Singapore Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 380: Frankfurt to New York JFK

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Date: 13. August 2016
Departure: 08h36
Arrival: 10h50
Flight time: 8 hours 14 minutes
Seat: 12A

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Introduction

Singapore Airlines has a few fifth freedom flights it routes through Europe. There is the Singapore-Barcelona-Sao Paolo (apparently the leg to Sao Paolo will be discontinued soon), the Singapore-Frankfurt-New York and finally, the Singapore-Moskow-Houston, which will soon be routing through Manchester instead of Moskow. I have already sampled the flight form Barcelona last year, so I figured this would be a good time to try the Frankfurt to New York service.

Getting to the Airport

It is just gone 07h00 in the morning as I exit the Hilton Garden Inn to make my way across to Terminal 1. The hotel is connected to the terminal via the railway station for the long distance and high-speed trains.

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Check-in

Location: Terminal 1, Hall C.
Facilities: Web check-in and App check-in are available, but you will still need to go to the check-in counter to collect your boarding pass and have your passport scanned.
Counters: 713 to 720. There are three Economy Class counters, two baggage drop counters, one Business Class counter and one First Class counter.

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The check-in staff are friendly and welcoming. The young man hands me my boarding pass, gives me directions to the lounge and then sends me on my way wishing me a nice flight.

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The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge

Location: Near B44.
Type of Lounge:
Lufthansa Business Class lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There are no computers, but there are workstations with power plugs for European style chargers.
Catering: There is a selection of cold dishes: fruit, yoghurt, Bircher Müsli, cheese, jam and bread. There is also a dish with scrambled eggs.
Internet:
No information.

There is something slightly off about this lounge and I cannot really put my finger on it. First of all, the tables and chairs do not seem to fit with the Lufthansa brand as a whole. Secondly, for some reasons the whole place looks rather worn and tired, even though it is well kept.

The food selection is okay, but nothing special. Unfortunately, when I try taking pictures of the buffet, one of the waitresses in the lounge tells me that I am not allowed to take pictures and it is certainly too early in the morning for me to argue the point.

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Boarding

There is a separate queue for First and Business Class passengers.

My flight is boarding from gate B46, which is right around the corner from the lounge. The queue for Economy Class is fairly long, but there is nobody in line for Business Class. I walk up to the counter, the agent checks my passport and scans my boarding pass and then addresses me by name as he wishes me a pleasant flight with Singapore Airlines. As I board the aircraft there are two flight attendants waiting at the door. Both of them welcome me on board and then the young lady shows me to my seat.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: Fully lie flat with 180 degree recline. Singapore Airlines operates the A 380 in four different configurations. Basically there are some aircraft that feature SQ’s new Premium Economy seat and other which do not or not yet have that cabin installed. Add to that that capacity and layout in the different cabins may vary.
Pitch: 55 inches.
Width: 30 inches.
Facilities:

  1. AC power outlet.
  2. USB port.
  3. Wifi hotspot by OnAir. There are different price plans, depending on how much date you want to download.

Audio and Video:

  1. 4 inch LCD monitor.
  2. Phitek noise cancelling earphones.
  3. 700 audio CDs.
  4. 22 on demand radio programmes.
  5. 180 television programmes on demand.
  6. 100 films on demand.
  7. Games are also available.

The seat has a lot of storage space and the designers of the seat have obviously put a lot of thought into the usability of the seat. For example, there is a small compartment for spectacles to the left of the personal video screens that is lined with some velvety material so as not to scratch the glass.

From what I understand, Singapore Airlines is currently in the process of upgrading its Business Class product, which is a good thing. Because although the airline obviously takes very good care of its planes, the seat and cabin are starting to look a bit dates and worn around the edges.

In the sum of all things, I am not much of a fan of the Singapore Airlines Business Class seat. First of all, it is not really that comfortable to lounge in, mainly because you have to lie at an angle to stretch out, which then means that the video screen is not centred any more. And secondly, if you start to feel sleepy, you cannot simply extend the seat into a bed. Instead you need to stand up to convert the seat. And thirdly, admittedly the seat is very wide. But at the end of the day this is mostly wasted space, because people expand in length and not in width during the flight. So all in all, I still think the Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways seat is better and more comfortable.

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The Crew

The Singapore Airlines Singapore girl is known around the world. Even people who have never flown with Singapore Airlines know about their cabin crew. And indeed, the crew all seem friendly enough. As soon as I take my seat, one of the crew greets me with a cheery ‘hello’ and a tray of juices and water.

Pillows, earphones and the menu have already been places at the seats. After take-off, the crew distribute slippers, eye-shades and socks. In Business Class Singapore Airlines does not provide a vanity kit. However, dental kits, combs, shavers and earplugs are available in the toilets.

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Once we are airborne, the service begins with a glass of fresh orange juice.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Fresh orange juice.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual à la carte service.
Type of meal:
Brunch.

  1. Selection of fresh fruit.
  2. Bircher Müsli – made with rolled oat soaked in milk, natural yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts.
  3. Thai Beef Kway Teow Soup – made with rice noodles in beef broth with sliced beef filet and leafy greens.
  4. Cherry cheesecake with Morello cherry compote.
  5. Assorted bread rolls and croissants with butter and fruit preserves.
  6. Tea of coffee.
  7. Still water.

The meal service is swift and efficient, but without feeling rushed. The quality of the food is very good, especially the soup is hot and spicy. The meal concludes with another hot scented towel.

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The Second Service

Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Orange juice with roasted nuts.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.

  1. Smoked salmon and green asparagus with a cherry tomato confit, mixed salad and olive oil.
  2. Pan-friend filet of red snapper in a cilantro and parsley sauce, with green beans, baby carrots and buttered linguine.
  3. Cappuccino with mango compote.
  4. Assorted breads.
  5. Tea or coffee.

The red snapper is a bit on the dry side, but the sauce is still tasty and the pasta is nice and chewy. The dessert I like a lot, although it takes a moment for the ice cream to thaw to the point that I can actually stick a spoon in it.

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Arrival

We arrive in New York just at it is coming up 11 o’clock in the morning. The Etihad and Emirates A 380 are already there and as we taxi in I see Korean Air arriving with their Big Bird. I really to think the Airbus A 380 is ugly as sin to look at. Even so, I have to say that you did get a sense of making a grand entrance when you arrive and an airport in one of these babies.

So what about Singapore Airlines? As far as the hardware is concerned, I thought the seat was rather uncomfortable and inconvenient. The Cathay Pacific seat for example may not be so spacious, but it is certainly more comfortable. As for the service, I really must say that here too, Singapore Airlines comes in third behind Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. The latter also beats Singapore Airlines as far as the presentation, quality and taste of the food is concerned.

Please do not get me wrong. I think Singapore Airlines is certainly one of the leading airlines out there and I would say that if you are travelling from Europe to New York they are probably your best option.

Singapore Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: Sao Paolo to Barcelona

SQ S

Getting to the Airport

Transport: Hotel limo.
Journey time: Roughly one hour from the Morumbi area.

In Sao Paolo I am staying at the Hilton Morumbi. I chose this hotel because it is conveniently located near the site of the training course at the domestic airport in Congonhas. Other than that though, it is somewhat removed from the city centre and quite a long way away from Guarulhos airport. It does not really help either that the traffic in Sao Paolo is notoriously bad.

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Check-in

Location: Terminal 3, first floor, check-in counters on row H.
Facilities: Airport check-in and web check-in.
Counters: There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and one counter for passengers with special needs.

I arrive at Guarulhos airport at 16h20 after a horrible trip from the city. My driver is so busy WhatsApping while driving that he misses the turn off the motorway for the airport. As if that were not already bad enough, rather than continuing and taking the next exit, he decides to pull on to the emergency strip and then reverse all the way back to the turn off he missed…

Check-in is fairly swift. There are no passengers in line ahead of me. Strangely enough, there do not appear to be any dedicated Economy Class counters and I am left wondering if perhaps a) the flight is not really that full or b), check-in for Economy Class only starts later.

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There is no dedicated queue for security for Business Class and First Class passengers. Accordingly, there the line is huge. But fortunately, it is moving quickly.

Immediately behind security is immigration. A friendly officer stamps my passport, confesses that he has never before met a guy from Malta and wishes me a pleasant journey.

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The Star Alliance Lounge

Location: Behind passport control turn left. Eventually you will see an escalator and lifts going up one floor, off to the left. This is where all the airline lounges are located.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, workstations and rest area.
Catering: The lounge has quite an extensive buffet of cold items. There is a huge bowl of salad with a variety of garnishes, in addition to small dishes, like individual raviolis in a tomato salsa or stick crudités in a yoghurt dip. There is also a limited selection of warm dishes, with a choice of pasta, tomato soup or a selection of warm local pastries.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, the password is given to you upon entering the lounge.

Much to my surprise, I rather like the décor of this lounge. I am not quite sure what I was expecting – probably another one of those awful Lufthansa branded lounges – but this is really nice. The lounge is fairly busy when I arrive. Even so, it is quite large so it does not feel crowded. The lounge offers a wide range of different seating option. Furthermore, it is on the same level as the huge windows commanding excellent views of the apron and departing aircraft.

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Boarding

Two airbridges are connected to the aircraft. First and Business Class passengers board via the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers board via the L2. When I arrive at the gate at 18h10, boarding has already started.

I am greeted at the door by a gentleman and a young lady wearing the elegant Singapore Airlines Kebaya. As she escorts me to my seat I inquire about the load and she tells me there are 19 passengers in Business Class this evening and only 90 in Economy Class.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel.
Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material.

The seat provides a lot of storage space. To the left of the screen there is a specific compartment to store spectacles and the compartment housing the earphones is large enough to place an iPhone 6+ and an Apple charger in it.
Pitch: 50 inches.
Width: 30 inches.
Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet.
Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.

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As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a newspaper or magazine. There is a selection of Brazilian, Spanish and English papers. I am also brought a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a hot towel.

Amenities

Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class. However, they do distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Earplugs are available on request.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available.
Towel before the meal: Warm, lightly scented towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main course and two choices for dessert.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.

The meal is very tasty. You can never really go wrong with the satay. My only grippe with that though, is that it is impossible to mop up the leftover sauce as the satay are served without cutlery. Such a waste…!

For the main course I choose the vegetarian noodles from the selection of inflight snacks. It is at moments like this that the professionalism of the Singapore Airlines crews shows. When the flight attendant comes to take my order, she does not bat an eyelid when I tell her I would prefer the noodles from the snack menu rather than something from the selection of main courses.

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Amuse Bouche

Chicken and mutton satay with cucumber, onion and spicy satay sauce.

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The First Course

Marinated prawns Niçoise salad with tomato, green beans, boiled egg, olives and balsamic vinaigrette.

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The Main Course

Vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce.

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Dessert

Macadamia ice cream with a mango coulis.

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The Cheese

Tallegio, Gorgonzola and Camembert with crackers and garnish (I am too stuffed to actually try this one…).

After the meal I watch ‘The man from U.N.C.L.E’, which is quite entertaining and a nice homage to the original series. And then I decide to have a nap. One of the flight attendants comes to make up my bed while I change into my shorts in the bathroom.

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As soon as I hit the pillow I drop off to sleep and do not awake until two hours before the landing in Barcelona, when the crew come to wake me up for breakfast as I had requested them to do.

The Second Service

Hot towel before the meal: Hot, lightly scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Apple juice.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.

  1. Selection of sliced fruit – strawberries, mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, orange and grapefruit.
  2. Birchermüsli.
  3. Griddled buttermilk pancakes with berries compote, orange mascarpone and honey.
  4. Selection from the breadbasket.
  5. Coffee or Tea.

Oh my God, those pancakes! Who ever dreams up stuff like this? The dish arrives with the sticky honey dripping down the sides of the stack of pancakes. The meal is as tasty as it looks. It is sinfully sweet but oh so good!

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Arrival

Outside a new day is quickly dawning. One of the pilots comes on the loudspeaker to announce that we will be starting our decent into Barcelona shortly. And what a spectacular decent it is. We approach the city from the south, flying over the sea with the coast visible far off to the left. We fly past the airport and then execute a series of gentle left turns to line us up for an arrival in a southerly direction. By this time we are below the clouds. Even so, the rising sun can still be seen, glistening on surface of the Mediterranean.

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If, like me, you are connecting to another flight in Barcelona, follow the signs marked ‘transfer’, which will bring you to the security check. Once you have cleared security, you can either take the escalators one floor up if you are connecting to a non-Schengen flight. Otherwise, turn right to go through immigration and enter the Schengen area. From there take the escalators one floor down to the main airside area.

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Conclusion

There are only few airlines that enjoy a reputation like that of Singapore Airlines. Even people who have never actually done a flight with them know what excellent service the passenger can expect from Singapore Airlines. To be honest, as far as the hardware and food is concerned, I do think there probably are quite a few airlines out there that can match and possibly even outshine Singapore Airlines – like Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways. However, the one thing none of those other carriers can rival, in my view, is the cabin crew. The professionalism and attention to detail that the crew on both the out- and inbound flights showed, is quite amazing. And that is probably what makes Singapore Airlines’ reputation so good. No matter where you are going, you always know what to expect.

Singapore Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: Barcelona to Sao Paolo

SQ B

Introduction

I am on my way to Sao Paolo in Brazil to give a course. In fact, this will be the last training course for this year. Brazil is a country I have not visited before and quite frankly, what little I know of the place covers the full spectrum of stereotypes, from scantily clad carnival dancers, excellent steaks to an obscenely high crime rate.

Of course there are many different ways to fly from Europe to Sao Paolo. Without a doubt though, I think I can safely say I have chosen the most elegant way to do it, with an airline that hardly needs an introduction.

Check-in

Location: Terminal 1, second floor, check-in counters 551 to 558.
Facilities: Airport check-in only.
Counters: Check-in is handled by Swissport. There is one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, an internet check-in counter and five Economy Class check-in counters.

I have the Singapore Airlines app on my iPhone. However, as I am not a member of their frequent flyer programme, I was unable to check-in online.

The airline is quiet when I arrive. After all, this is Saturday morning. The security check is a swift but thorough affair. Just a quick word of caution for all the shopaholics out there: if you are departing from Barcelona from the non-Schengen area, I suggest you have yourself an extravaganza before you go through passport control. All there is at the D gates is a McDonalds and a fairly small duty free.

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The Lounge

Location: Behind passport control keep on walking straight ahead towards the McDonalds until you reach the lifts. Take the lift or escalator one floor down to access the lounge.
Type of Lounge:
Contractor lounge operated by Premium Air Lounges.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers are available in the lounge and in good, clean condition; workstations, a good selection of hot and cold beverages and a good selection of breakfast foods – such as yoghurts, bread, cereals.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi provided by the airport, but you need to register.

The lounge is rather nice and fairly quiet this morning. It is still rather early, and the few people in the lounge that are travelling together are talking in a subdued hush. With the warm light, wood floors and leather sofas there is something very cosy about the lounge.

I help myself to some breakfast and then decide to give my mum a call before I set out on my next journey.

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Boarding

I reach the gate just after 08h30, the boarding time indicated on my boarding pass, just as an announcement is made informing us that due to the very strong winds on the ground in Barcelona, loading the aircraft is taking longer than anticipated. As a result, our departure is delayed by about 45 minutes.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 11A, window on the port side of the vessel. Singapore Airlines operates the B 777-300ER in two configurations with three or four different cabin classes. On the route to Sao Paolo, the three-class configuration is used with a First, Business and Economy Class. There are 48 seats in total in Business Class. The first two rows are ahead of the L2 galley, with the remaining ten rows aft of the L2 galley. Row 11 is the first row of Business Class. The Singapore Airlines seat is definitely very wide and offers a lot of privacy for a Business Class seat. Even so, I cannot really say that I like this seat. First of all, it is not possible to convert the seat into a bed while sitting in it. This is because the back of the seat needs to be folded forward to turn it into a bed. Furthermore, to be able to fully stretch, you need to lie in the seat at an angle. Obviously this should not really matter, but I think many people will have a tendency, when lying, to want to align themselves with the aisle or the cabin wall of the aircraft. I flew Singapore Airlines from Zürich to Brunei and back about two years ago and to be honest, on both of the long-haul flights I ended up with a back ache.

The upholstery is covered in leather or some other material intended to look and feel like leather, which inevitably makes you sweat after a while. Admittedly though, the seat and cabin do look rather nice.
Pitch: 50 inches.
Width: 30 inches.
Facilities: Wifi provided by OnAir, USB port and 110 volt a/c power outlet.
Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat is equipped with a 15’4’’ LCD screen. The Krisworld entertainment system has more than 700 audio channels, 295 video on demand movies and 180 television programmes to choose from.

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The Crew

The service is excellent. The crew are friendly and very attentive. The Singapore Girl has often been accused of being slightly robotic in her behaviour, but is hardly the case with this crew.

As soon as I reach my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to take my jacket, while another inquires if I would like a English or Spanish speaking newspaper.

Singapore Airlines does not offer vanity kits in Business Class, which does not bother me seeing as I usually end up leaving them on the plane anyway. However, they will distribute eyeshades, socks and slippers. Dental and shaving kits are available in the lavatories. Ear plugs are available on request.

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The First Service

Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice. Still water and champagne are also available.
Towel before the meal: Cold, lightly scented towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Orange juice
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Brunch.

  1. Selection of sliced fresh fruit.
  2. Bircher Müsli with rolled oats soaked in milk, natural yoghurt, dried fruits and nuts.
  3. Cheese Frittata with pan fried veal sausage, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes.
  4. Cherry mousse.
  5. Selection from the breadbasket with preserves or olive oil.
  6. Coffee and tea.

The meal hits the spot nicely. Even though I did have something to eat in the lounge, I was starting to feel hungry. I think I like the Bircher Müsli most, it has a nice, rich, creamy texture and is full of flavour.

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Inflight Snack

Once the service is completed, the crew pass through the cabin regularly, asking passengers if there is anything they need. I barely last one hour after the brunch service is over, before I start to feel peckish again and order a bowl of vegetarian noodles with lettuce, black mushroom and chilli sauce. Outside, the vastness of Africa spreads out beneath us.

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An apple, four packets of nuts and three packets of speculatius biscuits later and it is time for the second service to begin. By this time we are just two hours and thirty minutes out of Sao Paolo.

The Meal

Hot towel before the meal: Yes, lightly scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main course – beef, chicken, fish or lamb.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.

Much to my surprise and delight, the second service is another full meal. To be honest I do not particularly like the starter, there is just a bit too much meat on it for my liking. But apart from that, all the dishes taste very good and especially the mashed potato is creamy and has a very strong taste of garlic.

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Amuse Bouche

Lamb and chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce, cucumber and onion.

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The First Course

A platter of Iberico ham, cured pork loin, chorizo sausage, mixed salad and balsamic dressing.

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The Main Course

Seared Tournedos of beef with baby zucchini, crushed potato with garlic, vine cherry and thyme jus.

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Dessert

Panna Cotta Lemon.

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The Cheese

Selection of cheese with garnishes – cured sheep cheeses, Viejo Maestro, Valdeon.

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Arrival

Eventually we land just a few minutes ahead of schedule, despite our delay departing from Barcelona. The nice thing about the Singapore Airlines flight is that it arrives long after most of the other European flights. We taxi in right behind the Springbok from Johannesburg, but even so, immigration is fairly quick.

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