I chose to fly United Airlines home from Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee so that I could taste the new menu rolled out this month in Polaris Business Class. While the presentation and dessert choices represent a nice improvement, the new salad is strange and there was something fishy about my main course.
United Airlines’ New International Business Class Menu – A Taste Test From London To Los Angeles
Upgrades have been tough lately at United Airlines, but with the arduous pre-departure COVID-19 test still required on all inbound flights to the USA, flights from UK and Europe to the USA have been slightly less crowded than traveling in the other direction. I booked five days prior to my flight when I noticed the nonstop United flight from London to LA had confirmed upgrade space (“PZ” class) available. I used 40 PlusPoints to secure the upgrade immediately after booking.
I was quite excited to try United’s refreshed menu and expanded dessert options in business class, which rolled out on June 1st. Prior to the flight, though, I enjoyed some really delicious roasted chicken (with honey, thyme, and mustard) and cottage pie in the United Club. I had not eaten in eight hours and was famished…it was wise that I had a snack before my meal onboard.
Table cloths were laid after takeoff, which mark another step in United’s slow return to pre-pandemic service. Warmed mixed nuts were offered along with a choice of beverage. United still has not brought back lemon or lime wedges, but I came prepared with a supply from the lounge, prompting a hearty laugh from the flight attendant.
Printed menus were not boarded. Instead, prior to takeoff the purser welcomed passengers onboard then took their dinner orders. Choices included:
- Beef short rib with a Porto red wine sauce, brown butter pureed carrots, wild broccolini, and glazed pear onions
- Chicken breast with Provence herbs with pumpkin risotto, grilled baby zucchini, sultanas, feta, and toasted pumpkin seeds
- Roasted halibut with arrabbiata sauce, shaved fennel, and pickled onions
- Braised Celeriac with truffle puree, sautéed kale, carrots, and herbed breadcrumbs
It’s nice to see four choices back and a deviation, if ever-so-slight, from the same choices we’ve seen for years.
I love halibut and fennel, so the choice was easy for me. The meal arrived about an hour after takeoff and I give kudos to United for the improved presentation. Finally, it looks like a premium cabin meal again…
That said, I was dismayed that the green salad has been replaced with a roasted cauliflower and fruit salad with almonds, dates, sultanas, apricots, and grapes. It wasn’t bad (though looks like bird food), but I greatly prefer a green salad.
The pretzel roll was served warm.
As for the main course, I’ve had far better halibut. The fish smelled fishy, which is an imperfect way of saying that it was passable, but not great halibut. I’ve also had far better arrabbiata sauce and found the fennel to be rather tough.
Dessert was a highlight of the meal and also a disappointment at the same time, unless my flight was an anomaly.
- Cheese plate with crackers
- Raspberry tart
- Vanilla ice cream with brownie pieces
Prior to the pandemic, you could have one or you could have all three. I requested all three, but was told that I could only have one. I chose the ice cream and found it to be delicious, with a strong flavor of vanilla beans.
It was still hungry, though, but decided just to take a nap.
When I woke up, I saw that a snack basket with packaged treats were available in the front of the cabin:
I got up to use the lavatory and found another cart in the mid-cabin galley and there I spied that raspberry tart I wanted earlier. I had a cup of coffee with it and found it very good – not too sweet and yet still rich.
Hopefully United will board plenty of extra desserts so that more peckish passengers can enjoy a couple items.
Prior to landing, I was offered a choice of vegetables with couscous and pesto sauce or a cheeseburger. I chose the vegetables and found the dish quite satisfying (Served with ripe fruit and a packaged cookie, which I did not touch).
However, after finishing I was still hungry and asked if I might have a cheeseburger. This time, my request was happily obliged. I did not order the cheeseburger initially because I had been warned on FlyerTalk it was a “grayburger” but I thought it was tremendous (and allowed me to start fasting several hours early since I didn’t need anything more to eat at home) so it was a win-win.
Overall, United’s updated international meal service is moving in the right direction. Perhaps I just chose the wrong main course, as others seemed to enjoy their chicken or beef. One thing I’d like to see sooner rather than later is a return to a green salad, as blasé as that may be. The new dessert options represent a great improvement, but I hope United provisions enough for everyone to have more than one, if they are hungry. It would still be great to see the full ice cream sundae service return. Finally, if you are flying from London Heathrow the lounge food at the United Club is excellent (and you also have Lufthansa, Air Canada, and Singapore Airlines lounges nearby, all of which offer unique food and beverage options).
Sorry, not good enough, United.
Anything less than a full restoring of the pre-pandemic service is not acceptable.
Agreed!! 100% unacceptable, they should learn from AA a thing or 2, beetles and bugs included!!
I hesitate to demand a full return to the pre-pandemic service, though, because you’ll recall most mains were served pre-plated in dog bowls, which led to some unappetizing and bordering on disgusting presentation. A return to plating in the galley is a win for pax.
But bring back real salads and the dessert cart, please!
Oh for whole grains. Will the world grow up and learn to eat right
That food looked so disgusting , I am shocked. I don’t remember the food being that bad when I flew UA during Covid.
Were you actually on the United flightcor are you just trying to be relevant by being a negative hen?
Meanwhile, in coach, where the rest of us fly, how about another description of meal services????
In coach, its the human centipede. We gladly eat the feces of business and first class.
Matthew, I want your job!
“Table cloths were laid after takeoff, which mark another step in United’s slow return to pre-pandemic service. Warmed mixed nuts were offered along with a choice of beverage.”
“Printed menus were not boarded.”
“Prior to landing, I was offered a choice of vegetables with couscous and pesto sauce or a cheeseburger.”
” This time, my request was happily obliged.”
What gives with travel blogs and the passive voice? The writing is generally quite good, but the passive voice abuse is an unforced error.
Sorry to be so pedantic.
Pedantic indeed… Matthew’s style is in the top tier of travel bloggers.
My meal in Premium Plus on 6/4 was basically an Y meal as far as I could observe. In addition, based on your reporting, I asked for a G&T. The FA consulted with her coworker in the opposite aisle. She made it quite clear only beer and wine were available for PP. Politely I mentioned that I’d write into United. Reply ‘do what you have to do’.
Clarify – EWR/LHR…
That’s really bad – did you tell them to consult their memos? I hope UA compensates you for more than the value of the drink…
I’ll report back on FT. I asked a specific question over there and hopefully I’ll get an answer so that I write in with correct information. Thks.
PP is still in the economy section. There is no liquor in economy on United’s international flights.
Not true. Liquor is back in all cabins and all free in PP.
Premium Plus is not in the Economy section. Economy Plus is. Premium Plus is a separate cabin only available on select flights and for what it costs, they should be pouring G&Ts with a smile.
You would describe that burger as tremendous? Out of what dumpster do you normally get your burgers that that disgusting grey mass of meat would be considered ‘tremendous’?
It tasted great.
.. People do ask why I prefer to eat in the airline-club lounge rather than ON the aircraft … and, yes, I DO fly business internationally and first-class domestically 🙁
United 1k for many years. May 24 I flew back to the States on AA087 LHRORD. Just because. Excellent service, great food, very nice seat. Close enough to Polaris that I didn’t care. What have I been missing?
That fruit and seed side dish looks like something I feed my parrot.
Why UA why?
Glad to hear there were no bugs!
Nice to see a review of a great flight in Polaris Business Class on United.
Did fly united on Polaris business class, it was mediocre at best, and few weeks back flew QR suites, I think I don’t even have to compare UA and QR business class products
While it looks better presentation wise to the Covid days of Polaris, it is still a comparably weak food offering. I really wonder if anyone making decisions as to these meals has ever really flown or seen what is offered on European, Asian and ME carriers? Are they so blind to the rest of the world that they actually think this is a world class premium option?
I actually see short rib on the menu in a lot of restaurants, particularly in the winter. It is meant to be a braised dish, which is why it can work well on an aircraft. This UA version looks mediocre, though.
Those food choices are both predictable and disappointing. I think the only place anyone is regularly served short rib is in J on US carriers. It’s certainly not something I ever see on menus anywhere else. I also also can’t imagine ordering that chicken dish or the fish in a restaurant. Why do airlines serve these so often?
This really looks like a swing and a miss for UA. They don’t appear measurably better than AA. And the return of the sundae on AA is actually a highlight.
Not sure if I care to mix FOOD with FLYING. You always have the bathroom problem afterwards. Sitting in an airplane and eating is not my thing. Besides a lot of food, and processed food is not always the healthiest.
I had the same meal recently minus the fruit tart. The roasted vegetable pre arrival snack had the most flavor out of all the dishes. If you’re flying Polaris leave enough time and calories to eat at the lounge on arrival or departure if good food is important to you.
Wondering if this is really about Covid safety or staffing or lowering expectations for service?
COVID has always been a ridiculous excuse for cost cutting.
Forgive me but…
When a company is losing millions of dollars every day (in the midst of the pandemic) you don’t see the justification for some cost cutting?
I see a company doing what makes sense, as business returns service returns.
I don’t necessarily agree with all the new menu options but it’s still good to see service levels begin to move out of the pandemic phase.
People still have to eat.
So then is Polaris just a nice lounge and seat if the inflight food and service is subpar?
By the way, some of us traveling together would value the old fashioned window/isle together seating rather than sticking couples in middle/middle no window.
I’m not a fan of the old seat at all, but Polaris still offers decent food and generally much better service.
When traveling alone, the Polaris configuration is ideal for privacy.
When traveling with my wife, together is best and she likes a window.
The Polaris configuration doesn’t offer that.
Just looking at the color of the halibut tells me it wasn’t good. No need to taste it.
That “meal” looks dismal at best . But then again, I’d be on British Air home to LAX. At least the catering is by Do & Co. Thanks for posting what I’m not missing
BA catering is better, but the presentation is dismal right now. From my recent flight:
Setting aside the all-at-once nature of that setting, I think we would be ecstatic if that same meal were served on United. IMO, BA’s catering is simply of higher quality than United’s.
I flew FRA-IAD on June 1st in Polaris – first day of the new menus. I also had the Halibut. The FA presented it absolutely beautifully, unlike yours out of LHR. The dish is a little small, but it was delicious. I also really liked the new salad. Something different for a change.
Glad you enjoyed yours! Next time, I am going back to beef or chicken though.
Just curious! Who is holding that tray of food? That is not a United uniform
It is – for some reason, FA was wearing a Hawaiian-style apron.
Flew FRA to SFO recently. Chicken was quite good. Cheese plate was decent. Champs relatively good! Interesting venting of grievances on this website… have had my share of “champagne- first world problems” in the past, but given last couple years, feel fortunate to be traveling again and being able to afford business class in the first place.
A week ago I traveled with United from Tel Aviv to SF. The food they serve in business class was… hmmm generally unbeatable… Business Class! I payed for my wife and me 7300$ and still I can’t get a normal food? I ordered some pale fish… and I got some terrible vegetarian plate… I protested and This was replaces with unbeatable kosher plate…
Next time I will find other company or may be I will bring with me few sandwiches…
Halibut with arrabiata is a rather odd combo. Or maybe it was good thing that the sauce overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the halibut.