Do you remember the episode of Kath & Kim where Kath and Kel go on their honeymoon but don't leave the airport? Well as a travelling and airport enthusiast, I kind of understood it. For most, going to the airport signals the onset of something exciting. Some airports are of course better than others - some are a delight whilst others are disappointing. Singapore's Changi has a movie theatre and conducts airport tours. Conversely, flying into LAX is surprisingly disappointing. For the number of people and flights that pass through, there is scarcely anything to buy or services to enjoy.
Sydney Airport is of course the one that I visit most. Two years ago, there was a redevelopment of the airport and with it came a roll-out of eateries and new shops both on the "land" side (i.e. before you go through customs) and the "air" side after. Who spends more? People on the "land" side or the "air" side? Apparently there are more people that visit the land side establishments but the spend on the air side is higher as people have cleared customs and are more relaxed
The question on everyone's lips? Why is airport food so expensive? Well there are a couple of reasons - there is a captive audience so retailers know that but also the rents are also high at the airport. However, there was a recent push to ask eateries and shops to keep items at a certain cost in order to add value to the customer.
Danks Street Depot- Land Side, International Terminal
There are several operators that help set up the outlets in the airport and SSP (Select Service Partners) is one of them. They have partnered with Sydney chef Jared Ingersoll to bring Danks Street Depot to the land side of the airport. It sits smack bang in the centre of departures and a bright yellow sign announces it's location. It has a large seating area and service is at the counter.
The Danks Street Depot menu is similar to the cafe in Redfern but there are some differences to the menu and a couple of items are exclusive to the airport cafe like the steak sandwich and spaghetti picante. Some of the prices aren't too bad however a comparison of the prices of the Reuben sandwich shows a $8.50 difference and the chicken sandwich a $5.50 difference. However, the sandwiches here automatically come with a small serve of hot chips whereas at the cafe they are ordered separately at $8 for a larger size. The most popular items are the two poached egg and bacon combo which is two biodynamic eggs, Schultz free range bacon, herbed tomato with brasserie bread sourdough toast plus a coffee for $19.50.
As this was Ingersoll's first foray into airport retailing, there was concern that his vision and values (sustainability and artisan, house made products) would not be adhered to but everything, including the chicken for the chicken sandwiches is roasted on the premises. The mayonnaise is made here and they ship in as little pre-made as possible.
Reuben sandwich $24.50 (bowl of chips given separately)
The Reuben is a toasted sandwich with toasted Brasserie Bread rustic loaf . Inside it's filled with corned Wagyu beef braised in balsamic sugar and spices, a layer of sauerkraut and Heidi tilsit cheese and seeded mustard. The beef is tender and the tangyness from the sauerkraut balances the richness of the wagyu and the nutty cheese well. Then hand cut chips are cut every day on the premises and come piping hot with a light crunchiness on the outside and a soft, fluffiness on the inside.
Chicken sandwich $23.50 (bowl of chips given separately)
Even though the Reuben is the more well known, I slightly preferred the chicken and corn sandwich with rocket and house made mayonnaise. I must admit that I have seen pictures of these sandwiches looking much more come hither with the gooey insides oozing out almost onto the plate.
The coffee here is excellent. All Danks Street Depot staff and all staff working at the SSP eateries must spend time at the original restaurant in order to be trained up to the restaurant's standards.
When they bring us the cookie they explain that the cookies aren't always this size (which quite frankly I think is fabulous as they're gigantic). As someone that has OCD and likes even distribution of chunks this is excellent with even chocolate chip dispersal. And I think that if I brought this on a plane I could while away at least 30 minutes just nibbling away at this cookie.
Orange & almond cake $6
The orange and almond cake is warm and with a soft, sweet interior fragrant in orange with a slightly sandy texture from the almond meal. There are flaked almonds on top and a dusting of icing sugar to give it added sweetness.
China Grand-Air Side, International Terminal**
The last time Mr NQN and I went through the airport I tried to get him to have some yum cha with me sadly to no avail. Yum Cha on the air side's China Grand isn't of the trolley variety, you order it from the menu and they bring it out to you.
Prawn dumplings $9.90
Yum cha here is pricier than that in the city or suburbs. For a steamer basket full of dumplings, expect to pay $9.90 for the dumplings. The prawn dumplings however are good and like many places here, they do yum cha for eat in or takeaway. Many retailers have found that with the number of discount airlines, many people are opting to buy the food from the airport and carry it on the flight rather than eat the food on the plane.
Xiao long bao $9.90
The xiao long bao are also good with a light, fluffy pork filling and a filling of soup broth.
China Grand special fried rice with fish roe and seafood $29.80
Although it looked quite different from the picture on the menu, the fried rice with plenty of prawns and sliced scallops was a favourite. I've never had fish roe in fried rice before and these tiny little balls impart a lovely popping texture to the rice.
Stir fried seafood in XO Sauce $30.80
There were plenty of prawns, squid and scallops in the stir fried seafood as well as snow peas. It came with a rich sauce perfect for the rice but not a lot of XO in the sauce. And a little bonus is that they will no blink an eyelid if you ask to take the remainder of your dinner away!
Caviar House & Prunier-Air Side, International Terminal
Ever wanted to spot a celebrity? If you don't have access to the first class lounge, the next best place to find them is perched on one of the bar stools at Caviar House & Prunier. Apparently celebs loves champagne, black truffle vodka and caviar-who knew right? Jamiroquai, Ronan Keating, footballers and the Top Gear presenters have all escaped the first and business class lounges and propped themselves up at the bar - and apparently the stools that are to the right hand side which affords them a little obscurity are the most popular.
Caviar House & Prunier is the first branch of the European brand in Australia. Caviar here ranges from $152 for 30 grams /1 oz or $240 for 50 grams or 1.7 ozs. and is packaged up so that it can last a long haul flight to Europe. They go through 2.5 kilos of caviar a month here.
They have their own brand of champagne and vodka and pair a glass or shot of each with a 10g serve of caviar. There are two types of caviar, Malassol which is a mild, caviar which has hazelnut overtones and there is the Saint James which is a stronger caviar and more of a connoisseur's choice as it is saltier, bolder and fishier in flavour. The champagne goes wonderfully with the caviar and I can definitely see people knocking back caviar and then champagne and then missing their flight!
Zakuska rasputin $35
Most caviar enthusiasts would know that you always serve caviar on a mother of pearl spoon and not a metallic one as this affects the flavour of caviar. And how do you traditionally eat caviar? Well you deposit the caviar on the back of your hand between your thumb and index finger. Let it warm a little, it shouldn't be fridge cold but it also should be colder than your hand, and then eat it from your hand! And the vodka has a really sweet aroma to it, I didn't try it as I get drunk on the breath of a inebriated gnat but the zakuska rasputin is said to be the best way to enjoy caviar.
Bambini Wine Bar-Air Side, International Terminal
I've walked past Bambini Wine Bar at Sydney Airport countless times without actually realising that it was a Bambini wine bar as the signage, a single "B", is very subtle. It's a popular stop for cocktails as they're reasonably priced, the banquettes comfortable and the music is from the iPod collection of Bambini's owners Angela and Michael Potts.
Espresso Martini $16
The pick of the drinks are the martinis, especially the espresso martini which is smooth and gorgeous. It has vodka, kahlua and a shot of espresso in it.
French Martini $16
The French martini is a new one to me and it has pineapple juice, Chambord (black raspberry liqueur which I adore), vodka and a squeeze of lime in it. It is sweet, refreshing and very drinkable. And in terms of value, it must be noted that Bambini's cocktail prices are reasonable matching the price of their city counterparts.
The focus is on drinks although there is a food menu with the lobster linguine being a popular item. Have you ever wondered what doesn't work at an airport? Items like steak tartare are a no-no, people just don't want to take the perceived risk of having a steak tartare before a flight. However an exception to this is sushi which sells very well. Also super high end or degustation food doesn't work at the airport as people just aren't interested in it. In fact out of SSP's six eateries the one that does the most sales is Prego's as it is a family oriented place with pizzas and Italian food. In last year's December 2011 peak period they sold 17,444 food items not including coffee and drinks.
Also, people just aren't interested in elaborate dessert or sweets. In fact we had a difficult time finding a cake for afternoon tea one day. Items like muffins are everywhere as they're quick to grab and go but a slice of cake proves more difficult to find.
Air Side, Domestic Terminal 2
At the domestic terminal, at T2, the newly opened Brasserie Bread has a eat in and take away section and you can also grab full sized loaves to take with you or take home depending on your direction. Items like an almond croissant will set you back $5.40 while their famous sourdough pancakes with honeycomb cream and berries $15.50.
I always seem to leave from terminal 3 but when I finally flew out of terminal 2, I stopped by to buy a slow cooked pork with chimmichurri sauce on schiacciatta for $13.50. It is enormous and filling, perhaps large enough to feed two and replete with meat filling, and it is markedly better than what I was offered on the plane. The man sitting next to me with his bag of lollies was looking upon it enviously.
Slow cooked pork on schiacciatta $13.50
And if you're wanting something small and sweet to take with you that might be easier to eat, there is also the Brasserie Bread almond croissant and apricot tart. The almond croissant is filled with an almond paste and is buttery and multi layered which is just how I love croissants. The apricot tart is filled with a similar almond frangipane and moist apricot halves with a crumbly buttery shell.
Almond croissant $5.40 (Brasserie Bread), tiramisu cake (Toby's Estate) and apricot tart (Brasserie Bread)
Right next to Brasserie Bread is Toby's Estate to the right and Bistro 2020 to the left. All three places are owned by the same company and they license the Brasserie Bread and Toby's Estate brands. The tiramisu cake in the picture above is sold at Toby's Estate and is made by Noga's in Bondi. It's not bad although it's not as boozy or has as much coffee as I prefer.
Mini Mars cheese tart $6.95
However, when you put a mini Mars bar cheese tart on offer, then all bets are off. Also made by Noga's and sold at the Toby's Estate stand, the small tart has a light cheesecake filling topped with luscious caramel, chocolate and a slice of Mars Bar. It's as if two of your favourite sweets were merged together. Although I didn't love the chocolate coated shell as much as the filling, this was worth stopping for.
Mezze platter $16
The food at Bistro Bar 2020 is more substantial and offers a range of pasta, burgers and salads. We started with the mezze platter which had olives, hummus, rosemary feta, pickles, prosciutto wrapped salad leaves, fried chorizo and toasted bread. The sweet pickles and prosciutto wrapped leaves were my favourite.
Marinated Lamb salad $29.50
The lamb salad has a generous amount of tender lamb pieces on a bed of green leaves, roasted capsicum, eggplant and pine nuts. There's also a sweet tanginess from the raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Wagyu beef burger $20
I was tossing up between the beef burger or the chicken burger with sweet corn and Amanda made the decision easy: beef burger on brioche. The wagyu patty sits on a slice of unmelted provolone cheese at the bottom with some salad, a grilled field mushroom and a strong peppercorn sauce and I would have preferred the cheese melted and whilst the peppercorn sauce was a nice retro steakhouse touch, it does tend to overwhelm. The wedges are nice and look to be hand cut and I would have also loved a bit of sauce to go with those. Amanda finds the buttery sweet brioche a bit too much like cake but I actually quite like the sweetness to balance the strong peppercorn sauce.
King prawn liguine $24
Given a choice of linguine or risotto, we chose linguine. There is a good amount of prawns in this (although I didn't count them as I was sharing with two other people ;) ) and they were nicely cooked with a succulent texture. There was a little asparagus, wilted rocket and spinach, peas, fresh tomato and a nice amount of chilli.
Of course with any of these establishments, there are the ever popular fast food restaurants and options to suit but I'm interested Dear Reader, when you fly, do you eat at the airport or do you wait for the food on the plane? And which airport impresses you the most?
NQN was a guest of Sydney Airport while some of the meals in todays post were paid for independently while travelling.