Two weeks into 2016, how many of us can recall our New Year's resolutions, let alone have managed to keep to them?
Mine - to be kinder to my wallet (less extravagant purchases) and my body (less alcohol & less sugary treats) - came under immediate threat during my trip to Rudding Park when I took the opportunity to pop into Harrogate to visit Bettys, the famed tea house. If you're going to fail, why not do so both elegantly and spectacularly!
There are six Bettys Tea Rooms in Yorkshire, with Parliament Street in Harrogate being the original. Opened by Swiss baker Frederick Belmont in 1919, the tearooms have since become something of an institution with over one million visitors per year.
As we arrived at midday the queue was already stretching around the corner with people waiting patiently in the pouring rain. The lengths us Brits will go to for a nice cup of tea! Thankfully my friend and I were able to bypass the waiting crowds since we had a reservation for the Lady Betty Afternoon Tea which is served upstairs in the Imperial Room.
Inside the tea room was charming, a haven away from the bustle of the downstairs Montpellier café. The room was filled with other diners chatting away while a pianist provided gentle background music. It’s one of those unique places where time stands still. You really feel the history and tradition of Bettys whilst dining there, with the immaculate white table linen and employees in their black and white uniforms all adding to the experience.
Our waiter introduced himself and gave us menus to choose our tea. With over 50 teas to choose from it took us a while. Nothing was rushed and we were encouraged to take our time ordering and sampling the different teas available. Bettys source their tea leaves from around the world including China, India, Sri Lanka and Africa.
We chose Bettys Cafe Blend and Golden Darjeeling served with slices of lemon. As well as the fantastic flavours of the tea, there is also the theatre that comes with drinking it. Every cup ordered comes with a pot of loose leaf tea, another of hot water, a silver tea strainer, a jug of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes to perfect your cup of tea. The bone china is bespoke to Bettys and includes an intricate tea leaf design by Royal Crown Derby.
A glass of Champagne later and our first course arrived, an appetiser of prawn cocktail. I opted for the vegetarian version of avocado crème with a light, refreshing tomato salsa - very tasty.
Shortly thereafter a three tier silver cake stand arrived with our sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes. The sandwiches were full of flavour made on the freshest bread from Bettys own artisan bakery. Curls of cucumber on top of cream cheese, caramelised red onion and goat cheese and the classic egg mayonnaise were just some of the fillings available. We were told that we could order as many extra sandwiches as we liked, but we declined as we already had plenty of food to devour.
I was impressed that Bettys focuses on the savoury side of the afternoon tea rather than cramming plates full with too many cakes leaving you with a sugar high. The balance was just right.
As a vegetarian, it was refreshing to be given a tailored menu as opposed to simply being given the usual menu minus the meat or fish options. It was also impressive that Bettys were able to adapt the menu easily for my friend who has a nut allergy.
The scones were delicious, two each and not too big. One sultana and the other with a hint of flavour of Yorkshire lavender, both accompanied with jam and clotted cream.
After ordering a second glass of Champagne, we started tasting the bite sized cakes. All were light and delicious. White chocolate meringue with fresh berries, a chocolate mousse praline and a delicate apple caramel macaroon were the highlights!
Once we had finished, we were each given a tin of Bettys loose leaf tea to take away with us which was a lovely touch. The waiter also offered to wrap up any leftovers, not that there were many. Although there were several different cakes and treats on offer, nothing was too overwhelming. We were given just the right amount of food to make us feel full but not overloaded.
At £39.95 per person (closer to £50.00 once the extra glass of Champagne was accounted for) the Lady Betty Champagne Afternoon Tea is undoubtedly on the pricey side, but then this isn’t just any ordinary afternoon tea. Having browsed the edible souvenirs in the shop downstairs, we left feeling full and content that we had finally experienced the delightful Bettys.