You always wanted to know what it feels like to visit one of those first class passenger lounges at an airport but are to skint to afford even an Economy ticket, never mind the first class ticket, that would get you access to one?
Well, help is at hand as Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines have opened NY-LON, a new venue at the O2 in London’s North Greenwich, that wants to make you feel like you are waiting for your flight to New York being announced any minute now and you half expecting George Clooney to join you at the bar for cocktails.
The lounge bar opened last month but we went to the official opening this week, along with about 300 other guests and frequent flyers who were invited to get a taste of the airlines’ renowned in-flight hospitality on terra firma.
The red carpet had been rolled out, a photographer was there to snap the arrivals and we were greeted with a glass of prosecco and delicious canapés of salted cod, salmon tartar and caviar, goats’ cheese curd and beet root. Other dishes served throughout the evening included mac ’n’ cheese, chorizo meat balls, crab salad, chicken kebabs, and deep fried mushroom risotto and Bombay duck croquettes.
The prosecco was flowing all night, but we also got to taste some of the cocktails on offer: Maiden Voyage (Beefeater gin infused with rosemary & lemon and pineapple juice), Flying Lady (NY-LON;s take on the Cosmopolitan with Grey Goose L’Orange, limoncello, orange bitters, lime and cranberry juice) and our favourite, the Cropduster (a Mojito variation with Bacardi 8-year old rum, cinnamon syrup, mint, lime, chocolate bitters, ginger ale and brown sugar). Wine and soft drinks were available as well. The bar and waiting staff were extremely attentive and seemed to be enjoying themselves, which is always a good sign.
Entertainment was provided by neo-soul duo Lion Babe, who did a short set, and the legend that is Grandmaster Flash who played an extended DJ set which had everybody, from VIP guest to waiter, on the dance floor.
So, what is the NY-LON like? Does it live up to expectations? Does it feel like one of those swish airport lounges you see in the movies?
We have only ever been to one of those, the first class lounge of South African Airways, and that was somewhat by accident and another story.
From the reception which is modelled on a check-in desk to the spacious and luxurious looking lounges, it certainly makes you forget where you are. There might be screaming One Direction fans elsewhere in the building, but here you feel instantly relaxed and ready to unwind. The VIP lounge is the smaller one of the lounges and its own bar and featuring four round cream-coloured booths, each themed by a transatlantic destination: New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and London. It also leads to the secret (or not so secret) meeting room which may or may not feature a flying carpet.
The Turbine Lounge is larger, with comfortable sofas, cocktail chairs and tables (they have a call button – like on a plane!) and a very well-stocked bar. Silver pearl curtains divide the room into different spaces. Cushions with iconic black-and-white images from popular travel destinations contrast against the deep red colour of the upholstery. The light fittings resemble small clouds and the overall impression is one of luxury and sophistication.
The lounge is open from midday to midnight, 7 days a week and it is the perfect space for pre- or post-gig drinks and a bite to eat if you fancy something more ‘upper class’ (see what I did there!). Unfortunately, unlike in a real first class airport lounge, you have to pay for food and drinks and this doesn’t come cheaply.
The delicious cocktails ( I really want to try them all!) by head mixologist Massimiliano Bua are between £10 and £13. The most expensive champagne is £280 per bottle and the cheapest bottle of wine is £25, but you can get a small glass for £4.30. A bottle of beer will set you back by £5.50-6. The list of spirits is very extensive, with prices ranging from £9 to £17 for the most expensive 12-year old Japanese single malt. Coffees and teas are around £3 and soft drinks between £2 and £4.50
The food, inspired by the main transatlantic flight connection, New York and London, consist of small plates (think tapas), which include the above mentioned dishes and cost between £5.50 and £7.50 each and sharing platters at £22.00 to £26.00. Desserts are £6.00 to £7.50.
It will probably be for a special occasion when you come to the O2, whether you go and see a concert or your favourite comedian or see the latest film or visit an exhibition, so you might as well spoil yourself completely and splurge out a bit at NY-LON. After all – you save yourself the price of a first class ticket to New York.