People talk about jet lag making you feel bad but I have a theory that it’s actually the junk we put into our bodies while we’re at the airport.
I’ll neck three glasses of champagne with breakfast at the airport lounge just because I can, which isn’t something I’d usually do before heading to the office. I used to have a rule whereby I wouldn’t allow myself junk food unless I was in an airport and then I’d chow down on a Big Mac and fries for lunch, or a pepperoni pizza for supper. I felt there was no point worrying about the rules of when or what to consume when travelling. They just didn’t count.
But this approach was taking its toll, and thankfully airports are becoming more creative in their food and beverage offerings. Just look at Heathrow – in Terminal 2 you can order a Super Clean Quinoa Salad from Leon (“naturally fast food”), salmon nigiri from Yo! Sushi, a veggie beet burger from the Perfectionist’s Cafe (by Heston Blumenthal, no less), or a cauliflower steak with kale at the Gorgeous Kitchen (although it’s no easier to cut with a butter knife than a juicy sirloin).
Eating airside has also become more far more refined. In terms of “high-end” food, all we had until recently was Caviar House and Prunier Seafood Bars, and I won’t tempt fate by shucking oysters before a long-haul flight. Heathrow’s T5 now has the exceptional Bar at Fortnum and Mason, where you can order Krug by the glass, and platters of 16-month aged Comte and Parma ham. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, offering 25-minute express menus and gourmet picnic hampers, will reopen this summer after a revamp.
My experience of international airport cuisine is more varied. I have starved at Chennai airport in India because the yellow samosas behind greasy glass looked visibly poisonous, but feasted at Wolfgang Puck in LAX, where the chicken alfredo, and flat iron steak with blue cheese butter are fine fare indeed.
In general, American airports do well at food, which makes up for having to fly back in economy from the East Coast – Legal Sea Foods at Boston Logan International serves mugs of New England clam chowder and will even box you up a live lobster to take away.
Last month, the top Skytrax award for “best airport dining experience” went to Hong Kong International, followed by Singapore Changi, Tokyo Narita, Seoul Incheon and Doha Hamad (London Heathrow came eighth), and I can wholeheartedly recommend the food at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific lounge.
But the place that really makes me happy is the Ruby’s Diner at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I love sliding into one of the glossy red booths and ordering the breakfast grilled cheese filled with “eggs over hard”, bacon, avocado and chipotle mayo. Sure, they have a “lite” menu of dishes under 650 calories, but where would the fun be in that?