Flight BA2012 is the new high concept pop-up restaurant launched by British Airways this week in Shoreditch, to bring together and promote several strands of BA’s high-profile, high cost Olympic marketing strategy. Sounds sexy doesn’t it? Well, as flight attendants usher you to your table in the sleek mock-aircraft interior, it certainly is.
The cabin’s clean colours, sharp lines and crisply uniformed staff make you feel at once relaxed and like you’re at the start of a futuristic adventure. It’s quirky. It’s fun. And the glass of chilled champagne as you take your seat makes for a smooth take off. A look at the menu brings you right back down to earth though.
Inspired by BA’s in-flight food from around the last London Olympics in 1948, you can’t help thinking the average episode of Ready Steady Cook! would have turned out a more enlivened set of ingredients: beef, beetroot, cabbage, mashed potato, mackerel, duck egg. The futuristic ambiance of the cabin definitely sagged under the weight of the bucolic dishes on offer.
Where was the great British food of today? Is fish pie or beef topped with piped mashed potato – no matter how beautifully presented (and it was) – any way of trumpeting what puts the Great in GB 2012?
I should add that all the dishes will be served in either Business or Club Class on actual BA flights this summer, so certain technical considerations limit what is achievable. Nevertheless, most M&S pre-packed salads show more inventiveness than the frankly workaday combinations that chef Simon Hulstone offered up. While well executed, these dishes were examples of British food at its most comforting, conforming to a pervasive and persistent stereotype that British food is unadventurous and rather drab.
If British food was meant to be celebrated and championed by this menu, then it’s a British food of a bygone era. It was a trip into the past which left me feeling that our national airline is misrepresenting us. I just hope visitors from abroad manage to leave their expectations of Britain at the airport gate and discover just how adventurous and inventive we really are.
Dining seats on Flight BA2012 have all sold out, but you can still go for drink in the gallery, no booking required. Visit the Flight BA2012 Facebook page for more info.