Tales of bad in-flight meals are the stuff of urban legend, but standards of mile high dining are rising fast with the introduction of celebrated chefs and worldwide cuisine onboard. firstclass decided to sample the culinary delights on offer from some of the world's biggest airlines.
Haute cuisine with British Airways
British Airways claims to focus its in-flight meal philosophy on providing fresh ingredients, at flexible times.
In a unique move, British Airways’ catering and service style works to reflect that of a top-class restaurant.
The airline has carried out comprehensive research and consulted food industry experts who work with their own specialist catering staff to give customers precisely what they want.
To cater for the growing trends towards healthier eating, the food served on board British Airways flights is contemporary, tasty and provides a balance between offering healthy meals and indulgent treats.
The airline wants its catering service to reflect that of a top-class restaurant, moving away from the traditional airline service. Customers for example are served with china plates and cups and glassware - instead of plastic.
Customers can even choose how they eat on board now with a range of new initiatives introduced which are reflective of a passenger's flight time, ticket class and personal preference.
The Pre-Flight Dining Menu allows passengers the ultimate in flexibility and is served in the airport business and first class lounges. Customers flying out of all major US east coast destinations have the choice to eat from a hot or cold selection prior to flying in order to maximise sleep time on board. The menu is available to First and Club World passengers at key US gateways.
The Ultimate Flexibility Menu allows first class passengers to choose when they eat in-flight, and enables them to choose from five main course options.
The Sleeper service is also offered to British Airways' Club World customers on a range of overnight flights from North America and the Middle East to London Heathrow.
The service allows them to eat whenever they want, depending on when they want to sleep.
The Club World Sleeper Service service has proved extremely popular with customers. Research has shown that a third of all passengers using the sleeper service report getting up to an extra two hours' sleep.
Customers can choose from five dining options before, during and after the flight.
Once onboard, the catering offering includes the Night Cap service - hot or cold drinks and snacks such as warmed cookies, toasted sandwiches and substantial snacks from a Midnight Munchies menu including crisps, luxury ice-cream or a cheese selection.
The sleeper service was created to give customers an even better and longer night's sleep and to maximise the use of the multi-award-winning Club World flat bed. The cabin is more tranquil with fewer announcements and passengers can have a complimentary spa treatment on arrival at Heathrow.
The Breakfast in Bed menu is served as close to landing as possible for customers who wish to be woken.
BA's Healthy Eating Choice menu has integrated healthier eating options- grilled instead of fried food using lighter sauces, more rice and pulses while giving people a nutritious and flexible choice.
As well as menus to fit in with your flight time and class of ticket, British Airways also offers a host of dining options depending on your route and destination.
The popular First menu offers the ultimate in haute cuisine. Menus are enhanced with a truly international flavour, offering speciality dishes from around the world. Diners can choose from a seven course a la carte menu or more casual bistro style dishes with ‘First' passengers in control of when and what they eat.
BA has introduced several small to be noticeable differences to its in-flight meals services. For example the cabin crew no longer push a food trolley through the cabin. Passengers have the choice of when they want to see a menu, and when they would like to eat.
For something more exotic there is the Chiva-Som spa cuisine. The airline has recently joined forces with Thailand's world-renowned luxury health resort, Chiva-Som to provide spa cuisine dishes on flights between Heathrow, New York, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Newark, Washington, Dubai, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The World Traveller and World Traveller Plus menus are heavily inspired by international cuisine with a mix of dishes from around the world. The food served is of a high standard and customers can expect a greater quantity on longer long-haul journeys for their second meal.
Customers travelling World Traveller Plus also enjoy drinks served in glassware and first serving of any meals.
The Euro Traveller menu was introduced following extensive research which revealed that many customers travelling in the Euro Traveller cabin wanted something they could either eat on board, or take off with them. Consequently, British Airways introduced the All Day Deli, which is served in a stylish meal box. Depending on the time of day the box will contain sandwiches, salad and fresh fruit. On breakfast flights a warm baguette with fresh orange juice is served.
For passengers with special dietary needs there is the Special Meals menu available on flights over 90 minutes to customers travelling in the Club Europe cabin. Passengers can pre-order 20 different types of meal, including diabetic, gluten free, low sodium, low cholesterol, low calorie, low protein/potassium, high fibre, bland, low purine (uric acid free), non-lactose (dairy free), vegetarian (lacto-ovo), vegetarian (non-dairy), Asian vegetarian, Hindu, Muslim, children's meal (under 12's), children's meal (under two years); seafood; fruit platter.
British Airways FIRST menu
Chilled fruit juice or an energising fruit smoothie
A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls
Gravlax with chermoula dressing
Roast plum tomato soup with herb crème fraîche
Fresh salad leaves with your choice of olive oil with rosemary or spicy orange and lime dressing.
The World Traveller menu is influenced by international cuisine with a mix of dishes from around the world.
Classic British breakfast of grilled fillet steak and lamb cutlet with scrambled eggs, tomato and mushrooms
Shaun Hill's roast brill with whole-grain mustard sauce
Vineet Bhatia's spicy chicken korma infused with truffle oil and morels
Prawn Niçoise with lemon vinaigrette.
Michel Roux's chocolate and banana délice
Lemon and sponge pudding with custard or vanilla ice cream.
Artichoke, Mozzarella cheese and tomato pizza
Penne pasta with your choice of creamy pesto
Artichoke and tomato sauce with garlic herb croûte.
Montgomery Cheddar - An award-winning straw-coloured cheese that is rich in flavour with a hint of fruit; this variety is made from the legendary Jersey cow's milk and is a British Airways exclusive.
English Stilton - Stilton is an English cow's milk, semi-hard, blue,unpressed cheese with a natural brushed rind.
Brie - This soft cow's milk cheese is one of the world's most popular cheeses.
A basket of fresh fruit.
London - Bahrain Main Menu
Loch Fyne smoked salmon with dill crème fraîche.
Roast red onion, rocket and Feta cheese salad
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
So keen are Lufthansa Airlines to serve their passengers first class food, they have collaborated with renowned chef Doxis Bekris.
Grilled fillet of beef with balsamic butter, butter bean mash and roast root vegetables
Seared cod with a butter and caper sauce
Penne pasta with tomato basil sauce and Mozzarella cheese
Chicken tabouleh salad.
Toffee apple soufflé with toffee sauce
Hereford Hop and Brie cheese
London - Bahrain
Smoked kingfish and prawns with lemon, tabouleh and tomato salad
Roast aubergine and red pepper salad with grilled Haloumi cheese and lemon olive oil dressing.
Hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies
Hot chocolate, coffee, tea or herbal teas: peppermint, blackcurrant, apple or camomile and honey.
Bahrain - London
Breakfast in Bed Menu
Chilled fruit juice
An energising fruit smoothie
Seasonal fresh fruit
Pancake with scrambled eggs and chives, beef sausages, mushrooms, tomato and rösti potatoes
Tomato and herb omelette
Selection of warm bread and breakfast pastries, coffee or tea.
Luxury with Lufthansa
So keen are Lufthansa German Airlines to serve their passengers first class food, they have collaborated with renowned chef Doxis Bekris, currently the Kempinski Hotel Dubai's star chef. Doxis has been chosen to create dishes exclusively for Lufthansa first and business class passengers on all outbound flights from the Gulf to Germany. Lufthansa and the Kempinski Hotel at the Mall of the Emirates will cooperate for one year. He will become part of Lufthansa's Star Chef Programme, under which it invites top chefs to create menus for its in-flight meals.
Fine British dining – comforting and delicious, using seasonal, home-grown and locally sourced produce.
Greek-born Doxis, has starred in televised cooking shows both in his native Greece and the United Kingdom and has worked at some of the world's most acclaimed restaurants with renowned masters of the trade.
He is held in high esteem among industry peers and gourmands in the region and has led the evolution of Sezzam at Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, transforming it in to an award-winning dining venue.
It was this irrefutable talent which led Lufthansa to invite chef Doxis to contribute to the airline's new Star Chef initiative.
Rotating every two months, Doxis' fine dining delicacies have been included in Lufthansa's menu from last month.
First class delicacies include sautéed tiger prawns, lemon grass with cashew nuts in red chilli sauce, blanched baby pak choy, carrots, beans and corn with fried rice, cornflake crusted chicken breast, mint rice rolled in Savoy cabbage, fruity curry sauce and caramelised pineapple ring. Luscious desserts such as green tea panna cotta with rhubarb and mixed berry compote with chocolate garnish or cinnamon ice-cream with plum compote complete the fine dining experience at 39,000 ft.
Peter Pollak, Lufthansa General Manager, Passenger Sales, UAE & Director for the Gulf & Pakistan, said: "We are proud to announce the teaming up of Lufthansa and Kempinski, Mall of the Emirates, two discerning partners well-known for their high quality and premium products, for this special Star Chef Promotion.
"A creative team of experts from both our companies have been working at putting together gourmet delights with a local flavour and the signature of Kempinski's Star Chef Doxis.
"This is what our passengers in the Gulf region can look forward to".
Dine out at 35,000ft with Virgin Atlantic
Richard Branson famously launched Virgin Atlantic after having one bad in-flight meal too many so it's no surprise that dining on any Virgin Atlantic flight is a culinary delight.
Virgin Atlantic offer passengers the option to eat when they choose with the Freedom menu that serves food round the clock. The menu on board is heavily influenced by British cuisine.
Features such as traditional afternoon tea are served before the landing of each Virgin Atlantic flight and during the flight passengers enjoy a variety of traditional and contemporary dishes. It is the epitome of fine British dining and the chefs use seasonal, home-grown and locally sourced produce whenever they can.
Virgin Atlantic prides itself on its ability to satisfy every customer, whatever their dietary needs. So whether your requirements are medical or religious they won't make a meal out of giving you the right food. Special diets catered for include, lacto, vegan and vegetarian, low fat/cholesterol, Hindu non-vegetarian, (contains no products derived from pork, beef or veal) and Asian vegetarian meals.
Virgin Atlantic Lunch Menu
Smoked haddock paté served with black pepper oat cakes - A true British favourite - made with Arbroath Smokies, lightly smoked small haddock from the town of Arbroath in Angus, Scotland
Mild spiced butternut squash soup, served with a choice of warm bread- A warm and hearty autumn soup - perfect for a typical British rainy day.
Roast chicken breast with sage & thyme stuffing served with autumn greens, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and Somerset cider sauce- Sunday roast is one of the best loved traditions in Britain.
The Square Pie Company steak and mushroom pie, served with mushy peas, mashed potato and gravy - Fresh British meat encased in flaky pastry.
Autumn vegetable stew served with dumplings and hazelnuts - a traditional British winter meal using fresh, seasonal British vegetables.
Mini beef burger in barleycorn roll served with tomato and rocket relish
Chicken tikka served with cucumber and mint raita
Cornish vegetable pasty served with either tomato ketchup
Treacle tart served with fresh single cream - one of the more traditional British desserts, this brings back happy memories of days gone by.
Profiteroles with chocolate sauce
Coastal Cheddar- Rugged mature cheddar with a sweet, caramel flavour
Somerset Rustic- Pasteurised cow's milk cheese with a distinctive bloomy orange rind, made with vegetarian rennet
Cropwell Bishop Stilton - Known as the king of cheeses with a rich and mellow flavour
Cheeses are served with assorted crackers and plum and ginger chutney.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.