Which airlines serve the best food?

Airline food isn't all bad - promise! Presenting our favourite airline meals, including Lorraine Pascale's Thai beef salad on Virgin Atlantic services, and Mandarin Oriental's new foodie partnership with Cathay Pacific.

We’ve all been there. That moment when you peel back the foil lid on a mid-flight meal to discover something vaguely beige in colour, gooey in consistency and not instantly recognisable as animal, mineral or vegetable. Thankfully, however, in-flight food just got an upgrade. At least it did if you’re travelling in first class. Here’s what you can expect from some of the most food-savvy carriers this year:


Since October upper class passengers flying on Virgin Atlantic’s services have been tucking into signature menus designed by TV cook, Lorraine Pascale. From Thai beef salad with roasted pine nuts and chilli to warm salmon and lentils with chorizo, the meals are a long way from the days when the only in-flight food choice was ‘chicken or beef’. Children, too, have been getting in on the act, with a kids menu that ranges from ‘marvellous mac ‘n’ cheese’ with pancetta pieces to ‘Mum’s chilli con carne’ with calypso rice.

Current holders of Saveur magazine’s Experts Choice award for in-flight dining (for the second year running), Emirates has been recognized for presentation (first class meals are served on Royal Doulton china) a commitment to healthy eating (dishes are low in fat, salt, and added sugar), regionally inspired menus and for the introduction of onboard lounges where business and first class passengers can relax with a cocktail, canapé or mezze platter.

Cathay Pacific Airways and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group recently announced one of the most sensible airline food partnerships yet to surface. Over the next 12 months chefs from Mandarin Oriental properties in Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Boston will be designing a range of seasonal menus for Cathay Pacific’s first class passengers. From Hong Kong chef Uwe Opocensky’s full-bodied consommé, served with a tea bag of dried flower petals and gold flakes, to New York chef Christian Pratsch’s slow-roast tomato soup with miniature grilled cheese sandwiches, the regionally inspired menus are likely to be as close as it gets to fine dining in the air.


Written February 2015