Words by Anna Howard
Let's face it. We've all been there; bounding through the airport before a long-haul flight, searching for some sustenance that doesn't involve questions like, 'would you like fries with that?' or a soggy sandwich that's probably been sitting in the display cabinet for two days.
Fortunately, airport food is now shaking off its inedible, uninspiring stigma and paving the way for a slew of quality in-transit dining options. In fact, even celebrity chefs are tapping into the transit space for restaurant openings.
Whether you're after culinary convenience or a more formal affair, here are four airports that will whet your appetite.
Right in our very own backyard is an airport that takes its dining seriously. Sure, there are the obligatory Golden Arches and fast food options, but Sydney Airport excels with an incredible selection of casual dining, grab and go and cafe/bar alternatives.
It's hard to stay healthy if you're always on the road (or tarmac) but a freshly pressed drink from Top Juice will replenish those much-needed vitamins. Follow it up with sushi to go from takeaway bar, Asakaze or a sit down for a true Japanese dining experience at Itacho Sushi.
Bring back the magic of air travel by spoiling yourself with some Prunier caviar along with the freshest local oysters and prawns at Seafood Bar – Caviar House & Prunier. For a casual power lunch, knock back a flight of the best brews over some hearty gastropub grub at Tap House.
Top marks go to celebrated Spanish brand, Movida. Along with its famous tapas and raciones (share plates), Movida @ The Airport serve an array of breakfast pastries and bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches) for those with less time to spare before boarding. Ole!
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport was recently crowned the world's best for dining in the 2015 Skytrax World Airport Awards and it's not hard to see why. Their epicurean game is strong. Very strong.
Quick, not fast food
When time is of the essence, set your sights on the food courts and enjoy a smorgasbord of local delights. You can sample everything from siu mai to fish balls, butter-glazed buns to Kirin Ichiban beer slushies. It's quick, easy, no fuss food with flavour that packs a punch.
Smooth landings, smooth jazz
Do as savvy travellers do and arrive to the airport much earlier than required to dine at one of the sit-down restaurants. Each has their own signature and style; Cafe Deco is a winner with Pan-Asian fare as well as a cheese and wine counter. Enjoy the views over the runway as you relax to the sounds of the nightly live jazz band before your onward journey.
Fill up on dumplings and you can skip that dreaded pre-packaged in-flight meal. Maxim's Jade Garden presents traditional fare with flair; in fact, they're considered the pioneers in yum cha culture. Try the garden roasted goose and deep fried crispy pork fillets with black vinegar.
London Heathrow doesn't exactly have the best reputation, but when it comes to food, the airport is coming up aces, especially with a new crop of restaurant and bar openings.
When time is of the essence
Every minute counts en route to the runway, so naturally you'll be seeking good food, fast. There are a slew of restaurants in T3, T4 and T5 offering 15-minue menus. Along with the grand old gent in pubs, Wetherspoon, you'll also find Carluccio's – a crowd pleaser serving traditional Italian dishes and sweets – and boldly British, Dining Street Restaurant and Bar. Bon appétit!
Gordon Ramsay brings Michelin star credit to Heathrow with Plane Food, albeit without the same price tag. Ramsay's food is swish, sharp and simple, and thanks to an express menu, you can be in and out within 25 minutes. Plus, you can even choose from a range of 'onboard picnics' to take on your flight.
Also upping the gastronomic flair is The Perfectionist's Cafe, by none other than the gastronomy king himself, Heston Blumenthal. Inspired by his In Search of Perfection TV series, the outlet serves British classics like fish and chips, burgers and full English breakfasts with a Heston twist. And naturally, you can finish off your meal in true Blumenthal style with liquid nitrogen ice-cream.
Aiming to lead the way in tomorrow's culinary revolution, a group of four acclaimed female chefs from London have collaborated on The Gorgeous Kitchen. Exhibition style cooking, intimate dining and an innovative menu are all the hallmarks for a memorable epicurean experience, even if it's at the airport.
Los Angeles World Airports (LAX)
LAX was once limited to greasy fast food options but the situation has improved dramatically since a multi-billion dollar capital improvement project. The New Tom Bradley International Terminal (New TBIT) solidifies the entire port as a sophisticated dining destination, offering everything from a Champagne bar to casual eateries.
Flavours of LA
A host of LA dining institutions have popped up in LAX, allowing you one last chance to see what all the fuss is about – or to revisit favourites. The Original Farmer's Market was recently unveiled so you can savour the flavours and produce of the original Third and Fairfax location in Terminal 5. Umami Burger has also been re-imagined at LAX, with three burgers exclusive to its airport location. For a sandwich fix, you simply can't go past ink.sack, Top Chef's Michael Voltaggio's sandwich shop – try the Japanese scallop with soy-cured papaya, fermented chilli and basil.
Sipping, swirling and share plates
If you're more of a wino than a foodie, there are loads of places to whet your whistle before boarding. The staff at Vino Volo can offer their suggestions on navigating the eclectic wine list and cheese and charcuterie pairings. There is also the obligatory caviar and Champagne bar in the form of Petrossian, and believe it or not, you can enjoy not only coffee, but beer, wine and tapas at Starbucks Evenings, a new concept and a first for LAX.
If you only have time for one stop before your flight, make it Kogi BBQ. Regarded as the little Korean-taco-truck-that-could, you could say they're the Godfather when it comes to LA street food. Kogi BBQ has been making waves across LA over the last seven years, and now it has a permanent home at LAX. Proving that good food doesn't have to cost the earth, you can use up the last of your $USD on some short rib tacos and kim chi quesadillas.