10 points for style, and 10 points for gin in the Qantas lounge…
Qantas has made quite a name for itself around the world, with their signature lounge network. Celebrity chef partnerships, high end design and the famous white jacket service has captured travelers creature comforts, appetites and interests for years, and when Qantas opened their latest lounge venture at London Heathrow Terminal 3, we had to put it to the test. The question walking in: could it stand up to Los Angeles, Sydney, or Melbourne?
Upon walking in, guests are greeted with an inviting glass of sparkling and a wide selection of newspapers. The lounge is in the same row as all of the main Terminal 3 lounges, right next door to Qantas venerable OneWorld airline partner, Cathay Pacific. Unlike many Qantas lounges, there’s no separate section for first class, but the bi level space offers more than enough room for everyone. The first thing any guest will notice is a design forward, inviting space, with sharp marble and wood contrasts, to go with just a *bit* of bling. When you enter the lounge, you’ll find table seating all to the left, table seating to the right, a tempting bar and a staircase. In the evening, table service begins at 6PM, as guests arrive for the official Qantas evening flight. After a short and tidy walk (or an elevator ride), you’ll reach the upstairs bar. The bar is beautiful, inviting and we were quickly met by a happy bartender, ready to pour from the generous cocktail list or G&T menu. Upstairs is where you’ll find a kids zone, quiet zone and ample seating options from business desks to places you can kick your feet up and zone out. For anyone looking for a bit of refreshment before their flight, showers are available and since they’re popular, it’s good to get your request in early.
It’s worth knowing that although the downstairs dining area is “billed” as the spot to eat your food, there’s a sizable buffet upstairs, and a a polite Qantas server will *generally without eye roll* bring you anything from the downstairs menu. We found no shortage of staff patrolling the entire lounge area, and in case you’re worried about accidentally asking another guest for a cocktail, the Qantas staff are sharply dressed in white dinner jackets. Assuming James Bond isn’t on your flight, you’ll have no trouble.
If you like Gin, this is your Heathrow bar. If you like Aussie wine, this is also your best bet. Qantas London Heathrow Lounge beverage program is exceptionally good, with fine and rare gins on full display, for everything from a signature drink to a spirited G&T. If you’re into the sweeter side of cocktails, go for the Qantas signature cocktail list. If you prefer dryer, more gin forward drinks, choose from the G&T based menu. For any wine lovers, the wine list is well above average for a business class lounge, with a predominantly Australian menu offering everything from a smooth riesling to a ripe, juicy Shiraz. And beer, yes, they have that too. I must preface this part of the review with an important note of partiality. Qantas food is so damn good in their Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles First Class Lounges – my expectations for this space may have been too high. Neil Perry does a fabulous job rotating menus and ingredients in these spaces, while also offering a few classic staples with each visit. One such classic, available in Heathrow is the Salt & Pepper Squid. It’s one of the few things travel bloggers can agree on as being simply out of this world “good”.
Unfortunately, the food, and the service was just a bit off. The squid was clearly pre fried, as I ordered twice and was brought to me in less than 30 seconds, each time. Other food and beverage orders, which I assure you were not complicated were met with confusion, and unfortunately the cake – the final delight before boarding a flight, had been frozen. My advice – if you’re a OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald member, come for the gin, head to Cathay Pacific for the food.
A lounge is a space to hang out in relative peace before a flight, and this lounge does an excellent job of offering varied spaces and looks for all travelers. For gin fans and wine lovers, it’s a triumph for a business (and not first class) lounge, but I couldn’t help but feel as if there’s still a bit of room for improvement in the food department. I’d love for Neil Perry to go incognito and give this one an undercover sampling.