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Where to Eat Before You Fly – London City Airport:
Airside at most airports you’ll find a consumerist paradise of duty and tax free shopping, a plethora of the most uncomfortable seating in the world and the highest concentration of fast food chains and coffee shops ever. London City Airport is the only airport actually located in London. One terminal, smaller than many regional airports and just 22 minutes by DLR from Bank in the heart of the City of London, it’s my favourite London airport. That’s probably because check-in is fast and efficient. Even on their long haul flights, BA passengers travelling to New York can check-in, with hand luggage, 15 minutes before the flight is due to depart. Most of the European destinations have a similarly short check-in time.
You’d think that might result in no need for airport restaurant and cafe facilities, but City is well used by international business travellers to the City of London. And, there are no executive lounge areas, so anyone with time to kill at the airport will be in the (relatively) compact airside waiting area. The result is a small, carefully managed portfolio of places to eat and drink.
I had already been introduced to the City Bar at London City Airport. So, this time I decided to try Rhubarb – a small restaurant group who have concessions in some rather grand places like the Albert Hall as well as in Terminals 3 and 5 at Heathrow in addition to City Airport. In fact, if you want a hot meal there’s really only Rhubarb and the City Bar to choose from. The airport has a number of options if you want coffee or a cold drink and a snack including what looked like a rather wonderful set up for travellers on the go, where you can sit, plug your phone or laptop in and enjoy coffee and a sandwich in a kind of waiting room area.
Rhubarb has an extensive breakfast menu which I just missed and a bistro style lunch menu. Since I was on my way to Edinburgh I thought it appropriate to dine on Scottish fish and picked the Roast Salmon (£18.95). Not a particularly cheap option but for that you get a generous portion of roasted Scottish fillet of salmon with celeriac puree, curly kale, new potatoes and, at least in my case, tons of brown butter shrimps.
It was delicious. From the speed of service I’m sure it was part prepared in advance and then just finished in the kitchen, but that is no bad thing in an airport restaurant. The salmon was flaky, moist and perfectly cooked, garnished with a lavish dollop of tiny brown shrimps.
A small glass of Sancerre seemed expensive at £11, but a better pairing than my normal choice when travelling of a glass of champagne (which would have come in at just £1.50 more).
The seating is well designed for travellers. There are ‘single traveller’ booths, with phone sockets in addition to tables with chairs and banquettes. The whole layout is just a little random. There’s a pleasant, intimate area to the front of the bar and then a couple of other spaces which are separated by passageways. Worth avoiding the tables that are just in front of the loos if you can!
Service was slick, though on Christmas eve it wasn’t particularly busy at City Airport.
It reminded me why I love travelling from City so much – you’ll find a free shoeshine service, share indicator screens and a few good quality duty free shops, instead of the tribute to consumerism at Heathrow and Gatwick. And, take-off is along a runway that seems to go right down the middle of the Thames (it’s actually just to one side of the river, but still surrounded on three sides by wate)r.
Do you remember the days when flying was fun? At City Airport it still feels like that to me.
London City Airport
Hartmann Road, London E16 2PX.