I’m a huge fan of the American Express Centurion Lounges. I believe they make up the best airport lounge network in the United States, and these lounges are the only reason I hold onto my American Express Platinum card.
When a business trip deemed it necessary that I visit Seattle last week, I relished the idea of being able to check out their brand new Centurion Studio. This is the first Centurion Lounge to be branded as a Studio, rather than as a full lounge. There are two main differences. The first difference is size. The studio is rather small. The second is the food. Unlike the other lounges, there are no chefs, and other than something you can pop into a toaster, there are no hot food selections.
I flew in on an evening United flight, and I decided I would use that as an opportunity to try and have dinner in the lounge, depending on how good the offerings were. I would leave two days later on a Virgin America flight, and this flight was at 9AM, which would let me sample the breakfast offerings.
The entrance to the lounge is discreet, yet inviting, and just beyond the clear doors, you can see the signature “living wall” entrance to all Centurion lounges. When you enter in, the lounge is blocked by a partition, which is essentially the back of where the buffet setup is, but it does help to maintain the exlcusive feeling, as you can’t really see the lounge until you walk around and enter. In other words, even though the doors are clear, people passing by can’t peer into the lounge. Side note: I think I set a record for myself that day. I flew from Las Vegas to San Francisco in the morning, I ate breakfast in the LAS Centurion lounge. Then I drove to my office and spent the day in Silicon Valley before going back to the airport, where I stopped at the SFO Centurion Lounge for a snack. Then I flew to Seattle, and I found myself here… Three Centurion Lounges in one day!
When you walk in to the right, there are two bathrooms on your right-hand side, both unisex. Unlike at the full lounges, there’s no shower here. To your left, you’ll see the primary seating area.
If you’re used to Centurion Lounges, the style and decor will seem very familiar to you. I parked myself at the counter along the window, ready to explore the eats of the evening. You can actually see my backpack in the picture above. It’s the black one along the back wall to the left. From that vantage point, if you’re facing the window, and you turn directly left, you’ll see two additional seating areas, one along the window, and another for watching TV on the other side of a partition there.
And just behind where I was sitting is the food buffet.
And in terms of the lounge, that’s it! It’s pretty small. It was about 8PM, and I only had a granola bar on my flight so I was ready to test the food options here.
The middle counter is sectioned off into three partitions. This evening, one of the partitions had veggies with dip. The other had some miscellaneous chips, a fruit salad, and a variety of dried fruits. The third section had two different nuts mixtures and desserts.
The presentation of veggies was attractive and classy, as is the norm for Centurion lounges, but I did notice that instead of having real silverware and dishes here, it’s just paper plates, paper napkins, and plasticware. My guess is that they don’t have the facility or staff to be constantly washing dishes from lounge attendees.
The middle of the food counter was the least exciting, with the dried fruits, chips, and fruit salad, sequentially.
The dessert side was a bit more interesting! I helped myself to a good amount of nuts, and I tried every dessert: sugar cookies, coconut macaroons, and salty dark chocolate caramel truffles. While there wasn’t a huge amount of selection, the quality here was quite high. I really appreciate how American Express goes the extra mile when it comes to presentation, something sorely missing from the United Clubs.
As you’re perusing the food counter, just behind you is the drink counter. I guess I forgot to take a picture, as I don’t really drink coffee. But to the right of the coffee, there was a selection of breads, bagels, and spreads that you could have as well.
There was also a toaster. And because this is self serve, there were cans of sodas, which I much prefer over a fountain machine or having to go ask the bartender just for a Coke!
They also had a great selection of local beers, but to get these, you have to seek out a server.
Well, I came there for dinner, and I made it work. I had a lot of veggies, nuts, and then I finished it off with some delicious desserts. That being said, it became clear to me that this lounge isn’t designed for meals. This is a great spot for a snack, but if you need a real meal, you’re better served elswhere, at least in terms of lunch or dinner. I came back two days later for the breakfast. Let’s just jump straight to the breakfast spread.
At breakfast time the counter is divided into the following three sections: yogurt & fruits, granola & seeds, and breakfast pastries.
I decided to make myself a bowl of yogurt, fruit, and granola, which was predictably tasty.
They offered both hemp seeds and flax seeds to put in your granola, of which there were two types.
I didn’t have a scone, but I definitely had one of the mini morning glory muffins, and those were delicious!
Both my fruit / yogurt combo and my morning glory muffin were quite tasty, but I’m actually surprised the lounge doesn’t have just a bit more to offer. For example, a pot of warm oatmeal would be a welcome addition. Or instead of having so many tubs of seeds, how about serve two different types of cereals? If I could get some Cinnamon Toast Crunch or something like that, at least that’s one more option other than granola or baked goods.
All of the food was high quality, and the muffin was delicious. I’m sure the scone would have been awesome as well. Contrast this to United, which used to have individually wrapped mass produced muffins that stuck to your mouth like paste or croissants that had a rubbery texture. I would like to see a bit more variety, but this is still a great place to come in between flights. Don’t go out of your way to incorporate the Centurion Studio into your travel plans, but if you happen to be there, do stop by.