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The great business class bake off – Qatar Airways v BA v Emirates

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Over a four week period recently I flew Qatar Airways, Emirates and British Airways in business class on a flight which included a main meal.

I thought it would be a bit of fun to compare the three meals.  Did British Airways have the best business class food or not?

(You cannot use this exercise to draw serious conclusions about the food quality on any of the airlines, especially as my food choices are biased towards fish and poultry.  Certain themes do seem to come through though.)

Let’s jump straight in:

Round 1 – amuse bouche

This is a clear win for Qatar Airways as neither Emirates or British Airways served one.  Here is the Qatar Airways amuse bouche of Indian spiced lobster:

Qatar Airways 777 amuse bouche

Round 2 – appetiser

Qatar Airways served up a smoked chicken terrine with pear chutney (2 other options):

Qatar Airways 777 appetiser

British Airways offered me a bocconcini mozzarella and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes with basil dressing (1 other option).  It was served as pictured, ie tipped to one side of the plate!

Club World appetiser

Emirates gave me seared tuna with marinated asparagus and caper vinaigrette sauce (three other options):

Emirates appetiser

I judged Emirates as the winner of this round and I think the photos back me up.

Round 3 – main course

Qatar Airways really hit its stride here with arabic spiced monkfish with sayadiah rice (2 other options).

As I wrote in my original trip report “the mild spiciness of the monkfish overcame the dulling sensation that your taste buds experience in flight to ensure that the food did still deliver a kick.  It also came with a selection of bread which did actually taste and feel like bread”.

Qatar Airways 777 main course

BA’s Club World had a broader range with four options.  I went with North Atlantic cod with a saffron and sultana sauce, vegetable tagine and couscous.  Yet again, presentation lets BA down in a big way:

British Airways Club World main course

Emirates also had four options.  I went with roast chicken dressed with chicken jus lie, served with red pepper, courgette, yellow squash and oregano potatoes.  It wasn’t bad but Qatar had an edge.

Emirates business class main

Qatar Airways wins the main course round.

Round 4 – dessert

To be honest, none of the three airlines really went for it here. In general there was just one ‘proper’ option plus fruit, ice cream, cheese etc.

Qatar Airways came up with cardamom panna cotta with rhubarb compote (two other options of fruit and ice cream):

Qatar Airways 777 dessert

British Airways had four options – cheese, fruit, ice cream and the chocolate and orange Mogador with orange sauce which is what I went with:

British Airways Club World dessert

Finally, Emirates had four options – cheese, fruit, chocolate fudge cake and mascarpone mousse with mango compote garnished with fresh berries:

Emirates business class dessert

I am going to judge this round a tie.  The Qatar dessert had more ‘going on’ and was technically the most accomplished but the BA Club World option had a satisfying bite from the orange sauce.

The winner

Based purely on the three meals above, I will give Qatar Airways the prize for ‘best meal’.  There was not a dull note anywhere.  Emirates comes in 2nd place.

British Airways is third, let down by poor presentation and, frankly, clear evidence that less money has been spent and ‘easy options’ (in terms of ability to serve) taken.  Take a look at the carrots in that Qatar main course – you are never going to see that on British Airways, even in First Class.

Comments (48)

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  • ankomonkey says:

    I like these posts. From what’s been shared in the article I rate Qatar as overall winner too. But that Emirates tuna looks damn good! Anyone want to pitch a cooking show competition between airlines to a TV company with me? It’s free advertising for the airlines so surely they’d be all over it. Second series is hotels… Third series is chains associated with celebrity chefs – my money is on the winning dish for this one being the Worral-Thompson “pulled pork” – the pork is pulled out from under his jumper when the supermarket security guard questions him…

  • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    I am obviously the target audience for BA, as I prefer their options.
    That said, I would always avoid fish if possible. A dodgy fish dish on a internal Russian flight ended with me exploding from both ends when I arrived at my wife’s best friend’s apartment.
    Quite an entrance (or exit).

  • Rob says:

    Yes, that should work on top – I don’t see why not, because you only ask them for the refer a friend points after you have received your card.

    • Tariq says:

      Indeed – I think I got the card when there was just 1000 points on offer and did the RAF for another 1000. My Tesco receipts are currently showing 2000 TPF points in my balance so presuming both offers have been awarded!

  • john says:

    I did 4 QR sectors in Nov in Business. The service was exceptional on three of the flights (the fourth was a bad crew which can happen anywhere) and the soft offering (amenities, food, beverage) was light years ahead of BA.

    If it wasn’t for the need to use some 2-4-1’s over the coming 24mths then my time flying BA long haul would have ended already. It is not the worse product out there, but it is far from the best when viewed objectively.

    P.S. I also had the Monk Fish and would do so again just for the carrots.

    • Sean says:

      i din four QR sectors in October. It was ahead of BA in every aspect except the sloped seat on the A330 for the first leg.

      They managed to get the bread to both taste nice and not dry out after fifteen seconds.

  • James67 says:

    I share most of these sentiments about BA food. My last few CW meals have been simply awful. They included baby pink chicken which cabin crew did their best to persuade me was safe to eat after I complained. Safe it may have been, but palatable no. Reality and picture are akin to the slop they now dish up in the lounge. Food on Air Asia is even superior in my view. My own favourite business class food is on Finnair; doesn’t get very good reviews but I find their emphasis on lighter salad- and fish- based meals more suited to flying longhaul than the heavy stodge many airlines serve up. Also like reindeer so that may influence my preference. Amongst other airlines I have particularly enjoyed the curries on Sri Lankan and on Thais Indian subcontinent flights. Thai also has served some very nice fresh and light desserts. Apart from BA, I have been disapoited with SQ s BTC; eight flights with them and so far nothing to write home about. The positive reports on Swiss food too also amazes me. I have found their maincourses and the paltry small moose-like desserts they invariably offer to be totally uninspiring. All that said, my ultimate preference is to avoid the food altogether; on overnight flights I usually eat before boarding and then just get to sleep asap.

    • Scott says:

      As someone who likes reindeer I would have thought you like a bit of Moose as well…probably only available on AC though.

  • Nick says:

    I’ve never been in CW (always waited for availability in First on long-haul redemptions) but I’ve got a trip to Calgary coming up, on a companion voucher. Sadly there is no first cabin, so I get my first taste of CW. Everything I’ve read about CW is making me wonder if I shouldn’t just cancel, and pay cash for WT+. That food looks terrible, as do the seats. What the hell are they playing at, trying to sell a premium cabin with 2-3-2 setup?!

    For reward flights, it has to be worth spending the extra avios to go first (where the food is undeniably good) – if only because of the lack of the seat booking charge. The cost of reserving seats for the two of us in CW is a staggering £300. Ryanair must be looking on in admiration at BA’s front. (It was £280 a few days ago – looks like BA have pushed up the price again). It means the fees and fares for booking a return flight in CW is about £750 per person. By the time you factor in £150 for the companion voucher and the ‘cost’ of 100,000 avios then even with a companion voucher, it doesn’t seem like a great deal. I’ve got one more companion voucher to use up, but after that It’ll be European reward savers in economy to burn through my remaining avios before concentrating on other schemes.

    • Mark2 says:

      In 2012 we flew to Montreal CW and back from Toronto First. It was an old 747, but we could hardly tell the difference except for more service and better food. If we had paid we would have been very disappointed.

    • JQ says:

      Well, do you want a flat bed or not? The food is basically the same in CW and WTP.
      When the other option is AC, BA looks amazing.

      • Nick says:

        Yes, I want a flat bed, but I want that as part of a genuine business class product. CW looks like a prem economy cabin with the (admittedly significant) benefit of lie-flat beds.

        • Nick says:

          ….and the significant disadvantage of having to climb over your neighbour to get to the isle. 2-3-2 is just not a very good idea.

  • TTT says:

    Was about to ditch Etihad to try Club World (with their current sale) for the first time this Christmas, till I’ve read this. Didn’t know CW is that bad. I thought Etihad’s food in J is a hit and miss (but generally is good), but it seems BA is even worse..Thanks for posting.

  • Keith says:

    Great guys. Sitting here in MIA awaiting the BA208 home in CW. The lounge here is rubbish, a ham sandwich is the best that can be mustered although there is no mustard!
    What joys I have ahead

    • Lady London says:

      Sympathise with you about the mustard! I always try to travel with a little tube of English mustard in my suitcase. It works with lots of other places’ foods.

      Recently I saw somewhere that Nigella Lawson does too! Now if I could just have her looks too… !

      • Alan says:

        Although for those of us that have mustard I’d much prefer sandwiches didn’t have it already smeared all over them! Agree they should have it available as an optional extra though!

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