Plane Food is on the airside at Terminal 5, so is positioned at customers who have checked in for the flights, have some time to kill and would like something better to eat than a British Airways sandwich. It is quite an open space, with a grey tiled floor and beige chairs, no tablecloths but proper napkins, casual but definitely a step up from airport lounge décor. It is also large, and can at capacity seat 200 diners. The menu is simple and appealing, with starters £4.50 - £8.50, main courses £11.50 - £16.50, desserts £6.50. One significant constraint is that no naked flames are allowed in Terminal 5, so an electric griddle is used in its place, and of course ovens are fine.
The wine list is very well put together, with sensible selections of high quality growers from around the world. Examples are the excellent Marques de Murrietta 2003 Reserva at £35 for a wine that costs perhaps £11, Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2007 at £31 for a wine that retails for around £9, and even the British wine Chapel Down Bacchus 2006 for £24 for a wine costing about £8 in the shops.
The meal did not start well with a fusilli pasta with chorizo, tomato and pecorino seriously overcooked, the pasta distinctly soggy, with a tomato sauce that had fresh herbs but which lacked any real depth of tomato (0/10). Better was a pleasant Ceasar salad, with real anchovies, a soft boiled egg though a little too much dressing relative to the salad (1/10). However things perked up a little with the mains.
Salmon fishcakes were tasty and with a crisp exterior, on a bed of rather soggy spinach with a mustard sauce that was fine but for me could have done with more mustard (1/10). Better was a steamed sea bass with white beans and cream of horseradish sauce, the fish timed well, the sauce having just about the right amount of punch from the horseradish to cut through the rich cream sauce (2/10). Chips were very good if in a small portion, crisp and cooked through (easily 3/10).
An apple and hazelnut crumble was properly made, served with cinnamon custard, the crumble in balance with the fruit (2/10). A chocolate and pecan brownie was rather dry, though vanilla ice cream with it was fine (1/10). Coffee was fine, and the bill came to £55 a head including some good wine.
I should add that our waiter was very impressive, able to describe the cooking processes in detail and also knowledgeable about the wine which we chose. How many waiters would you expect to know that Marques de Murrietta Reserva was aged in American rather than French oak (which it is) and having a pretty good idea how long it is aged (two and a half years) in the oak for? Don’t try for this kind of product knowledge at too many terminal 5 outlets or, frankly, many London restaurants. The place is seemingly doing very good business indeed, with apparently no less than a thousand covers on one Thursday recently.
Overall the cooking was between 1/10 and 2/10, and I was pleasantly surprised by what after all could so easily be a very cynical operation.