Eric Lanlard trials new afternoon tea on board Virgin Atlantic. Image via Virgin Atlantic

APEX Insight: Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow Clubhouse guests can now enjoy a full afternoon tea created by London’s Cake Boy boutique founder and master pâtissier Eric Lanlard. Phase two of the partnership will take to the skies in late summer, with different menus for each cabin.

Virgin Atlantic is bringing afternoon high tea to the skies this summer. In a collaboration, announced last month, with London’s Cake Boy founder and master pâtissier Eric Lanlard, the airline has planned a two-pronged tea party.

The first part began in April at the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse, where guests can enjoy a full afternoon tea (served between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) every day. “I have been working since last November with both teams ‘on the ground’ and ‘in the air.’ I ate so much food, I drank so much tea and so much champagne! All to pick the perfect combination that would work for both the Clubhouse and in any of the fleet aircraft,” Chef Lanlard explained to APEX Media.

The result for the Clubhouse is an afternoon menu that features a pot of tea or glass of Lanson rosé champagne. The bespoke tea stand includes seven items, ranging from traditional homemade plain and sultana scones, served warm with clotted cream, lemon and strawberry preserves, to a broccoli, goat cheese and watercress tart.

Eric Lanlard

Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse high tea. Image via Virgin Atlantic

Phase two of Virgin Atlantic’s plan to “own afternoon tea in the air” (Lanlard said with a smile) will take to the skies in late summer and has been going through testing on selected flights this spring. Fliers in each class of service will discover different menus, beginning with economy, where “passengers will receive a Cake Boy bento-box style afternoon tea with a deli specialty bread sandwich, macarons and classic scones served with Cornish clotted cream and preserves,” he revealed.

Premium economy passengers will receive “a tray service with a classic scone, Cornish clotted cream and preserves, as well as macarons and a fine pâtisserie passion fruit éclair.” And in Upper Class, passengers will find the onboard bar transformed into a “help yourself” cornucopia of high-tea delights, including “scones served with cream and preserves as well as with the Prince of Wales Duchy of Cornwall lemon curd. There are lots of little fun additions like sweet coulis and sauces in mini toothpaste tubes, too.”

Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse high tea. Image via Virgin Atlantic

For Lanlard, whose credits include authoring eight cookbooks (including one called Afternoon Tea), hosting four baking TV series for the BBC’s Channel 4 and guesting on “The Great British Bake Show,” accepting the challenge of creating something special for Virgin Atlantic was a natural step in his ever-expanding career.

“I got very excited straight away with the opportunity to work with Virgin Atlantic on my first airline partnership,” he recalled. “As well as being an innovative, groundbreaking brand, they always focus on quality and great customer service  – with a bit of fun added in. And it’s also been an opportunity to get a chance to go behind the scenes and see the magic tricks they perform, that enables them to serve thousands of meals a day.”

Lanlard worked closely with the food-service experts at Virgin “to get the best experience in the air.” He quickly discovered that many of his classic recipes that work on the ground “had to be changed slightly to accommodate the variation due to storage, altitude and most importantly cabin pressure.” Happily, “sweets and dessert tend to stay true to taste and flavor,” but “funnily enough, the classic scones were very difficult and tricky to get right, especially as they have to be served warm.”

The chef eventually conquered that challenge, with menus now ready to roll out for every class of service and the Heathrow Clubhouse; now he’s already forging ahead to even another level of bringing  #AfternoonTeaEnvy to other carriers.

“We are looking at possibly incorporating the seasons, destinations and consumer calendar celebrations. This is a long-term project and that is something I would really love and look forward to when we have the first run of the menus spot on.”