Airport dining doesn’t have to be terminal. A new wave of airport restaurants is elevating airport cuisine above the level of greasy burgers and wilting sushi, as celebrity chefs and regional food heroes bring their magic to the one-time culinary wasteland of the airport.
Many of the chefs involved are Michelin-starred, and their offerings rate alongside the finest restaurants in their cities.
The better restaurants that are located in the public areas of their respective airports, such as Hong Kong’s Hung’s Delicacies and La Moraga in Malaga, Spain, have become magnets for non-traveling locals, achieving the hitherto unthinkable by turning the airport into a foodie destination.
Across the industry, there is a broader recognition that many among the captive audience of travelers are looking for something more substantial than simply filling a hole in their stomachs, and would place a premium on quality food in stylish surroundings.
Industry awards such as those made by Skytrax include categories recognizing the best airport restaurant offerings. This year the top five awards went to Hong Kong International, London Heathrow, Munich, Singapore Changi and Amsterdam Schiphol, in that order.
Here are few restaurants that are raising the bar in terms of airport dining.
One Flew South, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport lays claim to the title of the world’s busiest airport. But in Terminal E, at One Flew South, you can find respite from the commotion. Executive chef Duane Nutter’s upscale, Southern-influenced cuisine includes crowd-pleasers such as his signature pork-belly sliders, pecan-dusted scallops and pulled duck sandwiches, while the bar runs a strong selection of classic and original cocktails.
Hung’s Delicacies, Hong Kong International Airport
Hung’s Delicacies began as humble side-street bistro in Hong Kong in 2003, but soon earned a sizzling reputation on the city’s food scene for its distinctive dishes, cooked in a secret marinade. Favorites include duck tongues in Chinese liquor, sliced goose in marinade and chicken leg tendons in sesame oil.
The original restaurant has won a Michelin star three years running, and its airport offshoot is even drawing local residents to the airport for a meal. “I treat every customer as a gourmet and listen to their opinions. That’s the reason why I can cook unique dishes,” chef Lai Wai-Hung says.
La Moraga, Malaga Airport, Spain
La Moraga, in Terminal three of Spain’s Malaga Airport, is a stylish gastrobar serving contemporary tapas, desserts and more substantial creations. Typical fare includes the oxtail burger, and cherry gazpacho.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Andalusian master chef Dani Garcia — a recipient of the National Gastronomy Prize from Spain’s top culinary authority — who has won Michelin stars for his restaurants Tragabuches, in Malaga, and Calima in Marbella.
Plane Food, London Heathrow Airport, UK
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, recipient of more than a dozen Michelin stars across his restaurant portfolio, has brought his winning formula to London Heathrow Airport. Plane Food, his stylish restaurant in Terminal five, offers fare such as crumbed fried pork, steamed sea bass, and a short rib burger. Heathrow’s restaurant offerings were voted the world’s second-best at this year’s Skytrax awards.
Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar is a place where passengers can enjoy ocean-fresh oysters, lobster and champagne amidst designer surroundings — next to an aquarium of tropical fish. What’s not to like? Schiphol was voted the world’s fifth best airport for restaurants at this year’s Skytrax awards.
Altitude, Geneva International Airport, Switzerland
Fine dining and fanastic views combine at Altitude, where travelers can enjoy the creations of Michelin-award winning chefs Gilles Dupont, Thomas Byrne and Fabien Legon, while taking in sweeping views over the Jura Mountains. Selections include Kamchatka crab ravioli, duck foie gras with quince and pepper chutney, beef tartare and, of course, Swiss cheeses.