Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) Restaurant A380 @ Changi, part of SIA’s Discover Your Singapore Airlines initiative to engage with fans while travel remains limited, took off over the weekend (24 and 25 October) with much fanfare, filling a section of the transit area in Terminal 3 with a palpable sense of excitement.
There were plenty of activities to entertain the visitors, such as batik rose-making workshops (you get to collect a free batik rose as well), a showcase of heritage cabin crew uniforms, a caricature station and aircraft tours conducted in groups of five. Visitors who arrived in traditional wear were also gifted an exclusive SIA batik-printed umbrella.
To safeguard the health and safety of visitors and staff, precautionary measures were implemented, including temperature screening and SafeEntry. Ground staff were also seen enforcing safe distancing among visitors at all times.
During the aircraft tours (pre-booked before the event), visitors got to see all the cabin classes in the A380, beginning with the upper level that’s filled entirely with Business Class seats and six swanky Suites seats that can open up to form a double bed for couples. This was followed by a look at the Premium Economy and Economy seats. Visitors even got to hang out at the cockpit with the friendly pilots and peek into cabin crew rest quarters, which one rarely gets to see.
Minutes before visitors are called for “boarding”, dozens of SIA cabin crew, decked in their iconic sarong kebaya, arrived to board two waiting Airbus A380 planes with luggage in tow. They were greeted by tons of “passengers” who applauded them as they went by. Soon after, passengers were called to board their flight for the anticipated dining experience.
A meal to remember
If nostalgia had not kicked in yet, it probably did once diners settled in their seats and the smiley cabin crew (though all donning masks) greeted them and confirmed their meal orders. A care kit, comprising a disinfectant surface wipe, hand sanitiser and a disposable mask, was provided for all diners. A cabin crew member then cheekily announced through the inflight announcement system that “in the interest of your safety, you are to keep your seatbelts unfastened and place them at the side”.
A six-course Business Class meal begins with a Singapore Sling – a refreshing accompaniment to tender chunks of satay that were smothered in tasty peanut sauce.
In Business Class, those who went with Shermay Lee’s menu were served Nonya Grandma’s Nasi Lemak for mains, a dish that came with sambal prawns, tamarind turmeric fish, fried ikan bilis, cucumber pickles and keropok (fried cracker). In Premium Economy, Lee’s Peranakan menu offers her grandma’s recipe for itek sio (Peranakan braised duck), chap chai (stir-fried vegetables), Jasmine rice, achar (mixed pickle), keropok and chilli sauce. And for Economy, Lee serves ayam tempra (sweet and sour braised chicken), brinjal sambal, rice, achar, keropok and sambal.
Lee is no stranger to SIA – she was involved in SIA’s new menu of local heritage cuisine in 2015 for SG50 and had worked with SIA staff and the kitchen crew of SATS Inflight Catering on a selection of Peranakan food then. Her own product line, Shermay’s, is also available on KrisShop. This time round, she chose to highlight her grandma’s recipe for nasi lemak “because to my knowledge, it is not available at any restaurant”, she shares. “It is also quite luxurious because of the seafood and more elaborate steps. Serving nasi lemak, a much beloved local dish, represents our heritage and our ‘Singaporeaness’.”
Lee also says she had certain considerations for the meal. “The keropok must be on a side plate – certainly not on top of the rice, because the steam will cause it to soften.” As for plating, she opted for something “sophisticated but unpretentious, not overly constructed or fussy, a version of how I’d serve it at home – but prettier”.
She adds: “I don’t like it overly styled because it lacks the homey feel, but at the same time, it must be in line with the [SIA] style, which is elegant and space efficient because it has to all fit in the stow-away tray”.
Lee hopes that diners have a memorable experience. “I appreciate and thank them for their support of our national carrier,” she says, adding that every guest has helped to keep SIA’s ecosystem working.
No meal is complete on an SIA “flight” without dessert. In Business Class you are either served a baked cheesecake with sable crust (international) or a luscious sweet-salty gula Melaka ice cream wedged between two wafer biscuits (Shermay Lee’s), an interesting take on the traditional ice-cream sandwich. If you’re still peckish, there’s a cheese and fruit platter and tea or coffee.
In true SIA spirit, the cabin crew surprised diners who were celebrating their birthdays with a birthday cake and song. According to members of the crew, the delight on the passengers’ faces when they do something special for them was something they had missed during this period.
The momentous occasion ended with a flourish, with the cabin crew bearing tote bags containing special mementos that they distributed to the passengers, including luggage organisers and limited edition SIA collectibles as well as discounts for KrisShop items. Suites and Business Class passengers also took home a Lalique and Penhaligon’s amenity kit respectively. The emcee then signed off after expressing thanks, to the applause of diners.
Albert Chong (not his real name), who had managed to snag a seat in Business Class, said he was dismayed when he discovered he had overslept and missed booking himself a seat the first time bookings were open.
The special restaurant experience was highly sought after, with all slots for a meal onboard SIA’s super-jumbo jet snapped up within 30 minutes after bookings opened at midnight on 12 October. The airline opened up more slots, but those were quickly sold out, too.
The 32-year-old who works in a technology consulting firm signed up for the waitlist immediately and was happy to have received a call two days later informing him that he managed to secure a slot, he shares after his dinner experience on Saturday evening, 24 October.
The frequent flier says he wanted to hop on this opportunity because he misses flying. He used to fly nine times a year for leisure and business and most of those flights were with SIA, shares Chong, who’s a KrisFlyer Elite Gold member.
“The service was great, as always, and the food was good. too, I’m really full,” says Chong – who went with the international selection and had pan-seared prawns and scallops on saffron broth – with a laugh. “It’s great to be back at the transit area.”