Could this be the tastiest airline food ever?

No matter which cabin you’re in, a 16-hour flight feels like it’s: scary long. Sure, if you fly business class or first class, you get plenty of room and a “bed,” but after a while, you still have to spend all that time.

On a recent Cathay Pacific nonstop flight from Hong Kong to New York, I discovered the perfect foil for long-haul boredom: food. Not just any food – a menu devised by Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Duddell in Hong Kong. Launched in February and scheduled to run for 12 months on outbound flights, the menu is based on flavors and ingredients representative of Hong Kong’s rich food culture. Stir-fried lobster for main and chrysanthemum and longan jelly for dessert was a far cry from classic airplane food – I couldn’t wait to try it.

settle down

Menus aren’t the only new feature I’ve experienced. Cathay Pacific has revamped the business class design of the ultra-long-haul A350, including a roomy 1-2-1 configuration, increased sleeping area per seat, and, as I discovered – plenty of personal storage space, including under the armrest, Interior pockets are used for cabinet doors for electronics, and ottomans for shoes and bags. These improvements extend to more relaxation and better sleep, with luxurious new bedding (400-thread-count cotton sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers) and a travel set from British spa brand Bamford. I immediately took off my sneakers and put on the comfortable slippers I had prepared for the flight.

Steamed Halibut with Shanghai Vegetable Rice is one of Cathay Pacific x Duddell’s new dishes.

Cathay Pacific

drinks and dinner

A nighttime departure means dinner will come soon – but first the drinks. Since it was getting late, I decided to eschew the cocktail menu and opt for the non-alcoholic “Cathay Delight,” a refreshing concoction of kiwi, coconut milk, and fresh mint. I know better what awaits my snack delivery.

In-flight meals are loaded onto the plane in individual boxes, so passengers are encouraged to order in advance. Since I had pre-booked dinner, it wasn’t a surprise, but it was fun choosing from four enticing options. I chose a king prawn fried with cashew nuts and garlic chives, served with jasmine rice, but it almost went with the prawn fish cake laksa noodle soup. When my meal arrived, I noticed the precise presentation, from the arrangement of the asparagus spears to the garnish. This is something Cathay takes pride in its new menu, stating in its release that every dish must be presented the same way, “without mis-presentation”, even something as simple as “put the biscuit on the plate” things.

Halfway through the meal, I got a little sleepy, so I decided to have the Reblochon and Stilton with the biscuits, and skip the dessert (more on that later). I was able to use the entertainment system to notify the flight attendant not to disturb me, and to specify when to wake up for my next meal before settling down to sleep.

middle time

It’s so Pavlovian to turn on a movie and feel like you have to eat a snack — even if you’ve only eaten a few hours ago. So, when I wake up three hours later and decide to browse a movie on board, I think champagne and sips are a must. The great thing about the Cathay Pacific Business Class menu is that if you miss or skip a meal, there are so many good options in between that you won’t feel like you’re missing out. On my flight, you had a choice of truffled French ham, laksa soup and polenta crepes.I opted for Mixed Nuts and Crisp Brut, settled in and watched Drunk Driving, A Thai road movie produced by Wong Kar Wai. Halfway through, a genial crew member brings fresh food: caramel popcorn and a second glass.I took it as my cue for choosing a second movie – and chose the totally funny one sad triangle.

Breakfast (and Last Minute Dessert Cravings)

When you fly on Cathay Pacific for business, you’ll see a card upon entering your seat prompting you to book breakfast. Once again I am faced with the problem of ample. Healthy breakfasts with fruit, superfood bowls and hot pastries are tempting, but I opt for the Chinese breakfast: congee and stir-fried vegetable vermicelli. Just two hours before landing, there was the sound of plating in the kitchen, and a few minutes later I was ladling hot porridge. What I ordered was not the usual coffee, but Hong Kong-style milk tea.

Halfway through breakfast, a waiter came up with a small bowl and spoon. “You asked me to make ginger pudding to save you from dinner,” she said. I forgot, but I’m glad she didn’t. Desserts with creamy textures and delicate flavors are one of my favorite food discoveries from this trip, so this felt like the sweetest of my travels. Plus, a chance to savor Hong Kong for a longer period of time.

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