How do you know a trip has begun?

A wise friend once suggested you know with the hiss of tonic over ice- that first drink when you’re safely tucked onto a plane. She doesn’t drink gin and tonics any other time- she saves their twang as a land mark that tells her that something good is about to begin.

For me, a trip begins with a glass of wine and a meal at the airport. 

I like to have something decent to eat before we get on the plane. Those who’ve flown with me know I tend to avoid food in the air. As a general life rule I prefer not to eat out of aluminum foil.  

But it goes beyond a desire to sit and eat something. More than anything, I love the smug aftertaste that comes with knowing you’ve got the luxury of time to consume a meal before the plane departs . Coming from the people who made a plane to Reykjavik by  5 minutes earlier this year (after bringing the wrong passport to the airport), it’s a meal which now tastes particularly sweet.

At Kingsford Smith in Sydney our favourite spot  is Dank Street Depot (but watch- it’s before you go through immigration) standing on the other side, pawing at the glass knowing you’ve gone too far is a sad start to an endeavour.

Around the world there are other favourites – in Las Vegas, by chance we found a cheerful Mexican where we drank margaritas the size of a bowling bag while a flight to New York was delayed by three hours. And in London, where there a slim pickings, I’m a little partial to Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food – despite its price tags.

It’s in the gleaming ode to consumerism that is Heathrow Terminal 5. Terminal five is a  temple  to excess; purpose built for people to buy luxury impulse presents to assuage their guilt of leaving their families again.

Plane Food is where they flock, often in executive clothes, sitting  on small white leather chairs that spin attending to their laptops.  They shift their gazes from the screens on their laps to one on the which tells them when they need to board the plane.

And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, these folk will forget that they’re not on their own and they’ll bring their families in with them.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as many harried executive parents struggling with their children as in Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food during school holidays.   There’s nothing quite like the sound track of a plum five year old spinning on his stool, dropping chips on the floor saying ‘But Daddy- I’m BORED’. To which his father will say ‘Shush Henry’ and hurriedly try to finish his burger,  glass of  Kim Crawford Pinot Noir  (£8.25) and check his blackberry.

It’s not a great place for kids. But it is a decent place to drink a glass of pink wine and eat a nifty pairing of chicken liver parfait and pain d’epices- where the sweet gingerbread style loaf offers a twirl of complexity against a pat of organ meat melded with fat.

Later a bowl of orichette with wild mushrooms proves a tactical error; not just for the ballast of having pasta before a long flight. The mushrooms are scarce, while the ear shaped noodles are  drenched in cream. There are a few errant scabs of bacon and wafts of brocollini. It’s nursery style food that feels out of place in the executive surrounds.  Perhaps Henry would have liked it.

What seems universally popular is the burger.  It’s a solid thing, the bun sweet and studded with sesame seeds. Lettuce, tomato, pickles and a squat patty, cooked so it blushes pink. Chips are grand; perfectly rectangular, crisp and fluffy.

If you’re feeling particularly smug about how much time you have to burn before your 11 hour flight to Cape Town, then a chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream and an espresso is not a bad way to finish.

It’s also a valiant way to distract your husband while you slip out to pay homage to Duty Free.  There were presents to buy for folks in Sydney when we eventually make  it home.

If only to assuage our  guilt for when we turn around and leave them again.



How do you know a trip has begun? Any solid airport restaurants we should keep our eyes peeled for?

Plane Food
(020) 889-7454
Airport: London Heathrow
Terminal 5 Wellington Rd Map
London Heathrow Airport, UK TW6 2
gordonramsay.com/planefood

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