In Part 1 of my review of the Etihad A380 Business Studio yesterday I looked at the seat and service. Today I want to look at the food and drink options.
Etihad has chosen to install a bar (called ‘The Lobby’) on its A380 aircraft. Unlike Emirates, it sits at the front of the Upper Deck between First Class and Pearl Business Class rather than at the rear.
It is designed to have the feel of a Mayfair private club. There are no windows in the bar area with one wall being taken up a drinks cabinet (see the second photo) and then a round circle of seating. There is no literal ‘bar’ – the crew will make you whatever you want from the cabinet.
The photos below are from the Etihad website because the actual bar is too dark to photograph!
This is a truly innovative space. With no windows, it has been decorated with traditional Arabic lighting and is surprisingly atmospheric. There is also a big screen TV – showing Premier League football highlights when I was there – although the sound was turned off.
Because of the shared seating, it is also a communal space. You are almost obliged to chat with anyone else who is sitting there or you appear very antisocial! Whether or not this is something you like, Etihad has genuinely done something new.
Food and drink
Back in December I did a Business Class ‘bake off’ between BA, Qatar and Emirates based on my recent experiences. Qatar won, Emirates was second and BA was third. If I had to add Etihad to the mix, I would still give the ‘best food’ award to Qatar with Etihad equal to Emirates.
As a 9.15 departure, I was scheduled to receive breakfast and lunch. Having eaten in the lounge, I skipped breakfast apart from a strawberry and elderflower smoothie. The usual mix of cereals, yoghurt, toasted bagels, scrambled eggs, cheese, fruit and – erm – ice cream was available if I wanted it.
Lunch was a more substantial affair!
The starter options were not fantastic. If you are not a fan of mezze (the first option), you are left with green pea soup or a crab and prawn salad. I went with the latter – it tasted fine but the presentation on the plate was a bit wonky!
What IS impressive is the hardware used. The crockery and cutlery was only introduced in December as part of a service revamp and looks fantastic. This is genuinely on a par with a high end restaurant.
There were four choices of main – braised beef cheek, Arabic-style baked chicken filled with prunes, pan-seared fillet of salmon with beetroot mash and fresh tortellini filled with artichoke.
I went with the salmon – it was an impressive portion size and the beetroot mash worked well with it. It is worth remembering that A380’s have modern cooking technology built in which gives airlines more flexibility in the sort of food they serve.
In the only service lapse on the whole flight, my wine glass (half full) was taken away when my empty salmon plate was cleared!
(Let’s pause for a minute and compare the Etihad business class main course above with the last British Airways main course I was served, last October:)
The last British Airways main course I ate ….
Dessert was a choice between basked suet pudding, chocolate and vanilla mousse with coffee syrup, fruit or ice cream. I went with the mousse which was the boring but safe option! I should possibly have gone for the suet pudding for a change.
I livened it up with a glass of Quintessence de Berticot, Cotes de Duras dessert wine.
The drinks selection was acceptable although not mind blowing. The house champagne was Jacquart which Tesco is currently selling on special offer at £19.99. Gosset, which sells for around £39, was available in the bar. The white and red wines offered, such as a Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, sell for around £10 per bottle in the UK. Etihad could do better here.
The ‘Business Studio’ product, available on Etihad’s A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft (the 787 just launched on the Dusseldorf route) is very impressive. In terms of seat comfort, seat privacy and personal space it is as good as you will find anywhere. The bar is a genuinely innovative space. The food and drink could be improved a touch – and I would like to see current day newspapers! – but everything else works like a dream.
I funded this trip using American Express Membership Rewards points as I explained in this article. If you want to try the same trip, there is currently a 25% transfer bonus to Etihad Guest which means that a one-way Pearl Business Class redemption will require around 35,000 Amex points. Tax from London is under £200 and is entirely Air Passenger Duty and Heathrow charges. Tax from Abu Dhabi is £15.
PS. I have an Etihad Gold card from a status match last year. On arrival in Abu Dhabi, there was a 2-person welcoming party on the gangway – for me. Clearly I was the only Gold card holder in First or Business, or at least the only one not in transit.
One person took my bag and the other walked with me to passport control. I was ushered into a private line (no queue) and then walked to the Etihad chauffeur centre. We bypassed the reception desk – instead I was taken outside and popped into the first car. It had taken less than 10 minutes from getting off the aircraft.
Click here for the next review in this series – the Jumeirah At Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi.
More photographs from the Etihad A380 can be found on our Instagram feed.