It has been a year since my last flight with China Southern. The last time I flew them I recall the experience was a slightly mixed one-while the bed was terrifically comfortable the food wasn't great and it was with hope, a little trepidation and curiosity that I looked upon the flight from Sydney to Guangzhou. There were rumours of improvements but I wanted to see if this were the case first hand.
The first improvement is at the check in desk. They're very friendly and there's good news. The lounge access is code sharing with Qantas business class lounge now (previously it was the Air New Zealand lounge). It's a late flight departing after 10pm but boarding is smooth and fast and I take my seat 1K which is a window seat in the front row. The plane is an old plane as evidenced by the seats but they have a shell style capsule seating and the configuration is 2 x2x2.
Announcements are made in Chinese and English and the flight crew are extremely accommodating, indeed they are one of the friendliest and most eager to please I have encountered. Nothing is too much trouble as they help us with our bags and we are offered orange juice, champagne, apple juice or water. I change into my pyjamas in the bathroom and a flight attendant holds her hands out like a game show hostess guiding my way and tells me "please take care!". Bags for our shoes and slippers are handed out along with an amenity kit. This contains ear plugs, moisturiser, lip gloss (which is so good I'd buy it), comb, toothbrush and toothpaste.
The cabin crew are fast at serving dinner and we are handed a wet towel and dinner service is under way immediately which is great for those of us that are hungry but want to get a decent block of sleep. While they prepare the food, I try to browse through the selection of movies and television but there appears to be something wrong with my console and it won't go back to the main menu. After some tussling by the crew it suddenly starts working again and they apologise for the inconvenience. There are some newish releases like Silver Linings Play book, Les Miserables, Seven Psychopaths (the travel date was May 26th) and the television is better than what we were offered a year ago (where a photo slide show was a feature). There are an inordinate number of ads, mostly for luxury car brands but you can fast forward through these.
Olive, tomato and bocconcini cup and vegetable brochette
They lay the table with a tablecloth ,butter, salt and pepper and cutlery. The first tastes are a black pastry cup with olive, sun dried tomato and baby bocconcini. The pastry cup is a little soggy but the filling isn't too bad and there's a lick of pesto at the bottom. The vegetable brochette is a little oily, particularly the eggplant pieces.
Cream of mushroom soup
There are a few types of bread offered from garlic bread to various types of rolls. I choose a herb bread and the soup comes after it. The cream of mushroom soup is actually very nice with a good mushroom flavour and a thick, creamy texture. There are a lot of croutons on top and I mostly leave these behind.
Cajun lamb and prawn on mango salsa
The Cajun lamb comes as three pieces, very lightly spiced with a rather firm prawn and a good mango salsa which adds most of the flavour to the dish.
Smoked duck breast with smoked salmon rosette, seaweed and chilli salad
This was the other hors d'oeuvre choice. It was four smoked duck breast pieces and two curled up pieces of thick smoked salmon. The spicy chilli seaweed salad added most of the flavour to the dish. They reminded me of entrees served at a wedding, nice enough but not extremely exciting.
Garden vegetable salad
The vegetable salad had marinated mushrooms and grilled red capsicum pieces on top of a green salad. With it was a choice of three dressings: thousand island, French garlic or Italian balsamic dressing. I chose the Italian which was a bit too vinegary and I prefer a sweeter aged balsamic (okay I know that sounds totally affected).
Braised beef short rib with stir fried combination vegetables in ginger sauce and steamed rice
I hit jackpot with the main, a softer than soft braised beef short rib dish served with plain boiled rice and a tomato and red capsicum ratatouille. The beef was soft and even though I knew that I had another two courses I finished it all.
Cheddar, brie and blue cheese
Our cheese course was next. There was a lovely cheddar which I always tend to devour, a Brie which was creamy and a blue that didn't get a look in because I was busy with the cheddar and I simply just forgot to try it. With this came an assortment of fresh grapes, pitted prunes, dried apricots and water crackers.
Panna cotta with passion fruit coulis and fruit
There was a slight change on the menu and instead of vanilla bean ice cream, there was a plate of fresh fruit. The dessert was a vanilla panna cotta which wasn't particularly strong in vanilla although it was soft. It was more like a bavarois than a panna cotta to me.
Toiletries in bathroom
It's midnight by the time dinner has finished and they have already taken orders for breakfast which is in just five hours away (3am with the time difference). I am tempted to sleep through it but of course that won't do because I'm sure you are curious about the breakfast is like. Throughout the flight, there is a sandwich selection if you get peckish. I slip on an episode of The Big Bang Theory and brush my teeth and go to bed. They bring our a quilt and I recline the bed. Alas because this is an older plane the bed doesn't recline flat and there's an incline and sleeping is difficult so it definitely pays to see what sort of plane you are flying on as my previous China Southern flight had a completely flat bed. There is also a lot of turbulence and my sleep is fitful and difficult.
At 3am the cabin lights turn on bright and I hear the sounds of the metal cutlery and people waking up. Wet towels are handed out and a tablecloth is laid out on the table. There is fruit yogurt and a choice of bakery items. There are croissants, apricot Danishes, rolls and sliced bread along with butter and strawberry jam.
Spanish omelette, veal chipolata with roesti potato, asparagus and cherry tomato
The omelette was a bit strange with some sort of vegetable and onion filling. It didn't fare well and neither did the veal chipolata which was tough. The potato roesti isn't bad although this too is dry.
Cantonese dim sum with congee
This was my first choice but my travelling companion David ordered this and they said that this was the most popular item and they only had two of these in the trolley and it was already sold out. I'm not sure how because we were the first two to order but I didn't get to try it.
An hour before we land, they make an announcement and in a quirky touch, the movies are replaced with health messages.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever sleep through the meals? And do you keep your amenity kit?
China Southern Airlines