Lets face it, long haul flying sucks. The seats are uncomfortable, there’s probably a baby crying the whole way, it completely ruins your sleep pattern and then there’s the food… which in my opinion is actually the best part! Call me crazy but I’ve got a strange love for airline food in all its vacuum-packed glory and it was this love that inspired this post. Having recently trekked all the way to New Zealand and back for my brother’s wedding, I decided to write up a review of my airline eatery experience. Who knows, it may even help some of you adventurers decide who to fly with next time! As you can’t fly direct from Berlin, I decided to focus on only my four main flights, all of which were around 12 hours long. As Berlin Tegel has about the worst selection of food outlets in the world, I started my journey peckish and was eager to see what was on offer 30,000 feet in the air.
Flight 1 – Munich to Hong Kong – Lufthansa
My expectations were high coming into this, the first flight of my intercontinental voyage. Not only had I enjoyed excellent food while flying with Lufthansa on my first trip to Europe in 2014, I was also starving and in need of something substantial to satisfy me for at least a few hours in the air. As is tradition in the LBF Adventures world, a sparkling wine MUST be drunk at the start of any long-haul flight, to kick things off in style. Although Grace wasn’t with me this time, a plane is one of the few places where drinking by yourself is both acceptable and encouraged, so with my tipple in hand, I keenly awaited meal number one…
Having carefully deliberated over my two options, I opted for the choice that sounded like it would fill the biggest hole in my belly, “Lemon Chicken with green beans and Jasmine Rice”. This is the kind of meal I’d happily order out at a restaurant, so was sure to be a safe bet. Sure enough, what arrived didn’t crush my memories that airline food was actually enjoyable, with a decent amount of chicken and quite natural lemon flavour going down nicely. The meal extras also deserve a mention, including the fresh green leaves and chocolate brownie so rich and sweet that I wouldn’t even be mad if I’d bought it in a café. Not long later I slipped into a food coma and managed to achieve an impressive 4 hours sleep, a new record for me while airborne. So far so good!
Breakfast time rolled around faster than I thought it would, a relief given how much these 12 hour flights can seem to drag on sometimes. Seeing as my earlier meal had been a winner, I thought I’d take a gamble on the slightly weird sounding “Sweet Chili Pork Floss Omelette” to see how good Lufthansa really were. Besides, the alternative was fruit salad and anyone who’s travelled a bit knows that you always get a fruit salad with your breakfast anyway! Omelettes have never been my favourite breakfast choice in the past so it was a pleasant surprise that this one didn’t let me down. The pork floss added an extra savoury kick to the flavour and also paired well with the sweet chili. Maybe Lufthansa should be selling these recipes to some hipster café in Kreuzberg or Kingsland! Finished off with a better than average cup of coffee, I felt primed and ready to tackle leg 2 of the trip and whatever it wanted to throw at me.
Overall Score – 8/10
Flight 2 – Hong Kong to Auckland – Air New Zealand
Unlike my earlier flight, where I was fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to me, this plane was chocka and I was cramped up in the middle row next to one Chinese lady who slept the entire trip and another who played back-seat Sudoku the ENTIRE way home. Already getting restless and bored after 12 hours in the air, I would need something yammi to get me through this and I put my faith in Air NZ to make it all ok…
Either due to technical issues, or my brain having tuned to total mush having been awake for 24 hours and only being halfway through my journey, I have no record of the first dinner meal served to me on the second leg of my trip home. The fact I can’t recall even a single detail about it further concludes that it must have been unremarkable.
Back in the deepest reaches of my mind is the memory of my first overseas trip, to the Gold Coast when I was 6 years old. And what a trip it was! First time out of New Zealand, first time on a plane and of course the first time I got to ‘enjoy’ the marvels of airline food. A foodie from a young age, the McMuffin I’d scoffed in the departure lounge was a distant memory and I was eager to see what would arrive at my seat once we’d taken off. Needless to say, when a tray consisting of a blob of egg, a flavourless sausage and a barely crisp Hash Brown (a crime in and of itself!) was served up, I was less than impressed. You’d think that good ol’ Air NZ would have moved with the times and crafted a more appealing menu since then, but imagine my surprise when pretty much the same thing was offered more than 20 years later… luckily the steward didn’t judge me when I asked for a G&T to go with breakfast, it was the only way to pleasantly wash it down!
Overall Score – 2/10
Flight 3 – Auckland to Hong Kong – Air New Zealand
Having spent the better part of 2 weeks back in Aotearoa eating everything from Mums legendary lamb roast to fresh snapper caught, cooked and eaten by myself all in the same day, I was none too pleased about having to face airline food again… especially given the utter joke of a meal served up by Air NZ on my inbound journey! However, the aviation gods were already smiling on me that day, the flight was half empty and with an entire row to myself, I put my legs up, kicked back and braced myself for what was to come…
Having learnt my lesson, I immediately avoided option 1 of “eggs and sausage” and opted for the somewhat unconventional ‘kiwi’ breakfast of pork dumplings with stir-fry noodles and vegetables. It didn’t exactly look like much and seeing as the best stir-fry is served hot and fresh from the wok, it was with some hesitation that I took my first bite, luckily discovering that this actually tasted pretty good. The dumplings were packed full of meat and the generous portion size meant I wasn’t pestering the attendants for snacks a few hours later. Had Air NZ redeemed themselves? I awaited lunch to find out…
Unlike some major carriers, Air NZ doesn’t give out a menu detailing the days selections and as I’d become engrossed in the 3.5 hour extended directors cut special edition of Lord of the Rings The Return of the King, I’d missed the announcement informing what was on offer. “Chicken or beef?” my attendant questioned. “ummmm beef?” I questioned back with barely a shred of certainty. I peeled back the foil lid to reveal a beef casserole with beans and mashed potatoes… meh. Except this was anything but meh, it was incredible! The casserole was bursting with flavour and the mash was lovely and creamy. As a further bonus, the raspberry shortbread cake was simply divine. Just goes to show, that much like our beloved Wellington capital, you can’t beat Air NZ on a good day.
Overall Score – 7/10
Flight 4 – Hong Kong to Vienna – Austrian Airlines
Having opted for an overnight stay in Hong Kong for the return journey, rather than slogging out the whole 24+ hour trip in one go, I was well fed, rested and had enough activities prepared to get through my last flight with as much ease as possible. This was made even easier by the fact that this flight was also half empty and shortly after take-off, I was able to snag an empty row of three once again. What luck! Maybe I should have bought a Lotto ticket! Austrian Airlines was a new one for me and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting greatness from their food, hence why I had stuffed myself silly at the hotel breakfast buffet earlier in the morning. With a lunchtime beer in hand, I wondered what I’d have the joy of biting into over the next 12 hours…
The first thing that surprised me was the lack of prior warning that food was even coming. One minute the attendants were strapped in for takeoff and the next thing the cart was wheeling its way towards me. With no menu or announcement to help guide my decision, I decided to stick to my winning choice from the previous flight and chose the beef dish for lunch. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but it definitely was not I ended up with. Was this seriously just a beef pattie on top of some mash? Yes, sadly Austrian Airlines didn’t appear to take the creative approach of some of their peers, the pattie tasting as flavourless as it looked. The saving grace of the meal however was the mini eclairs that came for dessert. Delectably creamy and decadent, I scoffed all three in one go and was even tempted to ask for another portion!
Whether it was through genuine tiredness or boredom with the entertainment options in the back of my seat, I’d dozed off for the latter half of this flight, only to be awoken by the food cart knocking into my feet. While I was excited to be almost home, I was a little sad that I wouldn’t get to enjoy any more airline food after this last meal… make it perfect guys! Sadly what I got was a pretty bland pasta salad, which while eatable, did nothing to improve my opinion that Austrian Airlines just weren’t up to the same standard as some other carriers. Guess I’ll have to find out what real Austrian food is like when LBF Adventures heads to Vienna in February. Stay tuned!
Overall Score – 4/10
Do you share Blair’s weird love of airline food? Or have you had had the pleasure of enjoying a mile high meal worthy of a michelin star? Comment below and let us know!