When it comes to assessing the food and service on aircraft, one quickly gets a nose for the genuine. In fact, genuine is one of the best compliments I could bestow on an airline and its cabin crew.

Business-class dining is more telling than first or economy classes. It’s a given that an airline will throw everything but the heirloom cutlery at first, and at the back of the plane the expectations are not high — it’s price driven. But business-class dining is a hybrid of price sensitivity and brand-defining cookery designed to wow and comfort in equal measure. The competition for the tastebuds of business-class customers is more focused than anywhere else on the plane. It’s also where the cracks first appear in an airline’s food and service.

Emirates is at the top of its game, so the expectations are high, too.

EK421 from Perth to Dubai is a 10-hour dinner and breakfast flight. Dinner service begins about midnight local time and kicks off with a serious collection of made-to-order cocktails, spirits and aperitifs. Business cabin steward Etienne hands me one of the finest mojitos I’ve sipped anywhere, in the air or on the ground. My mojito isn’t even on the list. Three cheers for Etienne.

The menu covers most bases and does it well, even without the breadth of Emirates’ first-class menu. Two starters, a soup, a salad and three mains — chicken, cod, lamb.

A bresaola starter is simple. The menu doesn’t tell us where the air-dried beef is from, which is pretty much required information these days, especially among serious eaters who increasingly care about provenance, animal husbandry, sustainability and organics. It is a fine product, though, and nicely garnishes a Caprese salad made with cherry tomatoes, balsamic and virgin olive oil.

Grilled lamb cutlets for main course are the hero dish. Meat cookery is just about the hardest thing to do well on a plane and yet the large frenched cutlets are well charred on the outside but as soft as a baby’s sigh on the inside. Perfect cooking. A potato dauphinoise is creamy and firm and the re-heated vegetables come, as advertised, with some caramelisation from the grill. A tidy dish.

Pudding included a key lime tart, opera cake or massive cheese board.

The single greatest irritant when it comes to food on planes is how long the finished tray sits in front of you. On this flight, the crew are on the money, ready to take away the detritus the moment I’ve finished.

The Emirates B777 has one of the best business-class cabins in the air. The secret? Simple food, basic cookery, excellent produce, genuine service.

Rob Broadfield was a guest of Emirates. See AirlineRatings.com for his reviews of airline dining.


© The West Australian