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South African Airways food soars

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Even if you're lucky enough to fly business or first class on those long-haul flights, the airplane food can leave a bit to be desired.

Not so on my first flight with South African Airways on a November trip from New York to Johannesburg.

The first meal--a lunch served a few hours into the 14-hour flight at mid-day--could have earned a place on any fine restaurant menu.

The dessert was the pies de resistance, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After drinks and a few respectable canapes, the first course arrives: a butternut squash soup with croutons and toasted garlic bread; creamy but still light, and flavorful.

For the entree, I bypassed chicken, halibut and smoked gnocchi in favor of braised veal breast with polenta and roasted vegetables. Served on the bone, the veal was tender enough to cut with a fork, and the au jus was good enough to mop up every last bit. The fresh salad featured frisée greens with radishes and creamy feta cheese.

But the dessert--coffee mousse with shaved chocolate. whipped cream and a few raspberries--ranks up there with my all-time favorite dessert, a cappuccino creme brulee at Emeril Lagassie's NOLA in New Orleans. Really. I am officially proclaiming South African Airways coffee mousse dessert as the best airline dessert ever--or at least for 2013.

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