Anyway, through the lounge into a small room, just 10 seats, with no-one in it. There's a "this room is reserved" sign, and it's roped off until I arrive. I pick a seat and am asked what I want to drink, so I ask for a champagne. When it's delivered, I'm asked what I want to eat. Obviously I go for the fish finger sandwich because fuck yeah fish finger sandwiches. It raises a smile, but I enquire as to just how popular they are and am told that of course, everyone has them, because fuck yeah fish finger sandwiches.
Seems my holiday might now have begun.
There's a small menu. Outside in the main bit is a small buffet, plus a staffed bar serving free beer and spirits and pay for champagne. I don't know how to get it for free without being brought it, and during my stay this never happens anyway, but I do grab a Tiger beer. Another bloke arrives, who settles down with a laptop and phone that each beep and bloop and chime incessantly for the next half a bloody hour or more, until he finally puts some headphones on. It's quite infuriating, as is the lack of wifi - somehow, no networks are even visible. Whatever.
Having been left alone by the Garuda host, I don't really know what the protocol is for going to the gate. My phone lights up telling me I'll be leaving from 42, which is pleasingly coincidental since I am also leaving behind me the age of 42. The other guy packs up and leaves, and I figure maybe he knows what he's doing so I set off soon after. Turns out 42 is the most distant gate, a 20 minute walk away according to the signs, and in a little pavilion at the end of the pier. Gates 37-39 and 41 don't seem to exist. Eh?
There's a lot of people around but even more seats. I plonk myself down a fair distance away from the gate, and wait. As always I'm too early. Kids are making a lot of noise, and some adult men are walking around in bare feet for fucks sake. The guy next to me is on his phone, having a one-sided conversation since he's not giving the other end even a second to say anything. He tells a story of how his brother always gets upgrades at airports by wearing suits, and today he thought he'd struck lucky when they asked him if he wanted to fly business, but he was appalled when they said he'd have to pay £429 for it.
A friendly, grandmotherly lady with an iPad and ID card sits next to me to ask if I'd mind terribly to spend a few minutes answering a bunch of survey questions about my Heathrow experience today, specifically related to how I got there. Just as the survey comes to an end, boarding is announced. I think perhaps they're going to say it's just for first class, but it's actually for all frequent flyer card holders, people with kids, the old and infirm, and everyone in business or first. This seems to be most of the plane, but nonetheless I somehow manage to get through quickly and the woman checking boarding passes and passports happens to be the woman from the check-in desk. She recognises me and says she hopes I'll have a good birthday. Good memory, thank you so much!
Finally I'm onboard. Let's see what the fuss is about. First impressions? Honestly, not as blown away as I expected. I've read a ton of reviews of Garuda's first class on FlyerTalk, by people who fly way more than me and way more often in First class, and they're universally positive. Whereas I looked at the seat and though, not as wide as Cathay's is it? Doesn't seem as spacious as Qantas, does it?
It does have a sliding door though, which is very cool. The seat faces straight forwards, no angular nonsense, and you can close the door to make it a fully private enclosed suite. I like this, but not yet, because first here come a succession of staff to introduce themselves to me. Sara hangs my jacket up in my wardrobe. Linny comes to say if I want anything just ask her, and Uri does the same thing afterwards. I've got a big menu, but they have a proper chef on board so if I fancy anything else he can try and rustle it up. Would I like a drink? You know how this goes: I ask for champagne. What I wasn't expecting was "which one? We have two". Hello!
I get slippers, presented to me on a mat. They offer to take my shoes, or I can store them under the footrest. I opt for the latter.
I call it a footrest - it's really hard for me to reach, actually. There is a lot of forward space here, which means they can stand inside my suite when pouring champagne.
The entertainment system is a huge screen with very very responsive controls, and when it says "Live TV" it's not lying. There are 9 (I think) live channels!
The handheld remote also has a bit of info on its screen, though it falls short of Qantas's big handheld tablet thing. (Was that Qantas? I think it was Qantas)
There is a handheld tablet thing for controlling lights the seat, though. All yer standard stuff: presets, manual controls, massage, etc.
I'm asked which size pyjamas I wanted, and told that XXXL is probably the best. This takes me aback a bit, and I discuss it with Helen because, oh, I've got free wifi for 24hrs and it's by far the best wifi I've ever used on a plane. Anyway, I say I'll take the jimjams after I've eaten.
Ah, food. The chef comes and introduces himself to me and walks me through the menu, taking my order. There are 5 courses for the first meal and it all sounds lovely. Once I'm done telling him my choices, I put the great noise cancelling headphones back on and crack on with watching Inception.
First up is caviar with creme-fraiche, blinis, and crackers (a recommended Indonesian addition). Of course it's decadent and lovely.
Bread is presented on some kind of glass slate. It smells and tastes great.
This chicken dish is absolutely out of this world drop dead fantastic.
The solid aspects of the soup are delivered by Sara, and the chef then comes to pour the liquid over it. It's thick and delicious.
Hands down the nicest broccoli I've ever had. Helped that it came with a gorgeous piece of salmon and hell, I even liked the sugar snap peas (I normally wouldn't).
Salted caramel thing with ice cream, accompanied by a dessert wine. And all throughout, the Tattinger kept coming.
There are hot, lovely pastries.
Then a cute fruit salad.
Then scrambled eggs with chicken sausage and sauteed mushrooms. This is excellent.
Yeah, I'll have a fancy pot of green tea to go with it please. What do you mean there's more than one type of green tea? No, I didn't read the extensive tea menu when I took a photo earlier. Just whatever you suggest, please.
The seatbelt signs are on throughout the meal. Most of the liquids threaten to overflow at one point or another, the only one to succeed being the tea, all over my top. Thank goodness for the sleeper suit!