TPG round-up: Top 5 business-class meals in the sky
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We’ve already sampled the delights and disasters of economy and premium economy dining, so now it’s the turn of business class.
- TPG round-up: Top 5 economy meals in the sky
- TPG round-up: 5 worst economy meals in the sky
- TPG round-up: Top 5 premium economy meals in the sky
- TPG round-up: 5 worst premium economy meals in the sky
While writing these round-ups, I quickly discovered that the range in quality, variety and overall gastronomic onboard experience — from terrible to bad, good all the way to amazing — is the most staggering of all the cabins.
Given that reviewing flights hasn’t been possible for the majority of 2020, the meals featured in this write-up were consumed during reviews published from January 1, 2019. The below rankings take into account the best food options our reviewers took in pre-COVID-19 times. Note that if you plan to fly with one of these carriers during the pandemic, the inflight food offerings may be significantly different.
Score: 19.2 (in line with the updated scoring system)
You’d be forgiven for thinking Qatar, Emirates, ANA or Singapore would have clinched the top spot. However, the winner for the best business-class meal in the sky is EVA Air. The Taiwanese carrier scored a whopping 19.2/20 — about as close as you can get to perfection.
Let’s find out why.
A couple of minutes after boarding his flight from Houston (IAH) to Taipei (TPE), Ethan Steinberg was handed a glass of Champagne. Not only was it served with a hot towel and chocolate, but it was also no ordinary Champagne. EVA serves its business-class passengers Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006, retailing at around $170 per bottle.
From 30 days before his flight, Ethan was able to select his meal online. The choices included some extra ones that wouldn’t be served or loaded onto the aircraft unless requested.
First up on the menu was a pair of canapés. You read that right, EVA serves canapés rather than nuts or similar before the main meal service starts. The ratatouille and cheese tartlet and grilled scallop and tomato on a rosemary skewer were “delicious”.
Next was a starter of smoked duck with an orange and couscous salad. While Ethan doesn’t like duck, he enjoyed the couscous salad.
And for the main course, Ethan “really enjoyed” his lobster salad, despite it not being a full lobster tail like he was served on his last EVA Air business-class flight.
To finish off the meal in a “delicious way,” was a tiramisu accompanied by fruit.
There were two reviews scoring 19/20 in the food category. So, I ranked the flight with the highest overall review score in a higher position. This means that ANA, with an overall score of 90, came in second and Singapore Airlines, with an overall score of 75, came in third.
ANA deserves its second-place ranking as the food and drinks that TPG’s Zach Griff enjoyed on his flight from Tokyo (HND) to New York (JFK) were next level.
Business-class passengers started off with an amuse-bouche — a slightly fancier version of EVA’s canapés if you will. The matcha almond pie sticks with an apricot butter roll and olives got Zach excited at the thought of what was to come next.
The starter was a feast fit for a king. It comprised of a selection of dishes, such as algae with tofu paste, salmon roe and crab sushi. It was all “fantastic” but left Zach feeling so full that eating his main course would be a challenge.
He soldiered on and managed to finish off the “perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned seafood.”
No matter how full you are, there’s always room for dessert. Zach found room for both he was served — an Emotion Mont-Blanc and a matcha shortcake. In a word, they were both “incredible.”
Six hours later, it was time for breakfast. To switch things up, Zach went for the western option of eggs Benedict after sticking to Japanese cuisine for the first meal. He didn’t regret his choice. As he was still full, he didn’t eat much but there were no complaints. It’s hard to get eggs right on a plane, but these poached eggs look pretty spot on.
To round things off nicely, Zack sipped on free-flowing sake throughout his meal.
Score: 19/20 (in line with the updated scoring system)
Proper cocktails inflight aren’t an everyday occurrence, which is why we loved that Singapore Airlines offers the classic Singapore Sling as part of the drinks service. And on this flight from Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG), it was no exception. Zach Griff’s first of such was served around 15 minutes after takeoff.
Another standout aspect of Singapore’s business class (as well as premium economy and first) service is that passengers get the option of pre-ordering their main course up to 24 hours before the flight. Zach opted for one of the 40-plus off-menu Book the Cook options rather than the regular inflight menu.
Before that, business-class passengers tucked into a “refreshing” starter of gravlax with lettuce and salmon roe.
Zach couldn’t have chosen a better main course. The fish was scrumptious and came away from the skin like a dream — “incredible tasty for an airplane meal,” he said.
It doesn’t look more restaurant-style than this. Not pictured are the several pieces of Singapore’s famous garlic bread that he ate alongside his main.
Dessert certainly looked appetizing but he overindulged with the main course and had to pass.
Score: 18.4/20 (in line with the updated scoring system)
We’ve had so many great gastronomical experiences in business class that there were four reviews that all scored 18.4/20 in the food category. So, I used each review’s overall score to decide the fourth and fifth place positions for the best food in the sky. In fourth place is British Airways (scoring 80.2/100 overall) with Japan Airlines (scoring 79.4/100 overall) following closely behind in fifth place.
It was the truly excellent food onboard TPG U.K. Director of Content Nicky Kelvin’s flight from London (LHR) to Dubai (DXB).
After boarding, Champagne and water were offered to those sitting in BA’s brand new Club Suite.
The starter of Severn and Wye Scottish smoked salmon with egg and crème fraîche was “simple and delicious.”
From classic British to Middle Eastern taste sensations in a mouthful, Nicky’s grilled chicken was deliciously moist — a word not usually linked with airplane chicken and the vegetables and freekeh were tasty, too.
The first meal was finished off in style with a beautiful mixed nut and dulce de leche flan.
In between meals, passengers were offered Magnum ice creams and could also have picked from an assortment of drinks and snacks from the grab-and-go Club kitchen.
Before landing, there were two meal options: tapas or traditional British afternoon tea. Never straying too far from his Yorkshire roots, Nicky chose the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the small but tasty sandwiches and scone.
Score: 18.4/20 (in line with the updated scoring system)
And in fifth place is Japan Airlines — thanks to the fine fare that was had onboard Zach Griff’s flight from Tokyo (HND) to New York (JFK).
You know you’re off to a good start when you’re served an amuse-bouche and this wasabi-sesame tofu and sweetcorn flan topped with sea urchin, which had “incredibly unique” flavors.
The fine-dining style continued with the starters. A selection of four mini hors d’oeuvres were served and had flavors that Zach had “never before experienced in the air.” Even the bread by Maison Kayser was good.
Zach went for the seafood curry rather than the wagyu beefsteak. It was amazing — in line with the rest of his meal. “The fish was such great quality that I’m pining for a trip back to Japan,” he added.
After waking up mid-flight with hunger pangs, Zach could have picked at the snack basket in the galley or order from the round-the-clock menu. He decided on the tagine-style couscous salad, which unsurprisingly, was delicious.
The only downside of this whole experience was the western breakfast, which featured soggy French toast accompanied by a bland and wilted salad.
It was the combination of a unique menu and delicious flavors that made this experience so special. When you add in the impressive drinks menu, which included sake and Japanese whiskies, there really is no question that this inflight food and drink experience deserves a spot in our top five.
Well, that was like being at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the sky, right?
From canapés to free-flowing sake, these flights were gastronomical experiences never to be forgotten.
Featured image by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy
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