I need no excuse to go to Betty’s. The historic family business with a focus on fine ingredients and an experience to match continues to deliver decadence as the years roll by, never compromising on its high-end essence in the heart of Yorkshire.
So when Betty’s says it’s upping its game to enhance its first class afternoon tea menu, it’s worth popping along.
We were greeted at the Belmont Suite in York warmly to a luxury setting and a piano playing. Never one to miss out, our three-year-old was in tow to try out the children’s afternoon tea, and it was a relief that even in these surroundings young ones are welcome, and there were plenty of children around the dining room by the time we left. (Don’t let this put you off if you’re going for a grown up affair. Only people with well-behaved children dare pass the threshold of places like Betty’s, unless they’re completely bonkers.)
If you’ve ever visited Betty’s in Harrogate, Ilkley or York, you might associate it with queuing. The Tea Rooms are renown in these tourist spots and attract people from far and wide who want to sample the chintz, traditional and tea, and queues which stretch around the corner for the non-bookable tables are common.
However, there is another way. There’s the newest afternoon tea available – Lady Betty afternoon tea – and it takes place in the rather sumptuous suites, upstairs above the riffraff having regular afternoon tea with their champagne, and it takes bookings only. More expensive too, yes. But if it’s an experience, a treat or an occasion you’re after, this is the way to do it.
We started our relaxed mini banquet by indulging in a glass of champagne and chatted to the waitress about our choice of teas. I am a tea lover, my husband is precisely the opposite, so this was a step into the unknown for him at the grand age of 36. He chose his tea the obvious way: by its name, and was pleasantly surprised by the quaffable and inoffensive taste of Gunpowder Green. For me it was a nice and light Ceylon Blue Sapphire, followed by something stronger, Lapsang Souchong, recommended to me by the waitress. It was woody and smokey, an aquired taste no doubt but I loved its unique flavour. I can have normal tea at home.
Lady Betty is the cafe’s version of a first rate, luxury and high end afternoon tea, created to rival the many extravagant offerings coming from the country’s most expensive hotels and restaurants.
We started with a prawn cocktail appetiser and then a smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill roulade and miniature pork and apple pie, which were delicate, flavoursome additions to a more traditional menu. The sandwiches that followed were special, especially the roast Yorkshire ham and tomato pate one, but the coronation chicken and egg mayonnaise were wonderful too.
Moving on to the middle tier, where the still-warm fluffy scones – sultana and Yorkshire lavender – were light and lovely. No stodge here, which was convenient, because if I had not had room for the top of the pops, the cream of the crops top tier, I’d have gone away very upset indeed.
Up there we tucked in – ahem, ‘nibbled daintily’ – into exquisite tasting miniature cakes, handcrafted to perfection. These were in the form of a Grand Cru chocolate and raspberry square (a shock of bright pink), apple caramel macaroon (with a perfect flower on top), chocolate praline slice (I can’t find the words to tell you how delicious this was), fresh berry meringue, a miniature Battenburg and coffee religlieuse. Not too much, but enough to know you’ve just enjoyed a rather sumptuous refreshment.
All in all, a trip to Betty’s is all about experiencing afternoon tea in all its splendour, the rituals and ceremony of tea drinking and taking time over the cakes that have been so beautifully created in the kitchens at this much-loved establishment. The staff are welcoming and relaxed, and very well informed to answer all of your questions about different teas, even if you don’t know what you want, as well as the food. If you’re going to do afternoon tea in Yorkshire, might as well do it properly, eh?
Lady Betty afternoon tea costs £32.95; with champagne £39.95. Advance booking is essential.