Aeroplane food has become the latest spot for competition.
British Airways has revamped its menu on flights including those plying the Nairobi route as part of a Sh585 billion investment plan for its customers.
The investment includes 72 new aircraft, expanded routes, additional flight frequencies, new in — flight dining and improved cabin experience.
“Now the airline is upping the game again. With the food and beverage offering being a huge driver of customer satisfaction, catering is part of its £6.5 billion five-year investment plan,” said Sue Petrie, the British Airways commercial manager trade for southern and East Africa.
Let us face it, when on a long haul flight that will see you have at least two meals in the sky, the food needs to quell the hunger and be flavourful.
“People lose 30 per cent of taste at that height. Even water boils at 91 degrees Celsius in the air so you cannot get that piping hot cup of tea in the sky. This means, we must make the food taste good,” explains Sue.
It is estimated that taste buds lose sensitivity to sweet and salty dishes by about 30 per cent when is an aeroplane cabin at high altitudes. This also affects what we smell when on a flight, influencing the overall dining experience on a flight. I discovered that sour, spicy and bitter flavours do not seem to be affected at high altitudes. Nor is the fifth taste — umami — the savoury flavour in things such as tomatoes, soy sauce and mushrooms. Consequently, these umami flavours feature in many of the dishes served on board.
This means that innovation is key as well as an understanding of the travellers’ tastes and preferances. British Airways is working with Nas Servair for the new business class menu on its flights from Kenya.
What they serve
The expanded menu will include a cold starter, soup, a main course of seafood, meat, chicken or vegetarian, a cold or hot dessert and a cheese course.
The salmon starter features the fish, a lemon wedge, potatoes and sweetcorn salad and tomatoes.
On land, the salmon tastes quite salty, but somehow the rest of the dish complements the saltiness. However, Eric Rouvillois, the managing director for Nas Servair Kenya explains that the saltiness will be muted in the skies.
Similarly, the moist chicken served on a bed of guacamole and asparagus offers that decadent bite in preparation for the hot main course. For those who prefer a warm dish, there is the alternative of being served warm soup.
The main courses that have rice, snapper and prawns can be compared to a gourmet meal in a five-star restaurant. The fish is moist and the prawns are fleshy and juicy. Hopefully, the meal will be as tasty in the skies as it was in the comfort of NAS dining area at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The beef course made of a braised piece of steak, sous-vide (cooked in a vacuum sealed pack on low heat) for a cool 72 hours. The beef once done and glazed is served with Hash browns and butternut or potato slices and vegetable medley. It is so tender that you can use your fork to cut through it.
According to Eric, this is the perfect cut and cook for aeroplane food because after reheating, it will not affect the flavour.
This is usually because fillets tend to get overcooked hence changing the flavour when heated up.
Before food is put in an aircraft, it must be cooled to five degrees Celsius. Food is made daily, several hours before each flight, blast chilled to about five degrees Celsius to keep it fresh and stop growth of bacteria. They will also serve cold and hot desserts such as hot caramel sauce and molten chocolate cake among other alternatives depending on the flight.
“The menu includes a mix of African and Continental cuisine. This ensures it’s a global product,” said Timothy Njoroge, the chef in charge of production at NAS Servair.
According to Timothy, the new selection also includes a smoothie, muesli and sandwiches for breakfast as well as croissant and Danish pastries.
“The dishes are designed to pop with taste and the table settings are elegant with thought-through details such as stemless wine glasses,” said Sue.
“The focus on detail extends to offerings such as the Club Kitchen, where customers can help themselves to an array of indulgent treats as well as fresh fruit and healthy snacks. Traditional favourites, including the Cadbury’s box, has now been extended to offer a larger array of British brands and updated healthy options,” Sue added.
BA brought in Boeing 777s for the Kenya route in October 2018 as part of the ongoing upgrade and have partnered with luxury British retailer, The White Company for new bedding and amenity kits.
Economy class will also receive water in bottles rather than the tiny cups that have been the norm. The first class menu is set for a revamp in March.