Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Galleries First Class Lounge, Terminal 5, Heathrow

On my first visit to Heathrow while en route to Barcelona, I didn't have much time to spend lounge hoping, as my friends were waiting for me to sit down to a (dissapointing) formal lunch in the Concorde room, as you read about two weeks ago.  But I couldn't leave my curiosity unsatisfied, so I did a very quick swing through the other First Class lounge, the Galleries.  The First Class Galleries lounge is located directly next to the Concorde room, on the other side of the spa, so it was easy to pop over there, but I really had only a few minutes to quickly snap some photos and take brief notes.  Sorry, I didn't get a chance to try all the cuisine!

My next visit to Heathrow was longer, and once I realized that the Concorde room, though lovely, didn’t have food offerings I was interested in for breakfast, I decided to check out the Galleries again.  When I breezed through briefly on my previous visit it was daytime, so I had no idea what they’d have for breakfast. 

When I presented my boarding pass to enter, I was of course informed that I could use the Concorde room.  I acknowledged this, and said I just wanted to see the lounge.  I was welcomed in, and told I could go back and forth as many times as I wanted.  I was glad to hear that I wasn't being strange for wanting to check out both lounges!

The Galleries First lounge has a lot going for it.  It was more my style than the Concorde room in many ways, allowing me to help myself to things and sample what I wanted, when I wanted.  The selection is large, for both food and drinks.  And if you prefer made-to-order plated options, they do that too.  The lounge is huge, and well laid out into separate sections, so it never felt crowded.  The only real downside is that it doesn’t contain all of the premium food and beverage options from the Concorde room.  If I’d never been in the Concorde room, I would be completely satisfied with this lounge, and it was definitely steps above the Business lounge (more on that next week).
Seating Area.
The Galleries lounge is much larger than the Concorde room, and was largely vacant, on both my visits.  I guess most people flying in First use the Concorde room, and those flying in Business use the Business lounge, so this lounge really is just a catch-all for those with status not flying in First class on that particular day.  The decor and furniture were nice, but didn’t have quite the same relaxing feel as the Concorde room.  That said, it was spacious and just as calm, as there was barely anyone inside.
Bar and bar snacks.
The far end of the room is a bar and snack area.  It was the same at both breakfast and daytime service.  An impressive bar selection, plus two types of Kettle chips and bar snacks to munch on.
Bar Snacks.
The bar snacks were Taiwanese Crackers, "BA Savory Mix", BA Dried Fruit Mix.  I tried all of the snacks, and found them all very standard.  The jars were cute, but rather obnoxious to open and close.
Coffee Bar and cookies.
The coffee bar area was also the same on both visits.  A few magic coffee machines, a large selection of tea, soft drinks, and jars of cookies.  The cookies were hard style, and didn’t look appealing, even to a sweet tooth like me.  I didn’t try any.
Champagne bar.
The champagne bar and wine bar were well stocked at all times of day.  I didn’t look into these areas much however.
Drinks at Breakfast.
The alcoholic selections were quite impressive, but so were the non-alcoholic.  Many choices for soft drinks, juices, and assorted waters.  I saw people constantly grabbing drinks, yet this area magically stayed replenished at all times.
Drinks during day: sandwiches, desserts.
During the day, the bottom tier of the drink station converted to have some pre-made sandwiches and desserts.

The sandwich selection rotates, but on my visit it was chicken and guacamole, poached salmon & rocket, egg mayonaise & sun blistered tomatoes.  I didn't try these.

Desserts were chocolate profiteroles and blackcurrant cheese cake, neither of which I tried.
F Lounge Breakfast Menu.
Since I wasn't planning to actually sit down and spend time in the lounge, I was in the lounge for one reason: to do a little "research".  I was shocked to discover that on the tables were dining menus, with made-to-order items.  There were still buffets, there were also many dishes available to order, just like in the Concorde room, albeit without the formal dining room to go along with it.

The breakfast menu contained a subset of the items available in the Concorde room, nothing extra (darn it!  I was still hoping for pancakes or french toast to show up somewhere!). The menu had a few of the same egg dishes, and none of the premium offerings, like smoked salmon.
F Lounge Daytime Menu.
During the day, the menu was more varied, and the Galleries First lounge had things like mac and cheese that were absent on the Concorde room menu.  On my visit the menu was:
  • Soup of the Day
  • BLT: A warm sandwich of British back bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayo served with lightly-salted kettle chips.
  • Smoked Salmon: A deli plate of Severn and Wye smoked salmon, cream cheese, salad leaves, and grainy bread.
  • BA Burger: Made with Birchstead 21 day aged beef burger, and served in a glazed bun with twice cooked chips. Ask your host if you would like the addition of crispy back bacon or Emmental cheese. 
  • Chicken Ramen: A Japanese-inspired soup with chicken, chillies, water chestnuts and fresh coriander in a warming chicken broth
  • Caesar Salad: Baby gem leaves with Parmigiano-Reggiano, croĆ»tons and a creamy Caesar dressing. Ask you host if you would like the addition of a smoked chicken breast
  • Macaroni Cheese (v): Pasta with a rich Red Leicester, British Cheddar and English mustard sauce glazed with a fresh herb crust.
The soup of the Day, the smoked salmon plate, and the burger were the same as in the Concorde room, but ramen and mac and cheese replaced the fancier main dishes, and caesar replaced the tomato and mozzarella salad.  Honestly, the mac and cheese sounded quite tasty, and if I wasn't planning on a formal meal with my friends over in the Concorde room, I most certainly would have ordered it.
Breakfast Hot Buffet
The lounge had a large hot buffet, with toast, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, grilled British back bacon, Dingley Dell pork sausage, and black pudding.  These items were all available in the Concorde room as an English Breakfast platter, so presumably you could have ordered just a few items individually as well.

Of the hot items, the only thing I wanted to try was the hash browns. I love good hash browns.

As you'd expect from a buffet, they were completely unremarkable, about the same as any I’d buy frozen and bake at home.  Clearly not pan fried or crispy, although they were oily.  I always love my hash browns with maple syrup on them, but because they had no pancake/waffle/french toast items, they didn’t offer any syrup.  I settled for ketchup.

The hot buffet seemed very skippable, although the business lounge has no hot food offerings, so this is a step up for the First Class lounge.
Breakfast Pastries.
On one end of the hot buffet was an array of pastries: croissants, chocolate croissants, cranberry twirls, raisin swirls, and brioche.  Finally!  This is what I was really missing in the Concorde room.

But ... they were not warm.  They didn’t look good.  (Interestingly, I’d later discover that the business class lounge had some of these same items, but there, they are kept under a heat lamp.  Why would business class get warm pastries, and not First?  It made no sense).  Of course, business had a smaller selection of pastries, but, in both cases, none looked very good, and even baked goods loving me didn't try any.  The brioche roll was the same one I ordered in the Concorde room.
Lunch Hot Buffet.
At lunch, the hot buffet was loaded with options.

Front row:
  • Mustard
  • Warm jus
  • Dingley Deli pork sausages with candied red onion
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Parmentier potatoes
  • Cabbage, leeks and peas
  • Steak and ale pies
Back Row:
  • Pasta dish ... don't know what it was.
  • Thai green chicken curry
  • Another curry
  • Vegetable rice
Since we were having a formal meal in the Concorde room, I didn't try any of this, but it didn't look particularly good.  If dining in the First lounge, I'd certainly recommend ordering a made to order dish.
Breakfast: Porridge, crackers, jams, meats, cheese.
At breakfast, along the wall opposite the hot buffet was a selection of cheeses, sliced meats, crackers, and jams.  Some of the cheeses actually looked quite good, and, if it was later in the day, or if I was in the mood for cheese, these would have been a nice option.  Business class did not have these items, nor did the menu for the Concorde room.

Next to the cheese and meat was porridge.  I found the placement of this a bit odd, but it looked hot and fresh, and had a few items available to mix in (raisins, cinnamon, honey).  The business lounge also had this offering, which you'll hear about next week.
Lunch: Soup, Meats, Cheese.
During the day, the setup of this station was nearly identical, with the same deli meats and cheeses, but the porridge subbed out for soup.
Breakfast: Cereal, Fresh Fruit.
On the other end of the meat/cheese area at breakfast was 4 types of cereal, and some whole fruit.  I tried some of the granola, and actually quite liked it, it was crunchy, a tad sweet, and loaded with dried fruit.

It was interesting to later see that business lounge had only two types of cereal offered.  It makes sense that the business lounge has reduced offerings, and leaving out the hot food and meats and cheeses made sense, but cereal and pastries?  Those can’t be premium items.
Daytime: Scones, Cakes.
During the day, the fresh fruit remains, but the cereals are replaced with a dessert station featuring sliced cakes, scones, and jam.  I wish I'd had time to try those, although of course, BA served me plenty of scones on all my assorted flights, like the afternoon tea service on my Club Europe flight from Healthrow to Barcelona.
Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt bar.
The final section at breakfast was yogurt and fruit: one plain yogurt, one fruit yogurt, and a couple of types of sliced fruit to mix in.  In fear of melons, I skipped all of this, because the label just said “fruit salad”, and I had no idea if there was melon included, and I am deathly allergic.
Daytime: Salad Bar.
During the day, the fruit and yogurt was replaced with a salad bar.  It contained:
  • Poached salmon
  • Grilled chicken
  • A bunch of composed salads: coleslaw, five bean salad, beetroot and carrot and pumpkin seed salad, Morroccan bulgar wheat and chickpea salad, and pasta salad
  • Basic salad ingredients: mixed lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes
  • And ... lemon wedges?
I only tried the coleslaw.  It was creamy,  with a bit of tang from horseradish.  Not bad.
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