A unique feature of the British Airways Airbus A380 service in First Class was the presence of a set five-course tasting menu. Restaurants that feature in the Michelin Guide will often have a tasting menu as an option so you can get a good feel for the cuisine on offer, and that high end feel is probably what was behind the concept on BA.
Disappointingly, British Airways has withdrawn the tasting menu in First Class as of 1 June 2016. As with any removal of a service item there was no press release trumpeting this, so I can only speculate on the reason behind it – my guess is that it just wasn’t that popular.
Happily I got to experience the tasting menu in late January on a flight from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow. In light of its untimely demise, I’ll share the experience with you here.
The British Airways First Class menu has a lovely posh looking cover compared to the other classes and inside there is an entire page devoted to the tasting menu.
You can see that there is a wine pairing with each course apart from the soup. In the spirit of doing things properly, I also opted to have the wine pairings as suggested in the menu. My table was laid out and I was excited about what was to come.
First off was an amuse bouche, which was slices of mango and goats cheese. I was virtually finished it when I remembered I hadn’t taken a photo. A rookie mistake!
I had eaten a substantial meal in the lounge pre-flight, so I left the last piece of cheese to save space for what was to come. I’m obviously not very good at leaving food! The dish was whisked away efficiently and along came the first tasting menu course, Char Siu Duck with Cucumber and Spring Onion Salsa.
The crew member serving me said she would fill my wine glasses only half way each time which was fine with me since I would be having so many different wines in such a short space of time. The dish looked great, I have to say.
The combination of colours made it look very appealing. I’m not a great fan of duck and wouldn’t usually choose it from a menu. Despite this, the meat combined with the cucumber and spring onion salsa was quite pleasing to the taste and the wine was very good too. It didn’t take me long to devour this!
Seemingly seconds after finishing, my dish was removed and shortly after came the second course – Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coriander Cream. When it arrived, it looked very lonely on the table.
It really was a thimble of soup and I was quite glad I wasn’t given a large soup spoon to eat it with. Logistically, that would have been a nightmare!
The soup tasted superb! I would have liked to have had an entire bowl, not necessarily a big bowl, but bigger than what I received. I didn’t think to ask for another one either. Once I was done with my sips of soup, it was time for the next course and it arrived without delay.
Sauteed Lobster Tail with a light spiced Beurre Blanc, Coriander Tagliatelle and Glazed Mango sounded pretty good, but what on earth is ‘Beurre Blanc’? I certainly didn’t know and I wasn’t about to ask either. Wikipedia is everyone’s friend of course and this literally means ‘White Butter’ and is a “hot emulsified butter sauce”. One to remember!
This dish was easily the stand out dish of the meal. I was frankly astonished at the texture, the taste and the way the flavours just burst over my tongue with utter deliciousness. It was so good that when my plate was being collected, I recommended to the crew member that she absolutely must try it as I thought it was divine! 5 stars all the way!
Moments after this, the next plate arrived.
This was Braised Pork Belly with Kale, Salsa Verde and Plum Jus. Looking at the dish, it appears that the Salsa Verde and Plum Jus are missing.
I didn’t pick that up at the time as I automatically assumed I was being given what was on the menu. Despite this, the Pork Belly was quite nice, crunchy where it was supposed to be and tender where it was supposed to be. It was deliciously moist and not at all dry. The Kale complimented it quite well and more importantly the wine pairing was very good!
Once again my dish was cleared milliseconds after I had finished. Perhaps it was the short flight duration, but my vision of a leisurely tasting meal wasn’t happening as my dishes were being cleared and replaced with military precision. I had barely time to breathe between courses. Luckily it was time for the finale!
Caramelised Pear and White Chocolate Mousse with a lovely French dessert wine which I quite liked.
It was a pretty little dish and a tasty end to my tasting menu experience.
The whole concept of having a multiple course meal high above the clouds really gives a very premium feel to things – I loved it. Not having experienced a tasting menu before, I thought this was a great introduction to such a thing. The flavours of each course popped and the variety of the items was well thought out.
The negative point is that you can’t really watch a movie or do anything else as you’re constantly being interrupted by the crew removing your old plate and bringing the next course. Obviously the point of the menu is to taste the food and not be doing other things, but for a person traveling alone it is a slightly lonely experience. I would have loved to have had someone sitting across from me in the buddy seat experiencing it at the same time.
I’m definitely going to miss this when I fly British Airways First Class again.