it is a nightmare. The queues are long, you still have to meet with a CBP officer (unlike the automated gates in Australia and the UK) and priority bags don’t seem to work (my bag was almost the last one out). I only had 15 minutes in the Qantas First Lounge in LAX and grabbed a double shot flat white (which I definitely needed it) before racing on board the flight to New York.
Los Angeles to New York
I won’t go into a detailed review of the flight from LAX to JFK as it was a relatively short flight and I was tired from the inbound flight so spend most the time relaxing.
I recommend trying to stay awake for this flight (as your body adjusts better to the jetlag) and the flight is over the US countryside and with the Dreamliner’s extra-large windows it makes for great viewing.
I had a lovely poached chicken salad with a tangy harissa dressing for lunch. The classic scene from the Titanic caught my attention, as Leo & Kate enjoy a sunset rendezvous on the bow of the ship – for life is often best lived with a splash of frivolity.
At the end of the flight I was invited to view the cockpit of the Dreamliner – a very special moment! Thanks to one of the flight attendants who has her own Instagram travel blog (you should definitely check it out @creative_oceans). It was a wonderful experience and actually shows one my favourite things about Qantas; the staff can be amazingly friendly and go the extra distance to make the flight that much more special.
It’s a little hard to show the full extent of the suite, the bed and the lovely dining in pictures due to how large they are, so I’ve compiled a little video diary of some of the highlights of the flight. Hope you enjoy it.