Airline Lounge Food and Nutrition Review – Initial Impressions
This was my first international flight since March 2020 and the Qantas International First Lounge in Melbourne had only just reopened in April 2021 (a month or so before I flew). By the time I got back and went to write up my review, they had closed again due to Covid outbreaks in NSW and Victoria. So I am writing this one now in October 2021 before Australian International borders open up in November 2021 and Australians are allowed to leave the country to go anywhere in the world for the first time since March 2020.
I have tickets booked to fly out of the county in December 2021 (yay!!) and I will be reviewing as many lounges as I can in Sydney, but for now I thought I would write up my review from June 2021 to give you a glimpse of what may be to come. It might not be exactly the same, however you will hopefully be able to take away some helpful travel nutrition tips when in this lounge.
Ok, so what did I think of this reduced Covid menu at breakfast time? Well the first thing is clear, it is not up to the traditional standard of Qantas International First lounge. It is clear it is a compromise between a business class lounge and first class lounge menu, with covid cost cutting restraints mixed in. Just because it was served in the first class lounge, doesn’t mean it was a traditional Qantas first class lounge menu experience.
But overall I thought the menu did a good job of having a variety of dishes – I think there would have been something there that suited most people’s tastes. And it did a good job of having both light and more substantial meals. So lets take a look.
- The Brunch Bowl was a nutrition standout for me. It was a really nice balance of carbohydrates and fibre from wholegrains, healthy fats, protein and antioxidants. Translated into foods this means it was great to have fibre, carbohydrates and plant based protein from quinoa; healthy fats, fibre and folate from avocado; protein and a whole array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from eggs; protein from feta; healthy fats from tahini; and lets not forget all the greatness of tomatoes such as vitamin C and lycopene. It was also served in an appropriate portion size for before a flight, enough to fill you up but not too much food you feel bloated, sluggish and overly full.
- From a food taste perspective, I found the Brunch Bowl to be pretty good but I thought it could be slightly better by increasing the amount of tomato in the quinoa. This is to bring up the tomato to be 1/2-1 serve of vegetables, but also to cut through the mouth feel of a whole lot of quinoa. I find that too much plain quinoa can be a bit dry in the mouth, and even though the tahini, avocado and runny egg yolk helped provide a nice sauce to mix through, I still found there was too much quinoa. This was a personal taste of mine and you may find it perfect.
- The big breakfast dish (it doesn’t have an actual name on the menu), fits in both my What’s Healthy category and the Caution category. On the menu this dish stated it came with scrambled eggs, which I asked to be replaced with poached eggs. This is because I find poached eggs a lighter and healthier alternative to scrambled eggs when travelling as it can be common for additional ingredients to be added to scrambled eggs such as cream, cheese, milk, butter etc (depending on the chef’s recipe).
- What I also loved about the big breakfast dish it that it had baked beans and spinach, which both contribute to your vegetable intake for the day. It is important to increase plant based foods in our diets, and legumes such as baked beans are a source of fibre and plant protein, making them a great choice. Next time I think I will ask for a cooked tomato as well.
- It is great to see a Bircher muesli option on the menu. While I didn’t order Neil’s Healthy Bircher Muesli (with hazelnuts, apple and cranberry), Bircher muesli is generally a nutritious option, packed with slowly digestible carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and soluble fibre. Bircher muesli is made from oats, nuts/seeds, fruits, yogurt, and fruit juice, and soaked overnight. I will certainly be trying it next time I am in the First lounge for breakfast to see what the portion size is like and the amounts of each ingredients.
- I am always happy to see a plain fruit salad option on any breakfast menu, especially in an airport lounge. For many people in this lounge, they are about to embark on flights that are minimum a few hours, with a meal to be served soon after takeoff. Having a really light meal in the lounge such as a plain fruit salad, can be just the thing before enjoying a multiple course meal in Business or First.
Not so great (caution).
- Ok so you can probably guess what I am going to say about the big breakfast being not so healthy – the bacon and sausages. Bacon and sausages are what we call processed meats, meaning they usually have added extras such as preservatives. When eaten regularly, processed meats have been associated with negative impacts on the body such as inflammation and increased risks of developing bowel cancel etc. So here I would recommend choosing either the bacon or sausages – not both.
- The grilled ham and cheese sandwich, while delicious, is not what I would consider a nutritious breakfast. There just isn’t anything really outstanding from a nutrition perspective. Ham is a processed meat (which aren’t great for health), Brioche is a white bread (stripped of many of the nutrients and fibre found in wholegrains), and while cheese is quite nutritious, I find the mix of both the melted cheese and the butter on the outside of the toast a bit too oily for me. So if you love a toastie, then save it for when you can have a really great quality on like this one, and choose them occasionally. I did have a couple of bites and it was a really delicious grilled sandwich – much better than the DIY ones in the old domestic Qantas lounges.
- I would skip the croissant and muffin on this menu, as similar to the toasted sandwich, they don’t pack a nutrient punch. View these foods as treat foods, yes I know you may be sighing at me right now but these two foods can be quite high in calories (kilojoules), which is the last thing you want to eat before sitting on a plane for hours and not burning off the energy. This is especially true when you aren’t really getting any nutrition benefits from the high energy content.
Last word from travel food and nutrition review for Qantas International First Class Lounge
Overall, the Qantas International First Lounge in Melbourne is not too bad considering Qantas was only really flying to New Zealand at this time (yes there were some flights to LA on the board but Australians were still only allowed to leave the country if they had an exemption, so the lounge had only opened for the NZ flights). I found the menu catered for a range of tastes, with some healthy and nutritious options. I look forward to seeing what Qantas does when the International First lounge in Sydney opens in November 2021 – will it be similar to this at the beginning (while the Business lounge is closed) or will they go back to a more premium menu?
In gearing up for international travel again from Australia, you might also be interested in my previous review of the Qantas International First Lounge in Sydney – even though it is pre-covid you will be able to get some travel nutrition tips (especially if some of the dishes come back such as the classic Salt n Pepper Squid).