Monday, June 02, 2014

Club Europe, BA486, LHR-BCN

Last week, you read about my flight from San Francisco to London, First Class, on British Airways.  That was just the first of the three flights necessary to get to my final destination: a beachfront villa in Mallorca!

Next, we had to get from London to Barcelona.  Within Europe, BA does not offer first class, so we had to fly business class, on this flight instead, known as "Club Europe".  It was a short flight, so it didn't matter much, but this was a serious downgrade from our international first class experience.
Mini Seat.
The seating layout was novel to me.  On one side on the plane there are still three seats, yet the middle seat cannot be booked.  On the other, there are two seats, with a mini seat-like thing between them.  Not big enough even for a child, but good for storing a few items during the flight (like, my purse, as pictured above).  Besides this, the seats are the same as the rest of the cabin.
Basic Seat.
The seats are quite basic.  No in-flight power, no entertainment screens.  The fascinating thing is how the cabins are divided between economy and business class.  They can actually re-configure it based on how many seats they sell in business.  The curtain separating the areas is moveable, and, on the side with the mini seat-thing, they can actually turn a crank to adjust the seats back to three normal seats.  So crazy.

The bathroom was standard, with regular paper towels (not cloth like in first class), and a faucet that is pushbutton on and off.

Meal service began with an offer of a hot towel, a good touch for business class.  Due the afternoon departure time, our meal service was "afternoon tea".

Soon after the hot towel, a cart rolled through.  “Would you like afternoon tea?”, I was asked.  “Yes”, I said.  A platter was placed in front of me, no menu provided, no description given.  This became a mystery dining experience.  I was also offered tea or coffee, and anything from the bar, but again, no idea what the options were as there was no menu or list provided.  I ordered a decaf coffee.  Emil later told me that they have a single champagne (that he finds vile), 2 reds (merlot and pinotage), and 2 whites, along with standard bar offerings.
Afternoon Tea.
On the tray was a silverware packet wrapped in plastic, that also contained salt and pepper, sugar, and a moist towelette. There was also an individual serving of whole milk and clotted cream.  No other sweeteners or add-ons were available for the coffee.

Speaking of the coffee.  I ordered decaf, which I’m quite sure was instant, as she had to go back and get it.  It was lukewarm, and tasted like cocoa.  Seriously, like cocoa.  So strange.  But it was served in a really cute cup, with photos of the London skyline on it.

I was dehydrated and had just been drinking over lunch in the Concorde room, so I went with sparkling water and didn't investigate any of the other beverage options.

The rest of my tray was a complete mystery.  3 tea sandwiches.  Since we had no menu, and no description, I honestly don’t know what they were.

The closest to me was on some kind of grainy bread, with cream cheese and bell peppers in assorted colors (yellow, green, red).  I tried this.  The bread was dry and stale tasting, the peppers slimy.  If I had a paper napkin, I probably would have spit this out.

After that first bite, I decided not to try the others.  I don’t like sandwiches anyway, and had just had lunch in the Concorde room.  The middle one seemed to be white bread, with perhaps ham, mustard, and mayo?  And arugula in between the layers of ham.  I’m not sure.

The furthest was wheat bread with chicken? curry with iceberg lettuce.

Tea sandwiches sound cute, but, these were quite dreadful.
Fruit Scone.
As I was examining my sandwiches, the attendant came back with a basket of “scones”.  She held it out asking if I’d like one.  There seemed to be two types of scones, so I asked if they were the same.  I was told one was plain and one was “fruit”.  At this point I realized I was supposed to just grab one, with my hand.  Strange.  I expected her to serve it to me, or for there to be tongs to use.  Um, ok.

The “scones” were warm, and more like a roll than what I’d consider a scone.  I’m still not sure what kind of “fruit” was in mine, but it did indeed have a few pieces of fruit.  There was also a fairly pleasant tang to it, something mildly orange-like.  On my tray was an individual clotted cream, and, as I was wondering about jam, a basket of jars of Wilkin & Sons jam was held out to me.  All jars were the same, strawberry.  I don’t really understand why the clotted cream was already on the tray, but the jam was passed afterwards?

Anyway, the scone was fine, but certainly nothing special, and it cooled down quite quickly.  The strawberry jam was very sweet, and didn’t have any noticeable fruit in it, but then again, I’m spoiled by my mother’s homemade jam, so no commercial jam rarely satisfies me.  Warm scones, cream, and jam aren't a bad thing, but these weren’t particularly interesting.

My water and coffee both ran out quickly, but luckily a refill was offered soon after.
Sweet Treat: Pistachio Madiera Cake.
The final item on my tray was a box labelled “sweet treat”, by Do & Co. It had absolutely no other information on it.  Once I opened the box, another label was visible: “Pistachio Madeira Cake”, it said.  This really, really did not look like a “treat”.  I couldn’t even tell which was the top and which was the bottom.

But for you dear readers, I persevered.  If I could handle the sandwiches, at least for a bite, I could try this.  And, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right?  I’m known to try just about any dessert anyway, so, I bravely faced this thing.

It was as bad as it looked.  As I broke off a piece, I could tell it was going to be horrible.  It was strangely moist and spongy.  It was all one consistency.  It had no actual pistachio chunks inside, but the flavor did taste like pistachio.  I wish I could tell you more, but this was as much as I was willing to try.

So, overall, afternoon tea was … different.  I expected more.  Isn’t afternoon tea a serious thing for the British?  I didn’t expect to really want the sandwiches, since I don’t like sandwiches even when freshly made, but the dessert was a major disappointment.  The scone was at least something I was willing to eat.  If I had been relying on this for a meal, I would have been a bit upset, even if I had eaten all the components, as it really was just a pile of bread and sweets.


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