A Short Changi Interlude
One advantage of 1A is that you really are the first off and it’s good to stretch the legs for a while. However, my power walk was stopped by a sign board indicating that SIA wanted to speak to me. For a minute, I thought I was being put onto the next Melbourne flight in two hours or so, which I wouldn’t have minded at all. However, it was to give out compensation for the downgrade from Suites to First from Singapore to Melbourne. All I will say is that this was very generous, consisting of quite a large sum of cash and a generous duty-free voucher which has gotten me the smart new watch I wanted.
I then proceeded to the lounges, or at least the smoking terrace before the lounges for the first fag for sixteen hours or so and then decided even though I only had a few minutes I’d pop into The Private Room which is for First Class passengers only (no Star Gold elites, no First Class pax from other airlines, no SQ Solitaires). It’s very nice, if a little stuffy looking, the waiting staff address you by name, everything is brought to you, there is a delicious food menu and a buffet. Personally, I asked for an enormous glass of water and a cup of coffee, these arrived very swiftly and I consumed them whilst making a phone call home.
It was then swiftly out again onto the smoking terrace, off to duty-free to buy 200 fags, then a brisk walk up to the other end of the A pier (I needed to burn off some of the several thousand calories I have comsumed today) to go through Security (swift, polite, no Nude-O-Scopes, no groping) only to run into a somewhat disorganised boarding process where the priority queue seemed to mainly consist of “families with children who need assistance with boarding” and "anyone else who thinks that they may qualifyt". There were, of course, a considerable number of “gate lice” hanging around, one of which shoved in front of me with a wave of a pass and a grunt of “Business Class”. I tapped her on the shoulder, showed her my boarding pass and told her to get to the back of the queue J .
17th December 2010
After a few minutes of this queuing idiocy, I finally managed to make my way onto the 747-400 and to my seat at 1B. I’m fond of the 747, and this is probably the last time I’ll fly an SQ one, so I actually wasn’t that bothered by the downgrade. Also, this is a short leg of around 6:30 minutes and I was wide awake and refreshed – in fact remarkably chirpy, so again, I wasn’t expecting to sleep, a comfy chair and good service will do me fine.
However, when you have been in the Suite, you can see why it is a downgrade, merely from the privacy point of view. I am only too aware that there are people trying to sleep behind me, so flash photos of the food ain’t happening. I would have been comfortable viewing a movie like La Haine in Suites, I wouldn’t be so happy in First. However, it’s nice enough, plenty of room and the usual charming SQ service.
I was of course offered a welcome drink, I decided on a nice big glass of water, as that’s what I needed after the fast walk up the pier and the small boarding scrum. The usual handing out of the goodies occurred and I carefully stashed many of them unopened, I’m thinking gifts not ebay, folks. Well, not ebay much, honest.
After takeoff, I switched to the Rudesheimer Riesling Spaetlese 2006. Wow, I though I was drinking an Auslese, except it was fake sweetness. I like German Riesling, mainly because it’s complex and not appreciated and therefore generally has reasonable prices. The was accompianied by the mix of macadamia and cashew again. I ended up having two glasses which is my limit unfortunately.
Chilled malassol caviar
Salad of lobster, Asparagus tips and artichoke “barigoule” with old mustard vinigarette.
Mushroom soup with spices and truffle fois-gras royale
Oriental clear broth with watercress
Butter lettuce heart with baby cress and cherry tomato (Hazelnut vinigarette or thousand island dressing)
Chicken breast with morel polenta, roasted zucchini, asparagus and jus
Singapore Bak Kut Teh
Steamed fillet of black cod with gremolata, pickled cherry tomato and saffron potato
Nasi Uduk (coconut rice, beef redang, chicken curry, steamed fish soufflé, pickled veg)
Saffron fettucine with sauted ceps, argula, shaved parmesan, pesto
Warm chocolate cake with rum infused raisin and expresso ice-cream
Mango soup with pomelo and sago with vanilla ice cream
Selection of brie, mild chedder, true blue and smokey pepper cheeses
Tea and coffees served with pralines
The lobster was very nice, but actually the highlight was the delicious artichoke and the lovely old mustard vinigarette which blended together really rather well.
The mushroom soup sounded a wee bit too rich for me, who is after all eating a second large meal in less than 5 hours. So I had the broth, cleansing, not medicinal, lots of watercress and very refreshing, I'd certainly order that again.
I dodged the salad, I’ll make up for it on the ground, honest.
Main course was a bit tricky, anything with polenta is right out, the pasta sounds dull, but the other three are all interesting. I went for the Uduk, which had melt in the mouth beef redang (although a bit gorafied), nice chicken, good soufflé and the only downside was the rice wasn’t quite perfect.
I passed on dessert, I’m a fat biffer and one contained the demon rum and the other contained both a form of Satan’s globes and sago, despite the best attempts by two of the crew to fatten me up, I wasn’t indulging.
I did have cheese, silly question, when don’t I have cheese if it’s on offer? The cheese was a bit meh, when they say mild cheddar on the menu, they sadly meant it and that set the standard for the other cheeses. However, again a generous portion (unlike the wafer-thin slices of LH or LX) and nice big juicy grapes and dried apricots to go with it.
Again, I skipped the fruit, although I half fancied a banana and went on to a nice cup of coffee with a single white chocolate praline.
Virtually everyone else was asleep at this point with four hours to go, so I’m settled down into my book as we approach Port Headland. We fairly rattled along down to Adelaide and then on to Melbourne, with a strong headwind giving us speeds of over 1100 km/h at some points according to the Flight Map, I was content with Sambrook’s State of Emergency which as a big thick book filled with facts is amongst my favourite reading. What I particularly like about Sambrook as a historian is the sheer eclecticism that he puts in his works and State of Emergency is a very good follow up to “Never Had It So Good” and “White Heat”. Who says you need Krisworld, but I am a very textual rather than visual person.
About 90 mins out from MEL breakfast service started, it’s only a continental breakfast on this short leg, but whilst some carriers will skimp on this even in First Class, it’s a pretty decent selection on SQ. I had my usual tomato juice, two beautiful cups of black coffee, a fruit plate which included a positively lucullan half mango, a brown roll and butter and a small bowl of birchermuesli with additional fresh fruit. All done within the space of 30 minutes and done very well. Service for coffee and juice for people waking up carried on right up to 20 minutes out from MEL.
Landing had some pretty serious reverse thrust (unless the WhaleJet landing which was a greaser) but we were fairly swiftly at the gate and off. Immigration wasn't a problem, very polite and asking very sensible questions and the only slight disappointment was a fairly long wait for my bag to come off, priority baggage obviously doesn't work so well in MEL. No quarantine inspection, although a gorgeous dog sniffed the bags and out for a cigarette before getting a taxi into a very rainy Melbourne.
Once again, a very friendly and engaging crew on this flight who are a credit to SQ. I started this journey feeling not at my best physically and mentally and with a certain amount of trepidation about going. I arrive in Melbourne, reasonably well-rested, very well fed and watered, quite a bit better off than when I set off and in a much better frame of mind. I will thank my flatmate for bullying me when I get back. Next up: a few bits on Melbourne in a few days and then MEL-SYD on QF in J.