There are times when Heathrow could drive a teetotaller to drink, never mind someone who enjoys wine. Europe’s busiest airport is (in)famous for its security queues and holding patterns, and not exactly noted for its restaurants. Until recently, only the first-class lounges offered much that was good to eat and drink, unless your idea of haute cuisine was Café Rouge.
Things looked up in 2008 with the opening of Terminal 5, and now the unloved Terminal 2 has been revamped at a cost of £2.5 billion. Burberry and Gucci have landed, and so has Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Café, an appealing cross between a café, a trattoria and a steakhouse from one of Britain’s most fêted chefs.
Despite the draw of Blumenthal’s name, I suspect few people come here for a three-course meal—they’re unlikely to have the time. This explains why the short but well-chosen wine selection is offered by the glass (both 175ml and a dashing-to-the-gate 125ml), as well as carafe and bottle. The prices take advantage of the convenience factor, too, with only two bottles (an Italian Pinot Grigio and a Chilean Carmenère) under £30. The list is divided by style—“light and crisp” whites, “big and bold” reds and so on—and runs to only 25 wines. Yet it’s far from boring. It’s good to see unusual choices, such as the English fizz Gusbourne Brut Reserve, a Roero Arneis, a white Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes and a red Minervois La Livinière, alongside staples such as Chablis, Rioja and Chianti.
The wines work well with the no-nonsense food. For a starter, we shared a platter of jamón ibérico and salami, accompanied by a glass each of the floral, spicy 2012 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner, Kamptaler Terrassen (£10 for 175ml) and the crisp, tangy 2013 Jadix Picpoul de Pinet, La Cave de l’Ormarine (£8.50).
Grilled meat is the focus of the restaurant, literally—you can see it being cooked from your table—so we moved on to a Café burger and a sirloin steak. Both were very tasty, especially when accompanied by the smooth, blackberry fruity 2012 Château Maris Minervois La Livinière (£9.50) and the intense, violet-scented 2012 Achaval Ferrer Malbec (£12) from Argentina. It feels strange to slice your sirloin without a steak knife, but rules are rules in airports these days.
Talking of which, it was time to head to the gate, where they'd just announced the last call. So no dessert for me. Heston's "brainstorm-inspired" nitro ice creams will have to wait for my next flight.
theperfectionistscafe.com; around £23pp for two courses
Where else to go and what to drink
GORDAN RAMSAY PLANE FOOD
Probably the best meal in T5, with a varied wine list to match. Around £23pp; picnics £13pp
Best white: 2013 De Wetshof Chardonnay, Robertson Danie de Wet makes some of the best-value Chardonnays in the Cape, with fresh, almost stony acidity, and subtle citrus and stone-fruit flavours. £24
Best red: 2012 Fleurie, Domaine du Calvaire de Roches-Grès Good Beaujolais is enjoying a revival, partly because the wines are light, fruity and partner a variety of dishes. This one from the region’s most famous village is refreshing and well balanced. £30
Wi-Fi, a bowl of chilli con carne and some very decent free wines in T3 and T5. Free for British Airways business-class passengers
Best white: 2013 Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Margaret River A Bordeaux-style blend from Virginia Willcock: savoury and lightly toasty, with appealing grapefruit and herbal flavours.
Best red: 2008 Volnay, Domaine de la Pousse d’Or This restrained red Burgundy isn’t always available in the lounge, but if it is, grab yourself a glass or two. It’s aromatic and elegant, showing the acidic backbone of the vintage and a core of sweet red fruits.