I’ve always loved to travel, but still dread each departure when it involves an airport. Even before all the necessary security, airports already meant endless lines at check-in and passport control, crowds pushing in all directions, noise, confusion, and above all stress.
Thankfully, over the past few years, airports have been really stepping up their games by making our stays, be they departures, in transit, or during delays, usually more comfortable and sometimes even fun. Amenities like on-site spas, fitness classes, in-house hotels and museums are now par for the course in some of the world’s most-visited airports. Another trend that’s also starting to takeoff (pun definitely intended) is the addition of renowned chefs opening restaurants inside terminals, once the backwater of gastronomy, offering only endless varieties of junk food counters and cocktails.
However, now, if in the future you’re making a stop at any of the destinations listed below and want a fine dining experience, here are nine airport restaurants (in alphabetical order by city) that boast Michelin-starred chefs behind their menus.
BARCELONA: One-starred Chef Carles Gaig, the doyen of chefs in Barcelona and owner of “Gaig” and “Fonda Gaig” downtown, is menu consultant at “Porta Gaig” in Terminal 1 of Barcelona’s El Prat de Llobregat airport. Catalonian fare, its specialties: croquettes and cod fritters, pata negra, and crispy Iberian pork.
GENEVA: “Altitude” with sweeping views of the Jura mountains is managed by Chef Fabien Legon. Here two Michelin-starred chefs Thomas Byrne and Gilles Dupont (with two other restaurants “Auberge du Lion d’Or” and “The Neptune” downtown) cater to business travelers because “Altitude” has a conference center with seven private rooms. Their lunch menu changes bi-weekly and their specialties include canaroli risotto, Kamchatka crab ravioli, duck foie with nougat and green apples, Brittany sole meunière style, sautéed veal fillet and mushrooms, and last but not least considering their location a Swiss cheese selection. Terminal 1
LONDON: Gordon Ramsay with 7 Michelin stars to his name among his 25 restaurants around the globe oversees “Plane Food” at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Among his specialties: beef Carpaccio, salmon fish cake on leeks with a poached egg, and crispy duck with watercress, chili, and ginger.
MALAGA: Two Michelin-starred Dani Garcia’s “Lamoraga” is all about Andalusian tapas. Specialties: gazpacho soup and chorizo or oxtail burgers. Terminal 3. Small but refined wine list.
NEWARK: Known for being the first chef to secure 6 Michelin stars legendary Alain Ducasse is menu consultant at the French bistro “Saison”. His specialties: foie gras, coq au vin, roast bone marrow, escargot, and croissant bread pudding. Good wine selection. Terminal C.
NEW YORK: Decorated with black and white tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and seafoam green chairs in an airy space, Michael White’s “Cotto” is an Italian trattoria/pizzeria serving Panini, antipasti, and panini (sandwiches). His garganelli with radicchio, truffle butter, and speck is a must. Bonus: the gelato stand. Terminal C.
PARIS: At Terminal 2 E of Charles de Gaulle airport is 3-Michelin starred Guy Marin’s “I Love Paris”. Specialties: French fusion dishes such as pot-au-feu, blanquette de veal en cocotte, veal ragout, roasted monkfish, and blue lobster Carpaccio with mango. Bonus: Champagne bar.
ROME: Opened at the beginning of 2017 in Leonardo Da Vinci (Fiumicino)’s Terminal 3’s extra Schengen embarkation area is 3 Michelin-starred Heinz Beck’s “Attimi” (“Moments”). Offering the best of Made in Italy “Attimi” proposes three “time menus” of 30, 45, and 60 minutes, based on how long the customer can wait for departure and Beck’s philosophy that at “Attimi” “you can eat fast, but with a ‘slow’ quality.” Specialty: “fagottini” con burrata and the myriad of mouth-watering sweets. Bonus: takeaway option.
Instead “Top Air” at Stuttgart’s airport is the world’s only Michelin-starred airport restaurant to have earned its star in it’s own right and kept it for 25 years now. Thirty-five year-old Marco Akuzun, born of a German mother and Turkish father, joined the staff in 2011, became Executive Chef in 2013 and was awarded the Michelin star a year later. Akuzun’s specialties: “Confused” Iceland char with cauliflower, tarragon, and bloodwurst and LUMA beef “oriental” with chickpeas, okra, bulgur, eggplant, and chorizo. His goal: a second Michelin star.
In addition to the above: Skytrax, the consumer aviation site, voted Narita in Tokyo the airport with the high number of excellent-quality restaurants, especially “Sushi Kyotatsu”. According to www.dailymail.co.uk, noteworthy airport food destinations in the US are: “Legal Sea Foods at Boston’s Logan, “One Flew South” at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, “Tortas Frontera” at Chicago’s O’Hare, “Corky’s Ribs and BBQ” at Memphis, “Obrycki’s” at Baltimore-Washington, “Perry’s” at San Francisco, “Chef Jimmy’s Bistrot and Spirits” at Denver, “Ink.sack” in Los Angeles”, “Barrio Café” in Phoenix, and “Piquillo Tapas Bar” and Deep Blue Sushi” at JFK in New York.