Whatever your feelings are about milk punch, the clarified, beautiful and subtle technique for making a cocktail, you’ve gotta respect the work.

There’s no “easy” shortcut with milk punch, which involves steeping a variety of ingredients in vats or other large containers before the painfully slow process of straining the mix through cheese cloth to get a clear, silky concoction.

While this may sound like something for a subterranean cocktail den in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or London’s Shoreditch, it’s actually something happening in a hidden away room of British Airways Concorde Room.

British Airways Cocktail Renaissance

Talking to people after New Years, the subject of wine and headaches is almost unavoidable. I’m rarely a drinker before or during flights for this very reason, but a stop through the Concorde Room made me grant an exception to my own policy.

I’m a sucker for milk punch, and a festively spiced, freshly batched arrival had just been finished, with mince pies offered alongside. The cocktail was exceptionally good.

And yes, it was actually created and batched in the Concorde Room, in a storage room by the same very team serving the drinks in the lounge, making it a uniquely wonderful creation.

Thanks to a relatively new partnership with one of the world’s best bartenders, Mr. Lyan, who has actually previously won the actual title of world’s best before, as well as helming the world’s No.1 bar at the time ‘Dandelyan’ in London, there’s no shortage of other wow factor cocktails here.

Talking to other fellow revelers at the bar, not everyone is willing to give up their Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Champagne for these bold and unique creations, but they have real respect and interest for the process and effort coming into the room.

Few food and beverage options are loved by all, but the work behind bringing mixology level beverages and restaurant quality food to what was once a fairly sleepy and dull ole’ airport lounge is to be seriously admired.

Smoked Salmon dish served in the British Airways Concorde Room.

I had a smoked salmon appetizer which was comfortably better than many I’ve paid for in “foodie’ cities around the world, and the pumpkin tortellini in burnt butter and sage was a comforting choice before a long flight.

Though the decor of the Concorde Room remains largely the same, the vibe in there is markedly improved. Staff seem excited about regularly creating new drinks and dishes and there’s more interaction with guests.

First Class Comeback?

For the first time in probably 10+ years, I felt like the Concorde Room was regaining its place as a true “first class” lounge, among the best. It’s retained the “class”, but added a healthy dose of on trend, on point standards for just about everything.

Yes, the loos still need dramatic refurb, but one step at a time, right?

With a rapidly improving ground experience, British Airways somewhat controversial first class is starting to feel like actual value again, and often priced just above business class, like a worthwhile splurge. If the words “value” and first class can ever go hand in hand, it’s starting to feel like it?

On the ground, there’s now a lot to love, and if the positive trend continues to make its way into the air, a first class comeback may slowly be creeping up upon us.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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14 Comments

  1. Nice, glad to see that the CCR is upping it’s game. Important to have solid cocktail options, it’s what the Eurostar lounge at St Pancras does so we’ll

    Planning to fly to YYZ but unfortunately both flights are 3-class 787-8. What are the chances that one of the frequencies might be switch to 4 class aircraft (787-9 or 777) on that route do we think?

    1. Yeah! I’ve been really pleased. It’s a great question: sadly another one down to the covid crystal ball. I think if we make it out of winter without any more meaningful scathes, there’s a real chance business travel will pick up over the summer. Leisure certainly will, if more countries drop pre-flight testing, etc. Might be a few months, but I’d think YYZ stands a fair chance for some F action over summer.

  2. Had that same salmon appetizer there on Wednesday, 1/05/22. I paired it with a glass of their English sparkling wine and preferred it to my wife’s Laurent-Perrier Grande Siecle. Crikey, as a Brit might exclaim.

      1. Whilst I wouldn’t say it beats LPGS, the BA English sparkling in the CCR is superb: A blanc de Noirs from Hattingley, originally commissioned for BA’s centenary.

        NB. Hattingley Blanc de Noirs is frequently available in Galleries First @ T5 and is far better than the rather average Canard Duchene. The rosé champagne however, Lanson Extra Age, is an excellent option too

  3. Nice they’ve done this. But it’s a bit perplexing that they’re doing this at the same time that they’re eliminating flights with First class. They recently downgraded me to Club class on May/June flights to/from JNB ( the only flights that had F to begin with) due to what appears to be an equipment substitution through the end of the schedule, though they did keep the transatlantic F.

  4. Just to be clear, we’re talking about cocktails in one still-below-par lounge in a single city. I agree that the food and cocktails are a welcome improvement, and that together with the First Wing, first class fliers have something to look forward to at Heathrow, where their finest lounge still lacks power points at most seats.

    But an airline is a network, not a single location. There’s not much to love on the ground for anyone whose First journey begins in, say, Edinburgh or San Francisco. The arrivals facility is limited to Heathrow and is poor. There is nothing outside of Heathrow and New York.

    I’m glad that BA have made some minor improvements. Now, if they could only figure out how to staff their call centers instead of hanging up on me when I have to rebook. Or get their app or website to work so I can make the change myself.

    1. Patrick, when is the last time you flew out of CCR? Many of your points have already been addressed in recent years. Define “below par”.

      As to other points:

      1) Name an airline whose regional outstations (like Edinburgh) cater to First Class passengers. When you fly Lufthansa F on a sale from Stockholm, you don’t feel the “F” until you reach Frankfurt.

      2) San Francisco receives 1-2 daily flights. Like other regional outstations, this isn’t a priority 1. New York, which is a priority with many daily frequencies has its own dedicated Concorde Room. Only an American Airlines would compare in offering as many dedicated premium areas for F customers under their own control.

      This is just a case where it’s fine to criticize, but I think only fair when you can offer a benchmark of what someone does definitively better. Like, if you say “well, there’s no tarmac transfer” that’s a very fair point. LH, LX and AF do this.

      1. All valid points Gib BUT BA are still (months on) incapable of answering the phone in a reasonable period of time and their IT has definitely not improved, with many processes requiring a call.

  5. With British Airways First Class seating capacity down over 50% following the demise of the 747 Fleet and reconfiguration of some 777’s to No First Class Seating., how long before they Look at reducing some elements of The Concorde Lounge ? Or even worse allowing OneWorld Emeralds to use it.

  6. I’ve been in first class lounges of a number of airlines. And, I’ve been in the Concorde Room at JFK and at LHR. When I read criticisms about the Concorde Rooms, I don’t get it. They are nicely appointed and the food is very good. I’m not certain what more one expects. Anyone even been in the Qantas first class lounge at LAX? To me, the Concorde Rooms are far superior. Perhaps your favorite color is green and my favorite color is blue. The same goes for first class on board the aircraft. Certainly there are over-the-top first class experiences on other airlines. But, given what BA does provide with its newest equipment, the quality of the food, and the top-notch service, I don’t know what would make a meaningful improvement. The criticisms seem empty to me.

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