Virgin Atlantic is about to roll out some new meal options in Upper Class and in the Clubhouse restaurants. We got to take a look at it (and sample it) at a private dinner event. As both Rob and I were out of the country, we sent our foodie friend Lisa along to take notes.
Selected dishes designed by Irish food writer and TV host Donal Skehan will be added to the menu in Upper Class and in Clubhouse lounges this month. Premium and Economy will see a food overhaul in 2019.
A star name in Ireland, Donal is best known in the UK as one of the rotating hosts of Saturday Kitchen. He is also a TV regular in the US, and this was presumably a key factor for Virgin Atlantic who wanted someone who was familiar in both of their core markets.
The evening started with a welcome drink served by two flight attendants followed by mingling with other guests, Donal himself and VP Customer Experience at Virgin Atlantic Daniel Kerzner. Virgin had hired an apartment opposite Buckingham Palace for the dinner which gave it an air of exclusivity.
The apartment was beautifully presented with an open plan layout which allowed everyone to watch the chefs at work.
Once everyone had arrived menus were handed out with a choice of three starters and three mains.
These were items selected from both the new Upper Class menu as well as the new Clubhouse lounges menu. I chose the chorizo, tomato and fish stew for a starter and the Ras El Hanout chicken thighs for my main.
Virgin tried to keep the experience as close to that offered at 38,000ft as it could. All of the produce used to prepare our meals was the same as that served in Upper Class and the Clubhouse as were the wines and the table setting.
My stew arrived and at first glance looked more like Tom Yum. It was, however, delicious. There was plenty of chunky chorizo and seafood and the flavours were perfectly balanced. I could easily have gone for seconds.
Next was the Ras El Hanout chicken thighs with fennel salad and baked feta. It was a meal I would be very happy to be served in a restaurant. The chicken was beautifully cooked, and the crispy fennel was a lovely accompaniment to the rich baked feta.
Whilst I was very happy with my choices, I must admit I did feel small pangs of food envy seeing everyone else’s dishes. Lucky for me, Donal ordered extras of all dishes, so we were given the opportunity to sample the items we had not personally ordered.
As a self-proclaimed omnivore, I am often sceptical of the vegetarian option, but in this case the roast cauliflower platter was very satisfying. The different textures of the cauliflower, chickpeas and roasted nuts were complimented well with a tahini yoghurt.
To end our meal, we were served the new Eric Lanlard-designed high tea, which was rolled out earlier this year, with a great selection of cakes slices and macaroons. Head for Points wrote about the launch here.
Having a wheat intolerance, I asked if any of the options were gluten free. Of those we were offered none contained gluten. However, they were not strictly gluten free so caution would need to be exercised for those with a genuine allergy.
Bearing in mind that you lose 30% or your taste sensitivity in the air, Donal has designed the menu to be rich and flavourful yet not so heavy as to leave you feeling gorged for the rest of your flight.
Whilst I was very impressed with the quality and flavours of all the dishes, it is difficult to judge whether the quality would be equal when served on a plane. I would be very interested in trying the menu at altitude to judge how the dishes stand the true test of being prepared in the air. That said, I am confident the menu will be well received by all Upper Class and Clubhouse guests.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (June 2021)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 Points):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)