With over two million Australians each year criss-crossing the country on business flights it's little wonder that Qantas and Virgin Australia are busy spruiking their business lounges and superchef-designed menus by the likes of Neil Perry and Luke Mangan.
So when you’re off on another morning flight and you want to fuel up before you take off, how do the airline lounges’ compare when it comes to breakfast?
We visited the Qantas Business Lounge, the Qantas Club and Virgin Australia’s The Lounge at Sydney airport on the same weekday morning to put all three to the test.
Yes, the all-important bean. A good shot of coffee is how most business travellers start the day.
The Qantas Business Lounge offers a barista service (shown above) from the moment the doors open at 5am through to 11am.
The flavour is a bit broad and inoffensive, but we figure Qantas has to cater for all tastes, and there are some little shortbread biscuits to go with your cuppa.
The Qantas Club’s barista service is open from 6am to 9.30am, so it’s shorter hours and there’s generally a longer queue for your brew (which unlike the Qantas Business Lounge and Virgin Australia lounge is served in a take-away cup).
Virgin Australia’s The Lounge keeps its barista bar (above) open around the clock, with coffee that’s more robust and a tastier selection of bite-size bikkies plus some moist poppyseed and chocolate mini-muffins.
Winner: We’re going to give this one to Virgin Australia but with the caveat that if you're not especially fussy about coffee and on-the-side treats, there's nothing much between Virgin Australia and Qantas.
It’s no contest here. The Qantas Business Lounge serves up light and creamy ‘folded eggs’, which on the morning we visited were accompanied by ‘thyme and cheddar’ hash browns (below).
Also on the menu are pork sausages, roasted onions and mushrooms – add those to the dish above and this is the foundation of a decent breakfast in any cafe or an ‘express breakfast’ in a five-star hotel.
There’s nothing in the Qantas Club or Virgin Australia’s The Lounge to come even close to this.
Winner: Qantas Business Lounge.
Light or ‘continental’ breakfast
Qantas also takes this one at a comfortable trot with quality cafe-grade fare.
All three lounges have the obligatory cereals – Weetbix, toasted muesli and cornflakes or Special K. But only the Qantas offered a gluten-free muesli (in the Business Lounge) as well as Bircher muesli.
This was available on its own in the Qantas Club, while in the Business Lounge it's served in glasses with apple, spiced nuts and honey, alongside a delightfully light creamed rice with pears, rhubarb and pistachio nuts (both the creamed rice and muesli shown below).
Both of the Qantas lounges also served up permutations of Greek-style yoghurt, which even in the Qantas Club was available (alongside the Bircher muesli and mixed fruit, all shown below) with a passiontfruit ripple or a scattering of mixed fruit and nuts.
Virgin Australia’s closest equivalent were single-serve glasses of a fresh berry yoghurt with mixed nuts (below).
And while the inclusion of crumpets was a welcome winter warmer in Virgin Australia’s bakery selection (above) their croissants were thicker and stodgier than the light and fluffy croissants of the Qantas Business Lounge (below), which also boasts a wider variety of pastries and breads.
In case the result was in any doubt, staff at the Qantas Business Lounge won us over by circulating among guests offering fresh strawberry smoothies (below).
The winner: Qantas chalks up another one.
Best business lounge breakfast?
Qantas made a big deal of having Neil Perry design its domestic business lounge menu, but the Red Roo – and the ponytailed Perry – are easily serving up Australia’s best airport lounge breakfast, especially in the premium business lounge.
And even stacking the more mainstream Qantas Club against Virgin Australia’s The Lounge we’d rate Qantas higher for its continental breakfast selection.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.