It's not often that a renowned chef personally serves you caviar, let alone at an altitude of 39,000 feet.
In the business-class cabin on Qantas' first direct flight from Melbourne, Australia, to San Francisco onboard the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, a flight attendant handed me a glass of bubbly while chef Neil Perry passed canapes of caviar and cauliflower puree atop brioche.
Though being served by the Australian equivalent of Wolfgang Puck was a special occasion for the inaugural flight on Sept. 1, business-class flyers can expect a seasonal menu developed by Perry and his team at Rockpool Consulting and plated to order in the sky.
"When you're at altitude and low humidity, your tongue is continually drying. All of the receptors are at the top of the tongue -- they're drying, dehydrating and being numbed," Perry said over a multicourse dinner in the Qantas First Class Lounge at Melbourne Airport. "But what's happening with modern aircraft is that they're bringing in a lot more fresh air. That's continually allowing us to taste better.
"Lots of airlines go, 'Oh, it's different up in the air.' That's just a cop-out. If food is good and produce is great, it tastes great in the air, too."
Perry's love of seafood and Mediterranean cuisine is evident in the in-flight and lounge menus. Dishes in the Qantas First Class Lounge included stir-fried cumin lamb with smashed cucumber and jasmine rice, salt and pepper squid and green salad with palm sugar vinaigrette. My favorite was the chef's signature Pavlova, a meringue dessert that was happily less sweet than the cotton candy topping promised.
The inaugural fight from Melbourne to San Francisco took off around 9:40 p.m., and though we were full from dinner, supper was served almost immediately.
During the 14-hour flight, there wasn't a need to put the window shade down. Sunlight shone for the last five or six hours. In the natural light, and an hour and a half before landing, we enjoyed a light dinner with menu options including hot smoked salmon, blanched kale, soy mushrooms, brown rice, nori and sesame yogurt dressing and beautifully presented fresh fruit.
The flight operates four times per week on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visit www.qantas.com.