The cuisine of TAP Air Portugal, Business Class

I was on the inaugural TAP Air Portugal flight from Dulles to Lisbon in Business Class, as well as returning back to the US a few days later. I was happy to be hosted to experience it! So, what’s the food like?

In Business Class, a welcome drink of either spring water (the softer Luso), sparkling wine or orange juice, along with a snack pack of nuts and dried fruits, was served.

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I love how they ask you if you’d like to be woken up for breakfast. First, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to check out their meals. Second, I’ve been on airlines that wouldn’t give you so much as a bottle of water if you slept through the rolling of the cart. Flight attendants came by with hot scented towels to refresh before the meal.

Then, you select from their excellent selection of Portuguese wines. I predict that you’ll be hearing a lot more about Portuguese wines here in the US in the upcoming months. They have a wide variety of styles, including “Green wines” — their super young wines — sparkling, white, rich red and ports. Douro is a region that produces a dark red wine that even the competitive other regions love. They describe the Altano Reserva as having a “bouquet of blackberries, cocoa, spices and some floral notes”. I experienced a plummy nose, spicy and lively tannin, rich berries and cocoa, well balanced.

Their designer table settings are modern and chic, with silky table linens.

For my first meal, they served a fresh pea and mint soup. While it had a fresh, springlike flavor, the flight attendants let me know that it was coming out a lot thinner than most of their soups and I have to agree. It was accompanied by a choice of three kinds of bread: oat roll, white and French baguette. It’s served with excellent butter, served in a little bowl — NOT in little foil packets.

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There was a choice of three dinner entrees (but no vegetarian choices, unless ordered ahead of time). I asked a flight attendant and he let me know that the beef was his favorite — so I ordered it: roasted beef filet with Madeira, green beans, yellow and orange baby carrots, au gratin potatoes. the Madeira sauce (Madeira is part of Portugal), was light, peppery (going beautifully with the spice notes in the Douro wine) and kept the meat naturally juicy.  The portion was generous, with crisp veggies.

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The potatoes were the just-right portion of a rich side.

After dinner, exotic chocolates were presented. The Portuguese once had colonies around the world, introducing Europe to vanilla, cinnamon and spices. I tried a lime and hot pepper chocolate; it wasn’t overly spicy — more exotic!

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Breakfast in the morning included fresh fruit and cold cuts, a crispy traditional cinnamon pastry, along with blissfully excellent coffee.

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TAP Air Portugal is enlisting several Michelin starred chefs to create gourmet cuisine for the Business Class. On my return flight, I tried some courses designed by Chef Tiago Bonita. First came a lobster canape with pimento strip and caper on thin, light wheat bread, alongside salted, roasted sunflower seeds.

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The appetizer was a generous portion of smoked ham, a bit of poached pear and truffled egg yolk.

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The soup was cream of sweet potato with pumpkin mousse, zucchini, sun-dried tomato and green asparagus. It was thicker and richer than the other soup I tried, with a slight sweetness.

The main course — of the chef creations — was Black pork terrine, sweet potatoes and Port wine. It had a sweetness, akin to fruitier bbq sauces. I was surprised by the texture of the items: the pork was finely minced and shaped into a terrine and the sweet potatoes were a thin, smooth puree. That might be your favorite thing ever, it just wasn’t for me. I could see this dish being re-imagined into something amazing, though.

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For dessert, one of a few choices included a rich, larger Portuguese cheese with ivory rind and rich, dense, bone colored paste. It was served with almonds and peach preserves.

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