Justine Tyerman writes about an ultra ‘high-end’ wining and dining experience in Singapore Airlines’ Business Class – an experience out of this world…
Last week I wined and dined in style, courtesy of three world-renowned wine critics, eight celebrated chefs and six attentive waiters and waitresses.
The restaurant was ultra ‘high-end’, the view heavenly and the cuisine divine.
I was flying Business Class from Auckland to Singapore direct on Singapore Airlines, a nine hour, 40 minute flight, during which time I was treated to a magnificent seven-course lunch and a five-course dinner designed by an International Culinary Panel from the USA, China, India, Australia, France, Italy and Japan. In addition, I had the choice of an impressive array of champagnes and wines tasted and selected by top international wine critics, writers, academics and judges.
As one of the few passengers awake in business class, I had the full attention of chief steward Wong and his team Niken, Wu, Felicia, Manisha and Quek who pampered me to such a degree, the flight seemed unduly short.
Before we had even taken off, Niken had poured me a glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne from France. The bubbles looked so pretty against the backdrop of puffy, marshmallow clouds.
Lunch began with a flourish – a starched white tablecloth and fine cutlery was spread before me followed by the first of seven courses, a canapé of Singapore chicken and lamb satay with onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce. Deliciously spicy and nutty.
After a brief interlude, an appetiser of poached prawns with fresh pineapple cucumber, mint and coriander leaves appeared. Delicate, clean, fresh flavours.
Main course Singapore Airlines style
For the main course, Wong recommended the grilled beef in bordelaise sauce with mushrooms, spinach gratin and cherry tomatoes created by Sydney chef Matt Moran who co-owns the award-winning Morans and Aria restaurants.
The beef was cooked to perfection. How do they manage to do that at 30,000ft? Other tempting dishes on the menu were salmon teriyaki, Spanish braised chicken and Gulai Kambing, a popular Indonesian lamb curry. I’ll definitely try the curry next time.
I was also offered a basket of gourmet breads and crispy rolls. The garlic bread is downright dangerous. I had at least three pieces.
And dessert, at last
For dessert, I chose the strawberry tiramisu with a coconut wafer which was not too sweet or heavy. The alternative was decadent triple chocolate ice cream with a fruit coulis.
Then along came a selection of cheeses including my favourite Kikorangi blue, a mellow camembert and an aged cheddar, and a colourful basket of fresh fruit – grapes, strawberries, honey dew melon, mandarins, and New Zealand apples and pears.
Just as I thought the repast was coming to a close, a tray of irresistible fine pralines appeared. I couldn’t resist just one… or three.
Exceptional wine list
The wine list was extensive and impressive. Created by three of the world’s leading wine experts, Jeannie Cho Lee, Michael Hill Smith and Oz Clarke, it included champagne and wines from all over the world. There was a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from Mudhouse in Marlborough, New Zealand, but with dinner, I fancied the 2013 Joseph Drouhin Rully Blanc from Burgundy – a refreshing, subtle chardonnay with hints of white flowers, almonds and citrus.
I was also proud to sample the first craft beer ever served on Singapore Airlines, a Kiwi beer – Hapi Daze – from the Garage Project brewery based in an old petrol station in Wellington. I’m not a beer drinker but I could easily change my ways for Hapi Daze.
After sampling the lovely perfumes and moisturisers in the well-lit, immaculately clean bathroom, I stowed my personal gear in the many handy compartments, plugged in all my technology, slipped on my sleeping socks and reclined my 28-inch armchair into a 78-inch flat bed. I snuggled under my duvet, lay my head on a pillow as soft as a cloud and slept blissfully for over well over five hours.
As soon as I awoke, Wu appeared with a fruit bowl and Wong with a chocolate bar and some nuts. There were also sandwiches and noodles in case I felt hungry before dinner. I actually couldn’t recall what ‘hungry’ felt like.
“Would you like another pillow,” Mrs Tyerman? I loved the way they said my name. “Mrs Teerman.” Nothing was too much trouble.
I put on the noise-cancelling headphones that cover the whole ear and flicked through KrisWorld’s fabulous selection of 1000 movies, television shows and music programmes on my 18-inch personal LCD screen. I dropped into my favourite site, the flight path information, and glimpsed out the window to align the landscape 30,000ft below with the image on the screen. I was immediately transfixed by the terrain and all thoughts of movies were forgotten.
We were nearing the Australian coast after flying diagonally across this vast country for the last three or four hours. The red earth was deeply weathered like an ancient body covered in wrinkles and furrows from the wear and tear of many millennia. The landmass gradually dissolved into the vivid turquoise ocean, dotted with rocky islands, as we flew over the Timor Sea.
Yet another dinner
A ‘light dinner’ was served in Denpasar airspace.
I started with tomato juice, and a little more Charles Heidsieck – just sips because we were landing soon. It matched the effervescence of my mood and my excitement to be heading to Laos with my favourite tour company, Innovative Travel, after a stopover in Singapore.
The appetiser was tuttafetta ham with mesclun, fresh melon, shaved fennel and sundried tomatoes. The sweet and savoury flavours complemented each other perfectly.
My main course was roasted chicken thigh with creamy green peppercorn sauce, carrots, yellow capsicums and baby potatoes with herbs. Very tender and flavoursome, as if freshly cooked. Other choices were herb-crusted lingfish fillet in pesto-spinach velouté with ink noodles and rocket leaves, or Thai-style stir fried beef in sweet basil with Asian vegetables, cashew nuts and steamed rice.
Niken noticed a tiny mark on my starched white table cloth where I had spilt a drop of sauce so she quickly replaced it.
From the bakery, assorted rolls and gourmet breads… and that garlic bread again. A piece accidentally snuck onto my plate.
Dessert was a divine chocolate cappuccino cake with raspberry coulis. So good but I conceded defeat half way through.
After dinner, Inflight manager Ong Hong Guan from Singapore stopped by for a chat. Ong had been with Singapore Airlines for 28 years, starting as a steward.
Singapore Airlines is a great company to work for,
he said. “That’s why I’m still here after all this time. I love my work. No two flights are ever the same. The airline is 70 years old now so we’ve been around for a long time.”
I told Ong my first overseas trip in my early 20s was from Auckland to London on Singapore Airlines. I’ve never forgotten the lovely ‘Singapore Girls’ in their graceful sarong kebaya. Other airlines keep changing their uniforms, sometimes with disastrous results. The kebaya, designed by Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain in 1968, has remained constant, like the service, the smiles and the charm.
“The aim of our staff, all 8000, is to always leave a lasting impression,” said Ong.
They do it so well, I still have vivid memories about my flight 40 years ago, including the food. Even back then, Singapore Airlines’ cuisine was leading the way. Now it’s in another stratosphere.
Ong also explained that passengers in suites, first class, business class and premium economy, can reserve their main course up to 24 hours before their flight, including creations inspired by the International Culinary Panel. A clever concept.
Just before it was time to land, Niken gave me a Singapore Airlines teddy bear, playing cards and a greetings card from the cabin crew. She looked just as fresh and lovely as when I boarded 10 hours earlier.
Apart from a change in the engine noise, I hardly knew we had landed. It was as light as a butterfly.
Such an experience is quite addictive. It completely spoils one for flying any other way. It’s out of this world.
Getting there with Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines has a code-share agreement with Swiss International Airlines (SWISS)
SilkAir flies from Singapore to Vientiane and Luang Prabang three times weekly.
Lao Airlines flies from Vientiane to Xieng Khuang.
Singapore Airlines’ Business Class also gave me preferential boarding privileges, and access to the smart Air New Zealand lounge in Auckland and the SATS Premier lounge in Singapore where I showered, changed, rested and sampled more gourmet cuisine and champagne. (reviews to follow shortly)
Justine Tyerman travelled with Innovative Travel, a Christchurch-based boutique tour operator with 27 years’ experience offering travellers the opportunity to explore historically and culturally unique destinations worldwide that provide a challenge but with the security of a peace-of-mind 24/7, wrap-around service. So important in a seriously foreign country like Laos.