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Airports aren’t perhaps your first thought when you’re contemplating where to get a gorgeous meal. But they are places that any traveller will spend a lot of time, whether they like it or not.
So it’s heartening that some hubs are stepping up their game when it comes to gourmet offerings, realising that many customers want something a little tastier than a bland sandwich and bag of crisps.
Heathrow Airport has been a forerunner in this dining revolution. There have long been reliably good restaurants, like French bistro La Salle and Italian chain Carluccio’s, plus places to perch with a glass of fizz and half a dozen oysters. But the past few years have seen the big guns brought in – both Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal have restaurants at the airport.
Here’s our pick of the best Heathrow dining. Just be careful not to get carried away and miss your flight...
Terminal 5, post-security
Plane Food, pictured above, was one of the airport’s most anticipated arrivals when it opened in 2008 along with sleek Terminal 5. And the presence of Michelin (and TV) star chef Gordon Ramsay at Heathrow kicked off the trend for upscale airport dining.
The restaurant was recently revamped with a chic, classic new look and an Asian bar, where diners can perch on tan leather stools and watch chefs prepare dishes in an open kitchen. Some things haven’t changed – including the delicious short-rib beef burger and free dining for kids – and we’re pretty happy about that.
There’s also a new Grab and Go option, so you can take a few bites of top-notch food onto the plane. But, next time, we recommend scheduling in a little extra dining time.
Terminal 2, post-security
It isn’t a misnomer. Everything about The Gorgeous Kitchen is indeed gorgeous, from the Art Deco-style ceiling lights and comfy leather bar stools to the four British chefs who launched the place – Gee Charman, Sophie Mitchell, Jo Pratt and Caroline Mi Li Artiss.
The food is equally glowing and beautiful, earning the restaurant top spot in a ranking of airport restaurants in 2015. From fishcakes laced with coriander and chilli to courgette risotto and lemongrass chicken, everything is healthy, seasonal, fresh – and utterly delicious.
There’s an express menu, with two courses served within 25 minutes. But, if you do have a little more time, afternoon tea is a real treat, with crab sandwiches, pistachio cake and buttermilk scones prettily arranged on a cake stand.
Everything is prepared in an open theatre kitchen, so you can watch the chefs slice, stir and sautée as you eat. Or grab a window banquette and gaze at planes swooping off.
The name promises quite a lot and, thankfully, it delivers. Would you expect anything less from Heston Blumenthal’s foray into airport dining?
You won’t find Fat Duck dishes like snail porridge or Sound of the Sea. The Perfectionists’ Cafe is all about classic British grub with a top chef’s polish. Think fish and chips, where the batter is siphoned for a light, crunchy texture and the dish is served with an atomiser of malt vinegar for that ‘chippie’ experience. Or the best sausage sandwich ever, with free-range pork and gorgeously chewy sourdough bread.
The black pudding scotch eggs are delicious, and there’s also a decent range of burgers and Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Round off your meal with a scoop from the nitro ice-cream parlour, with flavours like salted caramel and hazelnut fast-frozen using liquid nitrogen. You can take the man out of the Fat Duck...