Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Air New Zealand, AKL - SFO, Business Class

You are probably getting bored with reading about Air New Zealand flights.  I promise, this is the last one!

As you read about last week, our journey home began with a "Works Deluxe" flight from Sydney to Aukland, boring, although the food was better than anticipated.  We followed that with a visit to the lounge in Aukland, which really didn't have great afternoon offerings.  Our final leg was business class aboard NZ 8, exactly the same 777-300 aircraft as we flew on on N Z7 in the other direction.

Cabin and Service

Business Class Seat.
Since I reviewed the seat in my previous post, I’ll skip that this time, as it was absolutely identical.  As was the amenity kit waiting for me.  The water bottle at my seat was New Zealand brand, so I guess that was oh so slightly different.  But really, it felt like deja vu.

Take-off time was 7:35pm (2 hours ahead of Sydney).  Boarding started long after the specified boarding time on our boarding cards, but we still took off on time.  I actually hoped we’d take off late, since the just over 11 hour flight time isn’t great for a takeoff so early in Sydney time.  I knew that to have 8 hours of sleep with the dinner service and breakfast service on either side, I’d need to go to bed immediately after dinner, and by about 7:30pm Sydney time.  Ugh.

Standard pre-takeoff drinks of water, orange juice, and sparkling wine were offered once aboard, warm towels were brought by, and our first drink and main dinner selection orders were taken.  The service was all friendly and efficient, not much to say here.

The early departure time made it impossible to fall asleep until many hours into the flight.  I barely slept, but it wasn’t the fault of the comfort of the seat.  Just as before, I found the seat quite comfortable, wide, long, soft.

I had finally managed to close my eyes and perhaps nod off, when, all around me was a ruckus.  Exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes before landing the cabin sprung into action.  When I pulled off my eye mask to see what was going on, I saw that everyone, sans Ojan and one other, were already up.  Their beds were being converted into seats.  Ugh.  I pushed my mask back on, thinking I could sleep a little bit more, but it was hopeless.  Everyone was so loud.  I think the way the seats convert adds to this, since the staff basically have to do it for you, and the air is filled with, “Can I convert your bed for you?”  It is also a much more active process than a standard bed that just slides up, lots more motion, commotion.  Ugh.  So, up I was.  Unless my SFO-AKL flight, I did not awake feeling well rest.

Dinner

Dinner Menu.
Since this flight was a regular evening departure, rather than later night as our previous flight, the meal service was a full dinner service, no “Fast Dine” Option available.

As always, there were two choices “To Begin”, one meat, one seafood, no vegetarian option:

  • Seared venison fillet with kumara chips, pickled red onion, smoked chili, and micro herbs
  • Roasted sumac salmon and quinoa salad with tahini yogurt dressing
Followed by selections “ From the bakery”, a similar but slightly different lineup from our previous flight: purple wheat rolls, garlic bread, sourdough loaf, and ciabatta bread.

For the mains, there was again a red meat, a chicken, a seafood, and a vegetarian soup:
  • Lamb shank with golden kumara mash, green beans, spinach and pea medley with mint apple jelly
  • Moorish chicken with spiced saffron tomato broth, white beans and cinnamon roasted pumpkin hummus
  • Seared hapuka in miso coconut broth with steamed shiitake rice, gai pan, and fresh coriander salsa
  • Parsnip and yellow split pea slop with blackened corn and mustard seed relish
And finally, “To finish”:
  • White chocolate and rosewater panna cotta with pistachio cream
  • Gourmet dessert of strawberries and cream ice cream with strawberry compote and meringue
  • A selection of fine New Zealand cheese served with plum chutney and cracker selection
Available at any time was “Midnight snack” of salami, red pepper, and Swiss cheese toasted bap.

I was a bit devastated by the main dish selection.  I really dislike lamb, chicken, rice, and split peas.  And fish is just rarely good on flights.  I had been secretly hoping that the burger Ojan had on the previous flight would make a reappearance.  Of course I knew the menu in advance, since my colleagues had all flown over the previous few days, so I went in prepared to not really eat much dinner on the flight, having started my day with an epic feast at Mosiac Restaurant in my hotel, followed by both the breakfast and tea time selections in the airline lounge in Sydney, followed by a surprisingly good lunch on my flight from Sydney to Auckland, and finally, feasting in the lounge in Auckland before boarding.
Perrier, nuts.
Soon after takeoff, our previously ordered drinks were delivered, along with a little bowl of cashews and almonds.  The nuts were not warmed, nor spiced, nor actually interesting nuts.  Meh.

I appreciated the bottle of Perrier, but amusingly, all subsequent sparkling waters I ordered were just generic cans.

After a little while, the cart came through with our choice of the two appetizers, both served cold, along with wine, and the warm bread basket.
Starter: Seared venison fillet with kumara chips, pickled red onion, smoked chili, and micro herbs. Garlic Bread.
Ojan opted for the venison.  I tried a bite, and it was actually really tender and well cooked, but cold venison is not really what I’d ever go for.  The dish also just didn't have much flavor.

I mostly wanted to snag a few of the kumara chips, but, alas, chips they were not, rather, they were totally soggy.  The micro herbs on top were a nice garnish.

This was better than expected, and good for what it was.

He opted for garlic bread again, which I skipped, having not really liked it last time, although, they did nail the heavy garlic.
 Roasted sumac salmon and quinoa salad with tahini yogurt dressing. Purple wheat roll.
I went for the seafood option.

The salmon was nicely cooked, it wasn’t fishy, and it was even a bit rare inside.  It was also served cold, which I think is how all their appetizers are, but I would have preferred warm.  This was all good, except that I hated the sumac coating.  Unlike the not-very-flavorful venison, this was very, very flavorful.  If you liked sumac, I’m sure it was fine, but it was not for me.

It was drizzled with a bit of the yogurt dressing which I didn’t really taste, and served over a multicolor cold quinoa salad.  The quinoa was all a bit mushy, and not particularly flavorful.  There were also some seeds mixed in.

This dish sounded similar to the salmon and cous cous salad I had on my previous flight, just a Works Deluxe and not business class offering, except that one was actually delicious, and this fell short on many levels.

I also selected the purple wheat roll from the bread basket.  I have no idea why.  I generally skip the bread basket on flights, but, I was struck by a moment of wanting to participate when the basket was put in front of me.

It was shockingly good actually.  Soft and fluffy, flavorful, nice wheat flavors.  Huh.  I was offered a little bottle of personal olive oil as well, which I accepted, and it was quite nice to dunk my roll in, decent quality.

So far, the roll was the best part of my meal, and I actually finished mine gladly.  When Ojan tried a bite after I said it was good, I somewhat aggressively demanded that he give it back quickly.

I also had a glass of Chardonnay alongside, that was very pleasant.  Smooth, a bit buttery, really quite nice.
Main: Lamb shank with golden kumara mash, green beans, spinach and pea medley with mint apple jelly.
Ojan opted for the lamb shank after rave reviews from our co-workers.  Given his look when he took his first several bites, he did not enjoy it.  Since I know I loathe lamb, I didn't try the meat.

I tried the golden kumara mash, it was creamy and decent.  The green beans, spinach, and peas were actually nicely prepared, not mushy, not too crispy.  But they were smothered in the sauce from the lamb, which tasted lamby, so that kinda ruined it for me.
Main: Seared hapuka in miso coconut broth with steamed shiitake rice, gai pan, and fresh coriander salsa.
Given that I actively did not want the other options for my main, I was left with the hapuka, a fish with which I was unfamiliar.

It was meaty, fishy, and cooked well done, a bit dry.  I did not like the fish.

It was served over rice, which I never like, and this was no exception.  Just, rice.

On the side was gai pan, which was cooked fine, but like the rest of the plate, smothered in the miso coconut broth.  Now, this sounds like something I should love.  I love miso.  I love coconut.  I love sauces.  But I absolutely did not like this sauce, and honestly didn’t taste miso nor coconut.  It tasted sorta like a citrus cream, which was really not enjoyable.

Both main dishes really failed for me.  The only good parts were the roll, and Ojan’s veggies.
Dessert: White chocolate and rosewater panna cotta with pistachio cream.
Next were the desserts.  Ojan and I decided to split both, since I wanted them both.

I adore panna cottta, but I was skeptical of this, since I don’t tend to care for rosewater.  The panna cotta was very thick, more well set than I’d prefer.  And … it tasted like rosewater.  Mild perhaps, but, not a flavor I really liked.  The cream on the side was fine, but it didn’t really taste like pistachio (which was fine with me).

Not a winner.
Dessert: Gourmet dessert of strawberries and cream ice cream with strawberry compote and meringue.
Next, the ice cream, another item I'm pretty familiar with.  Strawberry is my least favorite flavor of ice cream, sadly.  The ice cream was fine, and loaded with berries, but, well, strawberry.  The strawberry compote on top was way too sweet and definitely didn’t taste fresh.  The merginue pieces were fine but I don’t love crispy meringues.

Sigh.  I feel like most of my problem with the entire menu was that it was just things I don’t really like.  Lamb. Chicken.  Chick peas.  Rice.  Quinoa.  Strawberry ice cream. Rosewater.  The food all seemed decently prepared, but, alas, when you don’t like what it is made from, there isn’t much saving it.

I asked what was on the cheese platter, hoping for a nice triple cream, but, alas, the cheeses were blue cheese, feta, and cheddar.  For some reason lately I’ve been really not liking blue cheese, I don’t ever care for feta, and cheddar is fine, but booing.  I gave up at this point and moved on to an after dinner drink.
Decaf Coffee.
I went for a decaf coffee, served in a really nice sizable mug.  After a full week of feeling like coffee cups were all tiny, this was quite welcome.  The coffee wasn’t horrible.

Breakfast

Breakfast Menu.
Breakfast began with the same “Wake-up Drinks”: apple juice or orange juice, and a mango, pineapple, and coconut smoothie.  I tried the smoothie this time around, mostly out of boredom while waiting to use the bathroom.  It had a nice flavor, with the mango, pineapple, and coconut flavors all coming through, but it was a smoothie after all, thick with yogurt base, and I didn’t care for it.

For those who wanted to maximize sleep, which I assure you was impossible given the ruckus, there was a "Sleep In" option that included just fruit, yoghurt, cereal, a pastry, and drink.

The menu then had "From the Pantry", "From the Bakery", and "From the Stove" options that we had become accustomed to at this point.
Breakfast Cart: "From the Pantry".
The first phase of breakfast come from the cart.

“From the Pantry” we could select similar fruit, yogurt, and cereal as our previous flights.  The selection was slightly different from our other flights, mostly likely just due to where it was catered out of, the but basic concept was the same:

  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Plain Greek yoghurt or fruit yoghurt
  • Berry cereal
  • Toasted muesli
Pantry: Fruit Yogurt & Toasted Muesli.
Since the fruit salad contained melons, I skipped it.

I opted for the fruit yoghurt (berry) topped with toasted muesli.

On the previous flight, the yogurt was low fat, this time it was not, which I knew, since the menu didn’t say low fat.  The difference between US and NZ catering!  

The yogurt was really quite good.  Creamy, a bit sweet with a little berry compote mixed in.  I would have preferred far more berry compote, but that was probably just luck of the draw, since I think they mixed it in themselves.

The cereal selections were a toasted muesli or a berry cereal.  I asked for just a little bit of muesli sprinkled on top of my yogurt for some crunch, and my yoghurt got absolutely buried under muesli.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  The muesli was uninteresting, mostly just toasted flakes with rock hard raisins inside.  I don't mind raisins, but why must they so often be little rocks?  I mostly shoved it aside and dug for my tasty yogurt.

So far, breakfast was much better than on previous flights.  I filled up on yoghurt and muesli, not having high hopes for anything else, and, well, it was tasty.
Bakery: Danish.
Next came the bread basket.  “Would you like something from the bakery?”, the staff member asked.  This made me laugh, as, clearly, it wasn’t exactly from a bakery.  Anyway, the “From the Bakery” selection matched what we had on our flight from Auckland to Sydney, rather than San Francisco to Auckland, which I’m assuming is the standard catering out of Auckland:

  • Croissants or fruit Danish
  • Vogel’s or fruit toast with your choice of marmalade, strawberry jam, Vegemite, Marmine
This time, when the options were shown to me, it was explained that Vogel’s is a New Zealand brand bread.  Both the Vogel’s and the fruit toast looked pretty good, nicely toasted, offered with jam or marmalade alongside.

There were also croissants and danishes, warm.  I again opted for a danish, I’m not sure why, given how bad the one was on my Auckland to Sydney flight.  I guess I was feeling lucky given the yogurt success.

The danish had a little custard and an apricot inside.  Since it had been warmed up, it was gummy and moist.  Certainly not flaky, nor buttery, but with a high oil content presumably to make it shelf stable.  The custard just tasted strange.  I ate this, I’m not really sure why, as it wasn’t very good.  Perhaps the simple toast with jam would have been a better option.
Stove: Waffles with mixed spice sugar, black doris plum compote, and Greek yogurt.
And finally, the hot items, “From the Stove”, which were ordered when they came through with smoothies, in advance.  (Side note: I wish that like other airlines you could order before bed, to allow more time for sleep.  Then again, I can imagine wanting to change my mind based on how I was feeling?)  Anyway, our choices were:

  • Ricotta and fried pastrami filled omelette with breakfast ratatouille and sautéed potatoes.
  • Scrambled eggs with gourmet pork and apple sausage, creamed spinach, and tomato relish.
  • Waffles with mixed spice sugar, black doris plum compote, and Greek yogurt.
  • Hot bacon roll - a warmed roll, buttered and filled with grilled bacon, offered with caramelized onion jam and barbecue sauce.
I’m a sweet, carb loving breakfast girl, so I obviously went for the waffles, although the french toast and the hot cakes from my previous flights were really quite awful.  From the other dishes, I wanted the creamed spinach served alongside the scrambled eggs, and perhaps the ricotta, but, uh, I couldn’t really have that.  I also noted that the famed hot bacon roll was the same as our other flight out of Auckland.

The waffle was actually worse than the pancakes or french toast.  It was flappy and soggy.  Not remotely crispy.  Remember how thrilled I was by the waffle on BA?  Yeah, this was nothing like that.  Just a floppy, soggy, mess.  Hard to cut even, as it was rubbery.  Wow.  The flavor of the “mixed spice sugar” was also really strange.

The black doris plum compote on top was sweet, but I also didn’t care for the flavor of that.  The greek yogurt topping seemed to literally just be greek yogurt dolloped on top.  Not sweetened, not whipped, not made creamy.  And, since it was on top of warm waffles, it too was warm.  Very, very off putting.

The only good thing I can say about this was the little pot of syrup on the side was cute.  It was a spiced syrup of sorts, certainly not maple.

Two bites into the waffles I realized there was no way I was going to finish them, and we still had a few hours before I’d be home, so I should probably eat more.  I rang my call button to ask for more fruit yogurt.  I wanted just a little more, but a giant bowl was brought out.  I didn’t manage to finish it all, but I did certainly load up on yogurt, and, without the muesli in the way, I liked it even more.  So sweet and creamy, really a nice product, and I wish I knew what brand it was.

Ojan went for the scrambled eggs, on recommendation from our co-worker who flew a few days prior and said they were good.  I didn’t get a photo, as I was busy watching my movie and didn’t notice that his meal had arrived, and he committed the crime of daring to eat without snapping a photo first.  But, let’s just say, he didn’t make much more progress on his dish than I did.  He ate only the spinach, and he did so before I even got a chance to try it.  That was the part I wanted to try!  The others around us who also ordered the scrambled eggs returned theirs virtually untouched as well.  I wonder if we just had someone in the kitchen who didn’t quite know what they were doing?  These breakfast meals couldn’t possibly always be THIS bad, could they?
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