Qantas introduces new winter menu for first, premium economy and business class

Qantas has launched its new winter menu for first and business class lounges and in-flight dining.

The menu relies on comfort foods popular with Aussies flying internationally, and changes each season to reflect produce availability.

Choosing which dishes make it on to the menu is a painstaking task, with Qantas chef Neil Perry and his team of seven Rockpool Consultants experimenting with about 1000 new recipes before coming up with the final menu.

The team may scour markets from around the world for inspiration, such as farmers' markets in Los Angeles, to the Borough Market in London, or Thailand's famous street food.

The chefs can work on more than 300 menus before making a final decision.

The recipes are developed and tested in controlled environments to ensure they can be translated into the catering centres around the world as well as on board the plane.

There's 44 weeks of planning and preparation involved before a menu is finally implemented.

Classic dishes remain on the menu, otherwise passengers will complain, so items such as salt and pepper squid with piquant green chilli sauce, the steak sandwich in first class, and the signature 'cotton candy' pavlova served with fresh seasonal fruits – such as berries and delicious fresh figs or mango in the summer – continue to be the most popular items.

Qantas even makes its own honey, light in texture and flavoursome, which is served in a specialty cocktail, Honey Bee Home Soon, made with Chivas, lemon juice, Angostura bitters and orange rind.

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The honey also accompanies breakfast dishes such as buttermilk pancakes with fresh ricotta. One hive only produces enough honey for 10 days so two companies have been employed to manage its production from the Qantas base in Mascot, Sydney.

Roger Barstow, from Rockpool Consulting, said the biggest lesson he has learnt is "you cannot please all of the people, all of the time".

They tend to avoid food trends and stick with comfort foods that are popular with the passengers, especially during the cooler months.

In first class, steak sandwiches are served 20,000 times during the course of a year, but only four might make their way onto one flight. In business and premium economy, it's the chicken schnitzel and swiss cheese toasted sandwiches with coleslaw that gets dished up 20,000 times every year.

You'll find signature dishes from Rockpool restaurants, such as the prawn oil pasta with crab meat and roasted cherry tomatoes and the "Food I Love" fish tagine.

In the lounge, dishes can afford to be more flamboyant.

However, timing is key. Some guests may only have 10 minutes to eat a meal so some of the items, such as the salt and pepper squid, take just a few minutes to prepare.

In first class, guests can enjoy a seven-course tasting menu or dine a la carte. A seasonal dish is introduced every four to six weeks, and those of you flying this month will be treated to seared moreton bay bugs with roasted jerusalem artichokes, grilled shallots, brown butter, thyme and lemon dressing.

In business, guests are offered a menu of large and small plates, allowing them to mix and match, an alternative to the traditional three-course meal.

Some of the new dishes include an "Italianesque" lemon grilled spatchcock with crispy roasted potatoes, finished with a salty anchovy dressing.

Wine is also taken very seriously for first class, business and premium economy passengers. Last year Qantas introduced a team of wine experts and mixologists from Rockpool who review and select Australian wines and champagnes for the cabins. They also provide recommendations for wine in the lounges and create monthly cocktails.

Have you eaten in Qantas' First Class or Business lounge? What was your favourite dish?

See also: Flight Test: Qantas Business Class

See also: The story behind airline food

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