Lifestyle,  Travel,  UK

It’s not just tea, it’s Betty’s Afternoon Tea

I’m half Yorkshire, you know? I’ve always said if I wasn’t happily settled North Wales, I’d move to Yorkshire in a flash. I spent 4 delightfully happy years in York as a history student – 50% of my time bodging around medieval monasteries, and the rest of the time sipping tea and trying all the cakes in Bettys Cafe Tearoom and Little Betty’s, York.

Yorkshire Love

York, Harrogate, Ilkley, the Moors and Dales is simply the most beautiful area to visit. We usually try and squeeze in a mini break once a year to satisfy my hunger for all things “Yorkshire”.

Delivering a wedding cake to Clitheroe seemed like the perfect chance to take a hop and a skip across the edge of the Dales to the lovely town of Ilkley. Last time I visited Ilkley was a bone chilling week in January for a Poppy Pickering Cake Decorating Masterclass. Bettys Tearoom was undergoing a refit, the shop was all boarded off, and we had our little dog with us, so the Tearoom was out of the question.

Today is quite different – it’s a warm and pleasant June afternoon – perfect for an Afternoon Tea treat.

Happy Anniversary Betty

And there’s something else – it’s Bettys 100 year Anniversary. Congratulations.

On 17 July 1919, Frederick Belmont, formerly Fritz Butzer, a Swiss Baker and Confectioner, opened the very first Bettys Cafe in Harrogate. By 1937 he’d opened the flagship cafe in St Helen’s Square York. 1962 saw Betty’s join forces with Taylors – the now famous tea and coffee merchant, and this enabled the purchase of a certain Taylors Kiosk, now Bettys Ilkley. Finally Northallerton, most recently Harlow Carr, and the picture is complete.

6 elegant tearooms. The most impeccable service. The home of delicate continental cakes and the famous Fat Rascal. A proper Yorkshire institution.

We arrived at Bettys Tearoom around 1pm, hungry after an early breakfast at home, long drive to Clitheroe, and another drive over to Ilkley. So we were more than ready to sit down and enjoy this much anticipated treat.

Worth the (brief) wait

I would say the queue was 15 minutes max. I fully expected to be waiting longer on a Saturday afternoon in June, so 15 minutes wasn’t at all bad. Just enough time to have a good mooch round the shop and take a few photos while Mr B held our place in the queue.

We were handed menus as we waited by a very handsome red headed Yorkshire chap who reminded me of my High School crush and transported me straight back to the 1989 Sports Day 100m Final. Excuse me while I have a moment.

Drinking it all in

If you’ve never visited one of Bettys establishments, it’s like stepping back in time. In a good way. The waitresses are presented impeccably in their bleached white aprons and broderie anglaise blouses. The tables are dressed in white cotton cloths decorated with fresh flowers. The walls are wood panelled with Victorian style mirror insets. The elegant light fittings give a soft warm glow to the room and the colourful stained glass windows frame the view. If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the 1920s buzz, the bustle of silk dresses, the teatime chit chat, the chink of china cups and the delightful gasp as the cake trolley approaches.

We were shown to a table for 2 next to the window and warmly welcomed by Paula, who looked after us supremely well. We’d already set our heart on the Centenary Afternoon Tea – the Traditional version. We could have added pink champagne, but the call of the tea was strong.

The drama begins when the silver tea tray arrives. 2 teapots, a hot water pot, and ice cold milk jug – all polished to within an inch of it’s life – as it would have been in 1919. We chose Bettys Tearoom Blend – a medium strength, easy to drink black tea. You can buy their teabags in the shop to take home, but in the Tearoom it’s always tea leaves and a strainer. Tastes so much better and comes with the whole teapot pouring drama, which makes me smile.

By the time our “tea” arrived the sun was cracking the flags and pouring through the stained glass onto our table.

We were amused to notice that our Afternoon Tea was first served in Harrogate 100 years ago for the princely sum of 6D – the equivalent of 2.5p. Hard to imagine, but still quite a treat back then.

Afternoon Tea in 2019 includes vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options so we can all enjoy this wonderful experience.

Food glorious food

We started with the cutest sandwiches – the softest bread, the crusts off – cucumber and cream cheese, coronation Yorkshire chicken, ham & wholegrain mustard and Scottish smoked salmon.

Followed by a freshly baked sultana scone – yes that’s scone as in bone, cone and phone, let’s not have any funny business – served with strawberry preserve (jam for the uninitiated) and the dreamiest clotted cream.

It’s all about the cake

At the top of the silver tea stand taking all the limelight are 6 of the most glorious little cakes. The sort of cakes that are too pretty to eat, Except not – obviously.

First up – a little Lemon tart – crisp pastry, filled with zingy lemon curd, topped with a lemon macaron. Second, a teeny slice of Engadine torte – Swiss speciality with layers of hazelnut meringue and almond buttercream topped with hazelnut Medicis. And finally – a perfectly formed cube of chocolate torte. Swiss dark chocolate cake made with almonds and ground hazelnuts.

We must have sipped at least 6 cups of tea between us and more when Paula kindly offered us a complimentary refill. I can’t remember when I last drank so much tea in one sitting. A glorious way to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon.

New and old things

One new development since my College days is the offer of takeaway coffee in the Betty’s shops. Your coffee, or tea, comes in a compatible cup or you can buy a branded “keep cup” if you don’t already have one. You can even add a freshly toasted pikelet, or fat rascal, to take away – and you don’t get more Yorkshire than that.

Coffee and tea is measured the old fashioned way with brass weights and a set of Avery scales that Fritz Butzer could have brought with him on the steam train from Switzerland.

Of course now I wish I’d bought a big bag of tea, a box of fondant fancies, a Bettys shopping bag, and a special edition centenary mug. We’ll just have to visit again. Soon. OK Mr Bond?

Thank you lovely Bettys Ilkley people. We had the loveliest visit. You never disappoint. Until the next time.

Judith xx

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