There are few things more depressing at the end of a great vacation than eating your last "on holiday" meal from a greasy paper sack while sitting in an airport waiting lounge.
Technically, you're still living the good life on vacation until the moment you arrive at home. So why not indulge in one last good meal? The following eight restaurants at international airports or adjoining hotels are worth the splurge — and the trek from other terminals. All of them provide not only amazing meals but also a sane respite from the hustle and bustle of a large international airport.
As noted below, many of these restaurants are beyond security checkpoints, which means only ticketed passengers can dine there.
Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar, Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
Where: Departure Lounge No. 1 (post-security)
Why: Often touted as one of the best airport bars in the world, Bubbles also serves some mighty tasty and surprisingly fresh seafood. Fat, succulent oysters on the half shell and traditional Dutch raw herring served with pickles and onions are two popular noshes; full-sized meals are available, too.
As the sleek restaurant's name implies, a wide selection of bubbly — Champagne, that is, plus dozens of other wines — is served at the bar. The showpiece of the space is a gargantuan saltwater aquarium filled with exotic fish. Try to nab a seat with a view of the tank, for the utmost pre-flight distraction.
But the true surprise? A casino right there in the restaurant. Just don't miss your flight because you were playing too much roulette.
The Encounter, Los Angeles International Airport
Where: Inside the Theme Building (pre-security)
Why: The retro, flying saucer-like Theme Building in the center of the airport has housed this upscale California cuisine restaurant since 1997. The decor inside is equally intergalactic, with its design overseen by creative gurus from Walt Disney Imagineering. Giant lava lamps burble, special sound effects emanate seemingly from nowhere when bartenders pour drinks, and the funky design of the barstools makes them appear to levitate in mid-air. The wraparound windows provide a 360-degree view of the LAX action.
Signature drinks are space themed, and the menu is heavy on veggies, with micro greens, asparagus and julienned everything adorning wraps, salads, sandwiches and entrees.
Ah Yee Leng Tong, Hong Kong International Airport
Where: Departures East Hall, Level 7 (post-security)
Why: What better way to prep for a long international flight than with a rustic bowl of Chinese soup filled to the brim with medicinal herbs and exotic ingredients (like black chicken)? Known best for its long menu of homey, filling soups, Ah Yee Leng Tong (decorated in typical but not gaudy red velvet and gold) also serves dim sum and an assortment of entrees.
Note: The sign for the restaurant is only in Chinese; ask English-speaking airport staff for help finding it.
Globe@YVR, Vancouver International Airport
Where: Lobby level of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel directly above the U.S. departures terminal (pre-security)
Why: Airport hotel restaurants tend to be as sterile as the airports themselves, but Globe@YVR is different. The restaurant specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine, using locally harvested, seasonal ingredients: chowder made of British Columbia seafood, duck raised in Fraser Valley in the southwest section of the province and Pacific salmon served several ways. The wine list also goes local, showcasing selections from British Columbia's famed Okanagan Valley along the U.S. border.
And then there's the view: floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a mountain range in the background and the airport runways in front.
The restaurant is easy to find, as the hotel's lobby is connected to the airport by a walkway.
Tokyo Wabo Fuwari, Narita International Airport, Tokyo
Where: Terminal 2, fourth floor (post-security)
Why: Frequent fliers in the know seek out this airport gem for its donburi, a rice bowl dish combining various meats, fish and veggies simmered together in rich broth and served atop locally grown rice. The bowls are oversized, providing a hearty portion. Udon and soba noodle dishes and curries are also on the menu.
On the seldom-visited fourth floor of the airport, Tokyo Wabo Fuwari provides a quiet respite for those needing to unwind after dealing with the usually frenetic pace of Tokyo.
Plane Food, Heathrow Airport, London
Where: Terminal 5 (post-security)
Why: The first airport eatery from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is an airy, architect-designed restaurant with large picture windows providing live-action runway views. The bar overlooking the open kitchen is a much better place to hold out for your flight than the waiting area near your gate.
The menu is eclectic. Salads, pasta, risotto, steaks and a variety of fish dishes abound. If you're pressed for time, order a selection off the "picnic" menu for 11.95 GBP (about $19.58 USD) — pick from four different starters, entrees and desserts. You'll be the in-flight envy of your seatmates when you finish with the pear cheesecake tart with caramel.
Don't be surprised to see the gratuity and a 1.50 GBP (about $2.46 USD) per-person cover charge on your bill. Reservations are recommended.
One Flew South, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Where: Concourse E, within the main retail area (post-security)
Why: The first fine-dining restaurant in Atlanta's busy airport is a godsend for those with interminable delays and the need to de-stress after waiting in security lines. Wall-to-wall photo murals depicting a Georgia forest, coupled with pine floors and ceilings, give a restaurant a laid-back, Zen-like atmosphere.
The menu, which melds Southern cuisine with Asian offerings, may seem odd at first — chef Duane Nutter and company call it "Southernational." You could have a pulled-duck sandwich or thyme-rubbed pork belly while your travel companion chows down on a dragon roll (broiled eel, cucumber and shiso leaf) or sashimi. Top the meal off with a signature cocktail or sake.
Imperial Treasure, Changi Airport, Singapore
Where: In the Crowne Plaza hotel connected to the airport (pre-security)
Why: Connected to the airport's Terminal 3, the Crowne Plaza is hard to miss, with its gleaming, silvery, latticed exterior. There are a few eateries and lounges in the hotel, including a sleekly designed restaurant called Azur. But we recommend the airport location of a small chain called Imperial Treasure for its fresh fish, roast goose, and overall reputable and extensive Cantonese menu.
Though it is inside a Western-style hotel, the subdued restaurant is quintessentially Chinese, with large round tables and waiters in traditional dress. The tables can accommodate large parties — perfect for sharing deep-fried prawns smothered in a wasabi sauce or passing along a bowl of salted fish fried rice.
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