25 June 2014

Food Adventures in Northern Europe and The Queen's Terminal (LHR T2)

Normally, I take a week off in June.  But because this past winter's trip to Cambodia was a bit pricey, I decided I should cut back a little where I could.  So, I scheduled this trip as a 4-night trip to places I have already visited with an emphasis on the food aspect.  Originally, this was going to be a trip to Copenhagen only, centered around a reservation I managed to obtain to the Michelin 2-star Geranium restaurant.  When I started looking at flights, I discovered that I could fly home via London, stop there, and still pay the same fare at the round-trip Copenhagen fare.  I worked it out to be two nights in Copenhagen and two nights in London.  And the timing was such that I would be using the brand-new Terminal 2 building (The Queen's Terminal) at Heathrow on the way home.  Given the days were now set, I could now book other food stops in both Copenhagen and London.

The trip should have started off pretty easy.  The evening flight to Frankfurt was scheduled to use a plane that arrived in the late morning.  However, about an hour before scheduled boarding, there was an announcement that the gate was changed.  So everyone had to walk over to the other side of the concourse.  There was no plane there, but we were told the delay would only be a half hour, as they would be towing a new plane for the trip from the hangar.  That didn't turn out to be the case, as it took longer for the plane to be delivered.  We ended up with a 1 hour and 15 minute delayed departure.  I had a scheduled 1 hour 45 minute layover in Frankfurt, but I wasn't overly concerned as I had been through this routine before.  I knew there were frequent flights to Copenhagen, and I had no planned activities for that arrival evening.

Our flight made up a little time on the trip.  We ended up landing about just over an hour late.  Fortunately, we were going to park at a gate (instead of a remote-site disembarkation).  I was the first one out of the plane.  There was a Global Services agent in the terminal asking for Global Services passengers (there were a couple on the plane besides me).  I told her my destination and she told me the gate and said I could still make it.  There was no line at Passport Control and there was no security screening -- it was jut a bit of a walk, including a change of levels.  They should have been boarding when I reached the Lufthansa gate for my flight, but they were not.  I even had time to swap out my United-issued boarding pass for a Lufthansa one.

When I boarded the plane, I discovered that my Row 2 aisle seat was actually a bulkhead seat.  Since I was an early boarder (they boarded business class first), there  was plenty of room for my two pieces of carry-on luggage.  It filled up a whole bin and I felt bad since I normally put the backpack under the seat.  But I think everyone easily found space in business class for luggage.

The nice thing about staying at the Hilton Copenhagen Airport is that I don't have to even go outside when walking to the hotel.  It is nice not to have to hassle the ground transportation issues after a long trip over (although traveling to Copenhagen proper from the airport is very easy).

The next day was going to be my only full day in Copenhagen.  It turned out that June 5 also was a national holiday (Constitution Day), which meant that most shops and commercial activities were enjoying the day off (I had just discovered this a couple of days before departure).  Since my planned major activities involved food reservations, I knew that I was still good to go.  I had delayed leaving my hotel for as long as possible because I wanted to try and get away with just buying a single-day transportation pass.  With the pass, it was easy enough to travel by Metro and bus to my lunch reservation at Geranium in under an hour.

Geranium is located on the 8th floor of a commercial complex that surrounds a sports stadium.
The restaurant does not overlook the stadium field.  instead, it has a view of a large park.  Since it was a holiday, there were lots of people out enjoying outdoor activities in the warm sunshine (taking great advantage before the rain).

My 3-hour lunch was a great experience.  The food was very well done and the service excellent.  They even take each table into the kitchen to have one course among the staff.

For the full write-up of Geranium, click here.

It was a satisfying, but not heavy meal.  So after I was done, I had about 5 hours before my dinner reservation.  I had one errand that I wanted to do, which was to go to a shopping mall and visit a candy store that I had been to before.  Chances are the stores would be closed, but I thought I would check anyway since I had the time.  It turned out that most of the stores were closed, but the candy store was open, so the side trip was successful.  Afterwards, I headed back to my hotel to rest and change (and recharge my phone).

My dinner restaurant was a place called Amass.  It was relatively new and located a little bit out of the way, although still reachable by public transportation.  I only had to take the Metro in as far as Christianhavn (not all the way into central Copenhagen) and catch a bus that would take about 11 minutes.  I gave myself an hour and I needed all of that time, as it took a bit of time for the next bus to come (it was a lower-frequency route).  Even though the restaurant is just across the harbour from The Little Mermaid statue, it is on an island in a sparsely-settled location.

 They even grow some of their herbs and garnishes just outside their back door.

This experience was a little less formal than the afternoon's lunch.  But it was a very nice food experience.  I would go back.

For the full write-up of Amass, click here.

The meal took about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  It was almost 11pm when I walked out.  And there was still some light in the sky!

At this time of night, there was only one bus an hour.  I caught the second-to-last bus for the day back to the Metro.

The next day, I had a mid-afternoon flight to London.  My transit pass was going to be good until 11am, so I went back into town and visited the City of Copenhagen Museum.  It was a small, informal museum about the history of Copenhagen (free).  It was located a few blocks from the Central Train Station and not close to Metro.  The transit pass was valid for regional trains that run between the airport and the center of town.  They run fairly frequently, so I used them instead of the Metro, and it all worked out just right for timing.

My prior visits via plane to Copenhagen always involved morning flight out.  With an afternoon flight, I had more time to explore the airport some before heading towards my gate.  Since this would be a flight to a non-Schengen country, I would have to clear passport control before I could proceed to my gate.  There was a bit of a line for passport control, but I finally got through after about 15 minutes.  I discovered a couple of things once I was on the other side of the "border".  First off, there is no lounge available for use after you go through passport control (at least in Terminal 3).  Secondly, if i was coming in from a non-Schengen country  into Copenhagen through Terminal 3, I would think twice, as the passport lines get long very quickly (unlike Frankfurt).

My SAS flight was only going to be 2 hours.  Provided we departed even somewhat close to schedule, there should have been enough time for me to get to London and settle into my hotel before heading off to my dinner reservation.  That was indeed the case, as we departed on time and landed at Heathrow's Terminal 3 on time.  As SAS was not scheduled to move into the new Terminal 2 for a few months, I would not yet get my look at the new facility.

I had a quick trip into town on Heathrow Connect.  And my paid upgrade to a Terrace Suite at the Hilton Paddington came through.  With the nice weather, it was finally perfect for having some outdoor space of of my room.

My destination for this evening's dinner would be Kitchen Table.  This would be my fourth visit.  It is definitely one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, so I always look forward to a great dining experience there.

I had chosen the later seating for dinner (7:30), so I was definitely ready for some great food.  They had a slight twist this time that was different -- the chef had found so many nice ingredients that he wanted to work with that he added a few more courses that we could opt into for a slightly higher price.  that sounded great to me, so with that decided, I was set to have a really great dinner.

For the full write-up of my visit to Kitchen Table, click here.

For my final dinner of the trip, I booked a seat at Dabbous.  I had been to Dabbous before about two years ago, but it was only for lunch with a short menu.  This time, I was looking forward to a long dinner and finally being able to sample some of the dishes I had read about since it first hit the London food scene with a splash.  When I walked up to the restaurant, I noticed that the posted menu on the outside showed a tasting menu only.  I walked in and was seated and discovered that they no longer had an a la carte menu.  I certainly liked the items on the tasting menu, but I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to try some of their formerly specialty dishes.

To read the full write-up for Dabbous, click here.

The next day, my early-afternoon flight out of Heathrow Airport allowed a leisurely morning of breakfast and packing.  I targeted taking the 9:07am train from Paddington for the airport, giving me lots of time to explore the brand new Terminal 2.  I noticed when I checked the schedule board as I waited for the platform announcement that the 9:37am train had been cancelled.  I was glad that I chose the train that I did.

After boarding the train and waiting for the door to close, I was going through my backpack and noticed that I did not have my Blackberry phone.  Since it wasn't clipped to my belt either, I immediately knew that it was back in my hotel room.  I jumped off the train (the doors were going to close at any minute) and walked back into the hotel (I was glad I stayed at the hotel connected to the train station).  They gave me a key and I went back to the room and retrieved the phone from the safe.  Even though I had visually and tactically checked the safe, I had stuck the phone to the side of the safe using the case's magnet to keep it from getting piled-on by the other stuff I had stored there.  Unfortunately, it also kept it hidden from view and from a check of the bottom of the safe.  As quick as the retrieval was, I knew I wasn't going to make it on the 9:07am train.  And since the next train was cancelled, I'd have to wait almost an hour for the next train.  I wasn't in a great rush because of my early arrival plans, so I just had to wait.

When I finally got to the airport, it was a whole new routine to figure out, since I had never used the old Terminal 2 before.  It was a little bit of a journey underground before getting to the lifts to get into the terminal building, and at that point, you are still outside and across from the Terminal Building.  Since United was the only tenant at the time, it was not crowded (I'm sure that will change once all the Star Alliance carriers move into the terminal).  Check-in was fast.  Security was using all new equipment.  And even though I was in the Fastrack security lane (which I almost missed with no real signage evident) with a short line, it still took time (all my cables and gadgets required a thorough search of my backpack -- I have to come up with a way to make it faster).  Once you get through security, there are 3 levels of shops.  There is also a sign that indicated it would take around 25 minutes to get to the area of my gates (and lounges).

After making the rounds to check out the shops and restaurants (there are some nice ones of both), I started the trek to the gates.  It involves descending down below ground level via a long and steep escalator.  Then, I had to use several long moving walkways until I reached a long escalator for the steep ride up.  Then there was some more walking past more shops until I arrived at the United gate area.  I had to go up again via an elevator to reach the United Club lounges.

At the first reception desk, they walked me over to the Global First Class desk, where I was promptly admitted to that lounge. 



The lounge was very nice, with a view of the tarmac.  In addition to the expected buffet of food snacks (hot and cold), there was also a sit-down restaurant section with an a la carte menu.  There were some nice choices, included fried brie salad and butternut squash soup.  But the really nice thing is that the lounge is near the gates, so no long walk from the lounge to the gate, allowing more lounge time.  One hitch -- after the long journey from check-in to gate, I wanted to try out the shower rooms.  They said that they were having an engineering problem with the water, and they were not sure when the rooms would be available.  I wasn't desperate, since I really didn't have to sit next to anyone on the plane.

The gates in T2 have space enough now to configure them with the standard group lane areas for queueing.  That said, I did like the terminal buildings but not the long walk.  I would have liked to see shuttle trains, but that does get expensive.

After boarding, the flight left on time, with a slightly early arrival.  The wifi was not working on the plane initially.  However, after several inquiries about the service, they rebooted the service and it came online.  I was glad, as it allowed me to listen to the Giants baseball game during the last few hours of the flight home.

No comments:

Post a Comment