Most people find airplane food bland, unappetising and a waste of that expensive flight ticket. Some travellers even pack their own food to avoid tucking into the airline’s offering.
Seeing the effect that "bad airplane food" has on the majority of travellers, airlines have decided to shape up their food offerings to create one-of-a-kind meals that bring a smile to their passengers’ faces.
One of them is Qatar Airways. Photographer Zanele Zulu and I were among select guests who got to witness the arrival of the Airbus A350-900 fly into Durban for the first time and sample the airline’s Business Class offering.
While we did not fly from Durban to Doha, we got a peek at what travellers get to enjoy on Business Class at the uMphafa lounge.
Alfred Seanego from LSG Sky Chefs is one of the culinary visionaries behind Qatar’s menus. The company does catering on four of their flights from Durban. With everyone’s glasses filled, Seanego explained the menu offerings and what distinguished Qatar from other airlines. He said the utmost care is taken to prepare quality meals for travellers.
"Tests undertaken by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany a few years ago scientifically showed an increase in the so-called odour- and taste-threshold on board caused by the low-pressure environment. This means that meals must be seasoned and spiced more to evoke the same satisfying taste as on the ground," he said.
"The airline catering plays a nuanced game with spices in order to create the combination and flavour intensity suitable for passengers’ tastes and preferences. It is important to consider the various nationalities the airline caters for," he continued.
We started with an appetiser of salmon with cream cheese dill, cucumber ribbons and caper berry. The meal was fresh and flavourful. The sprigs of dill on the side balanced the meal perfectly. In between your appetiser and main meal, travellers get served a sandwich made with toasted focaccia, chicken and julienne vegetables.I skipped this as I am a pescatarian. Zanele could not stop raving about it.
“I loved the meal. The chicken was cooked to perfection and flavoured well,” she said.
The mains come in vegetarian, chicken and fish options. The lemon parmesan crusted hake with potato cubes, fried chives, honey glazed carrots and a lemon butter dill sauce was enjoyable.
However, I disliked the potato cubes. It was too soggy for my liking. I would have preferred a creamy mash instead. The vegetable curry was delightful. The curry with dal tadaka and basmati rice takes you to the streets of Durban where spicy curry reigns.
It had the right amount of heat, and I would have probably asked for seconds had it not been for the large meals I had already eaten.
Zanele revelled in the chicken breast kapsa with basmati rice and crispy fried onions. Dessert exceeded my expectations. Qatar took something as simple as compote berries and a vanilla creme anglaise and turned it into something magical.
The Qatar food offering does fare well among its competitors. Much attention to detail goes into the creation of the meals. There are so many options that you will never go hungry.