The Qantas First Lounge menu goes five star for flavour

The food we enjoy away from home is a large portion of our travel experience. Be it fresh seafood on the Amalfi coast, a spicy som tam salad on a street in Bangkok or slow-cooked carnitas from a shack in Jalisco, Mexico; these are the culinary memories that last through a lifetime. 

It's an approach taken up in full by Qantas who recently unveiled their spring menu for their elite Qantas First Lounge. To say it's bursting with greens is a mild understatement.

"We start with what we know is great," said Alex Woolley, of Neil Perry's The Rockpool Group, who have been designing Qantas First Class menus for 22 years. "We work closely with Neil and the head chefs from his restaurants, which really informs where we want to go and what we want to do.

"We discuss what's good and take advice on any great suppliers they see through their restaurants – they see a lot and have people knocking on their door with great Australian produce. That's where we start our design.

"He also gives us clear direction on what's coming up in the next year, in our country or overseas, and what he thinks will suit what Qantas offers."

Abundance of flavour

While there are stalwart dishes on the First Lounge menu – like the salt and pepper squid or the club sandwich, either of which would cause riots were they ever to be removed – the new spring dishes display a concerted effort to capitalise on Australia's abundant fresh produce.

Seasonal greens – like asparagus, watercress, kale, snap peas, beans and peas – are so fresh they crack and pop in the mouth; while the sauces and marinades are so delicate they enhance flavours without dominating the palate.

Your day on a plate

If you're passing through around breakfast time, try a reimagining of the traditional breakfast bowl: warm kale and sorrel salad with poached egg, avocado, quinoa, sesame and linseed.

Later in the day, give the roasted field mushrooms with green lentils, shallots and sugar snap peas a shot if you seek a light alternative to heavier fare; the comforting flavour of the mushrooms allowed to shine above the simple taste of the peas and shallots.

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For those keen on a hit of protein, the slow-cooked beef brisket is not to be passed. So tender and buttery, you'll find it playfully paired with pickled daikon, shallots, sesame and ginger to create a fusion experience that challenges the traditional flavours of the humble burger.

Taste test

What will strike you about each meal across the spring menu is the keen balance of flavours and textures. From the crunch of a snow pea to the tenderness of the white miso ramen noodles, each ingredient plays its role in creating a memorable flavour experience.

"Textures are extremely important," said Woolley. "Contrast provides interest and sometimes flavour. If you're thinking [the texture's] all a bit the same or it's not that interesting, it won't deliver on flavour.

"So, we want to use contrasting textures to heighten your experience. Sometimes you want a singular experience if you have something very simple, but usually we consider texture at every part of our process – is it what we need, will it make a dish better?"

"We also look at how people from different cultures view these experiences of texture - what will our customers think, where are we serving it, what time of day? – it's all part of the consideration."

Just desserts

If you have room left after main course – that green chilli dipping sauce served with the salt and pepper squid may just see you ordering seconds and thirds - the seasonal offering extends into Qantas' traditional pavlova, with fresh figs playing the hero of the moment.

For something a little more adventurous, the pineapple and mango salad with coconut, ginger and chamomile sorbet is a blend of subtle flavours guaranteed to excite the tastebuds.

The writer flew to Sydney as a guest of Qantas.