Tuesday, August 01, 2017

New Air New Zealand Lounge, Sydney

Last time I flew on Air New Zealand out of Sydney, the lounge was a temporary space, down in a basement somewhere.  The space wasn't exactly nice, but I did recall the breakfast items (in particular the muffins, yogurt, and muesli) being quite great.  I didn't write it up, since the lounge was temporary at the time, and I saw no value.

In December 2016, I was able to visit the brand new lounge, and it really was a nice space.  Sure, it is NOT the Qantas First Class Lounge - there is no spa, no made-to-order Neil Perry dining, but, for a business class lounge, it was quite nice, large, not over-crowded, well looked after, and very modern.

My visit was at 10:20am, which meant I was able to catch the end of breakfast service (cleared away at 10:30) and the beginning of lunch (set up right after).  I left at 11:10am though, so I didn't get to see the lunch "action station" in operation, only the buffet.

I was impressed by the facilities and the food, particularly the breakfast.

Facilities

I did not check out the showers, nor the kids play space, but both of those were available.
Runway Views.
Many, many seating options were available.  Along the large, bright windows were cozy looking wing chairs and little tables.
Benches.
Along one wall were these blue padded benches, with bright pink pillows, and beautiful wall art.  This is where we settled, and were happy to find power outlets even here, under the bench.
Communal Table, Black Arm Chairs.
In the center of the space was a communal table, with built in power outlets, and cute little stools.  I'm sure this isn't for everyone, but I thought it was a unique style of seating.

This area had more wing chairs, this time black.  All seats had nearby little tables to set things on.
Arm Chairs.
More traditional black armchairs with side tables were also available, along with red wing chairs.

Nearly every seat had power of some sort.  This space was well designed.
Bar.
This is the best photo I got of the bar, oops!  

As it was still morning, the bar wasn't very active, but, the other end of the bar featured a coffee barista station, which I visited (more on that soon).

Drinks

Most drinks were self-serve, with two large drink stations, one on either side of the room, in addition to the central bar.
Wine, Spirits, Juice. 
Apple and orange juice were in dispensers, and a small selection of spirits and wine were on the counter.  I think the bar had a much bigger selection, but I didn't investigate.
Soft Drinks, Sparkling and Still Water  Tap.
More self serve drinks were a soda fountain, and a water tap.  I was happy to see the sparkling water tap, although it meant I couldn't snag a bottle to bring on my flight with me (which, didn't turn out to be a problem).
Assorted Beer and Cider.
Coolers also held New Zealand beers and even cider.
Self-Serve Robot Coffee.
Tea making facilities included a decent selection of tea, but no rooibos.

The drink stations also had a robot coffee machine, for those who wanted to just push a button and get a coffee or espresso drink.
Ordering Tablet.
Barista service was available at the bar, where you could order through a tablet, customize your drink, select if you wanted it for there or takeaway, and then be given the time at which your drink would be ready.  It also animated your drink filling the cup as you put in selections.  Very cute, and just like I had used in the lounge in Auckland.

You could also order through their app on your phone, if you are into downloading random extra apps to bog down your phone.
Decaf Long Black, Double.
I went for a decaf long black, double.

It was decent.  Nothing mind-blowing, but, not bad.
Biscotti, Marshmallows, Sweeteners.
The end of the barista bar had jars with biscotti and marshmallows, plus an assortment of sweeteners.

Of course I munched on marshmallows.

Food

The food layout is a buffet, plus an "action station" with a chef serving up a particular dish made to order.

I arrived at 10:20am, just in time to grab some breakfast items before the staff whisked them away to make room for lunch.  I'm glad I did, even though I had just had a full breakfast in the lounge at my hotel for one last Eggs Benedict!.  I remembered the temp lounge having good yogurt, bircher muesli, and baked goods, and that did not change with the move to the full lounge.

Breakfast

Cereal, Yogurt, Fruit.
The first section had cereal dispensers on the end, big bowls of plain yogurt (greek or non-fat) and fruit salad, and individual pots of yogurt parfaits (passion fruit, cranberry & orange, raspberry)  and bircher muesli.
Bircher Muesli.
Ah, bircher muesli.  Something I love, and first discovered in Sydney.  Sadly not something we have much of in the US.  On this trip, I didn't have any bircher that I really liked though, because the Sheraton lounge version had too much acidic apple and too much tart yogurt for my taste.

The lounge saved me.  This was great.  Creamy, soft stewed oats, and not too tart (in fact, not tart at all).  It was very sweet, but the sweetness seemed to come from honey, and was a pleasant sweetness.

On top was a few raisins and a chunk of dried apricot, but besides that, there were no mix-ins.  No raisins soaking up the juices inside, no nuts, no seeds, and not even any apple?  I wouldn't really call this bircher muesli, it really seemed more like just a creamy version of overnight oats.  But I'm not complaining.

Overall, I enjoyed it, particularly the pleasant sweetness, but I wouldn't call this a traditional bircher.
Raspberry Yogurt Parfait.
Yogurt parfaits were available in three flavors: passion fruit, cranberry orange, or raspberry.  Since the staff were there clearing the breakfast items as we arrived, I rapidly just grabbed the first I could, raspberry, but I had a bit of remorse that I didn't get passion fruit.

This was very good though.

The yogurt was rich and thick, clearly full fat, full cream, delicious yogurt that we don't get in the US.  I loved the yogurt.

In the middle was a layer with raspberry compote, nicely sweet, and a granola/seed mix, soft from being inside the parfait, so not a crunchy element, but it was still nice.

Overall, very tasty.
Baked Goods, Fruit, Toast.
The next section contained croissants, danishes, cinnamon rolls, whole fruit (pears, apples, bananas), toast, and pretzels.
Danishes, Cinnamon Rolls.
I didn't try the danish, but it looked like it had strawberry filling?  The sign said "pain au chcoolat", which made me realize we missed out on some of the pastry selections, they clearly had more earlier.
Cinnamon roll.
I did grab a cinnamon roll, and threw it in my bag to eat later (in a baggie of course!).  I pulled it out on my next flight, and was so glad I had grabbed one.

It was actually really good, even a bit later.  The pastry was crispy, the cinnamon layer super flavorful, and the entire thing a bit sticky and sweet.  A wonderful pastry, particularly for a lounge.
Croissants.
I didn't try the plain croissants, but, given the success of the cinnamon roll, I sorta wish I had.
Cheese, Crackers, Dried Fruit, Nuts.
The backside of the pastry section had cheeses (brie, sage cheddar, and blue), almonds, dried cranberries and apricots, and crackers, served on attractive wooden cutting boards.

This station stayed out during lunch as well.
Thyme Roasted Mushrooms, Hash Brown Bites.
The hot foods section had 3 chafing dishes, each with two items.

I did not try the roasted mushrooms nor hash brown bites.
Chorizo bites, Fritatta.
Nor did I try the fritatta.

I did try a chunk of chorizo, spicy, flavorful, quite nice.
Scrambled Eggs.
The scrambled eggs looked much better than my hotel breakfast buffet, creamy, and loaded with herbs, but I skipped those too.
Toaster, Crepe Station.
The made to order action station featured a chef making crepes with assorted toppings.  If I had arrived any sooner, I certainly would have tried this.  A very unique offering!

Lunch

Apple Cinnamon Muffin.
Muffins seemed to be part of the transition time, as they were brought out after the breakfast items were cleared away.

I remembered the muffins being good before, so, uh, I tried all three this time (to be fair, I stashed them in my bag too, and ate them on a later flight when I got peckish.  Am I breaking rules here?  I'm not sure, but they were really good, and I'm glad I did so.).

The apple cinnamon was my second favorite, but it was a decent muffin, it seemed fresh, not stale, and the apple and cinnamon flavors were both strong.  I just don't tend to like those flavors.
Zucchini, Walnut, & Parmesan Muffin.
The savory muffin ended up my favorite.  I didn't necessarily taste the zucchini, but it was nicely cheesy from the parmesan, and loaded with walnuts.  I appreciated that they had a savory baked good, as it made me feel less guilty eating three muffins when one was not sweet ...
Raspberry White Chocolate Muffin.
The one I expected to like the most was the raspberry white chocolate, but, it was my least favorite.  It didn't have white chocolate chips.  It didn't have noticeable raspberries, although it was pinkish.  It didn't have much flavor at all.

But like the others, it wasn't dry, was fresh, and was topped with powdered sugar and a slightly crisp top.
Plain Scones, Whipped Cream, Strawberry Jam.
Scones too were part of the transition time, post-breakfast.

On my previous visit to the Auckland Air New Zealand lounge I was sad that I had missed out on the scones, by opting to use the bathroom first, and having the gone moments later.  This time, I was able to get one.

Turns out, I wasn't missing anything.  The scones were just hard biscuits, no tang, nothing interesting about them.  The whipped cream was fine, but, just whipped cream.  The strawberry jam was as generic as could be, just goo, no visible fruit.

Disappointing, but, honestly, I didn't need this anyway.
Sandwiches.
The main lunch lineup seemed to be sandwiches.  The lineup was more interesting than I expected, not just basic egg salad.  Vegetarian options were baba ganoush, carrot, tabouli, and lettuce in an orange wrap or sundried tomato cream cheese, spinach, and fresh tomato on white or wheat bread.  The other wraps were chipotle chicken, with pumpkin, fetta, and buttercrunch or cured silverside with mustard and ice berg.  I am not sure what the final sandwich was.

I was surprised to see no salad options, but perhaps those replace the muffins and scones?  Still, an impressive sandwich lineup, as far as sandwiches go.
Carrot, Pumpkin, & Split Pea Soup.
The soup station had toppings and rolls as well.

The action station didn't start until closer to lunch time, so I wasn't able to see what the chef would be making, but I saw woks being set up.  Next time!
Cookies.
On the end was cookie jars, with shortbread, chocolate chip, and anzac biscuits.  Cookies for breakfast!
Fruit Salad, Carrot Cake, Pear & Raspberry Cake.
Dessert selections, in addition to the cookies, scones, and muffins were a fruit salad and two cakes.  I didn't actually try either, as I was beyond stuffed at this point, and cakes don't exactly slip into the purse easily.
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