Swiss International Air Lines is expanding its partnership with The Peninsula Hotels group to offer new creations for its first and business class inflight menus on selected routes.
The two parties began working together in 2009, when The Peninsula group executive chef Florian Trento, a fellow Swiss, was invited to come up with new dishes for premium passengers onboard Hong Kong-Zurich flights. He has been approached again for another collaboration, except this time it will also include flights taking off for Switzerland from Bangkok, Shanghai and Beijing, where the luxury hotel group also has properties.
The initiative is part of the airline’s “SWISS Taste of Switzerland”, which began in 2002 when it replaced former Swissair as Switzerland’s flag carrier.
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to attend an exclusive tasting session of some of the new dishes, onboard the first class cabin in one of the airline’s A340s. Dishes served on Swiss flights departing from Hong Kong are prepared by Gate Gourmet.
There are three choices on offer:
- Crab meat salad with avocado puree
- Diced scallop with black truffle vinaigrette
- Lobster medallion with tomato jelly
I have tried the last two, and found both of them refreshing. According to Andreas Weber, general manager of Gate Gourmet, while the taste of salt is subdued in midair, vinegar gets highlighted. That would explain the sparing application of vinaigrette in the scallop dish. The tomato jelly, on the other hand, perfectly complements the lobster and brings out the crustacean flavour very well.
Weber also pointed out that tomatoes, because of the umami components, stay sharp at altitude, which explains why Bloody Mary is one of the most-ordered cocktails inflight. It may also be why tomato jelly has been chosen to accompany the lobster.
According to Felix Kaufmann, the airline’s head of catering operations, since Europe-bound flights from Hong Kong depart very late at night, many passengers tend to go straight to sleep after a few helpings of appetisers, which, like the rest of the menu, are served a la carte. That is also the reason to include more seafood choices, as they are light and people do not generally want to eat a heavy meal before inflight bedtime.
The airline’s signature Balik salmon will continue to be available in first class.
- Gratinated veal fillet with mozzarella and tomato, green asparagus, tagliatelle
- Spring chicken with black truffle, confit potato with mushrooms (pictured below)
- Garoupa fillet with lobster mousse, potato pave, spinach
I have tried all three dishes and my favourite was the chicken, which was aromatic and succulent. The Pinot Noir Barrique 2011, by family-run Weingut Gonzen in Switzerland, was a perfect match with its cedary, chocolately taste that went hand in hand with the sauce and the mushrooms. The veal was not bad, but I would think, with the pasta, it would be a little much for supper. The garoupa was better than I expected – with a Chinese palate, I generally find Western-style fish dishes to be overcooked, not to mention fish that has been reheated in an aircraft galley. But as Trento explained, the meat of garoupa is thick and firm, and it can withstand the reheating process better than very delicate fish. What really made the dish good, though, was the lobster mousse – it had so much depth it did not just highlight the garoupa but also the potato and spinach.
For dessert, choices may include:
- Poached pear with caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream
- Rum baba with exotic fruit minestrone and apricot sherbet
- Thin chocolate tart with Swiss truffle and strawberry sherbet
Trento has been travelling around the region for this initiative, to work with fellow executive chefs Andreas Haugg of The Peninsula Bangkok, Terrence Crandall of The Peninsula Shanghai and Kwok Chung Wan of The Peninsula Beijing to create dishes for Swiss. Passengers on westbound flights from Bangkok have already been enjoying the new dishes since March 6, while flights from Shanghai and Beijing will start featuring the menus from June and September, respectively.