Bettys has put Yorkshire on the map when it comes to the quaint British tradition of afternoon tea.
Its Cafe Tea Rooms in Harrogate set the bar high when it opened in 1919 — and with the launch of its new Lady Betty Afternoon Tea, its clear both the Harrogate institution and Bettys York want to keep it there.
The afternoon treat must be booked in advance, and costs £32.95 per person (£39.95 per person with champagne). The 1pm sitting at Bettys York was almost full on the first day of the new menu on Friday, when my friend and I were invited to sample it.
We were seated in the elegant Belmont Room, above the main Cafe Tea Rooms. York's bustling centre faded away and the sounds of the street were replaced by soft piano music, as the pianist played songs from musicals, Beatles classics and even a bit of Billy Joel.
Our afternoon tea began with Rhubarb Champagne Cocktails, delightfully pink in colour and sweet with just enough zing from the rhubarb.
Our waitress came and helped us to choose two varieties of tea from the extensive menu, served in teapots for one on a pretty silver tray.
Click below for a video — and prepare for your mouth to water
We began with the Ceylon Blue Sapphire, from Sri Lanka, and the China Yunnan, a lovely accompaniment to our prawn cocktail starter served with a creamy avocado puree.
This was followed by bite-sized smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill roulade and miniature gala pie with quail eggs — good things certainly do come in small packages. The salmon tasted beautifully fresh and the gala pie had a near-perfect crust.
Already relaxed and overwhelmed by the wonderful flavours, our waitress returned with a three-tier silver tray stacked with sandwiches, scones and the miniature cakes afternoon tea is famous for.
She explained what each of the sandwiches were, pointed out the lavender and currant scones, and described each cake in mouth-watering detail.
The sandwiches were served on sourdough, tomato bread and mixed grain bread, cut into elegant portions with plenty of filling and flavour. The coronation chicken boasted thick, roast chicken and just the right level of spice.
The scones, loaded with clotted creme and Bettys own jam, were lovely and soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.
Then came the prettiest (and most indulgent) tier: the miniature cakes. In the interest of trying everything, we halved each one. And despite being small, they were rich and luxurious, and best sampled slowly.
We tried two more tea blends with our cakes: the Bettys Afternoon Tea Blend, and the herbal Lemongrass and Ginger Tisane, which came in a pretty glass teapot and was juast as pink as the champagne cocktails. Both were light enough to help wash down our cakes, and the flavours of the Tisane were perfectly balanced — and delicious with a slice of lemon.
Despite everything on the menu coming in miniature form, we left Bettys York absolutely stuffed, and incredibly relaxed. The service in the Belmont Room was impeccable, with offers to replenish the champagne, sandwiches and tea, and friendly suggestions of which blends to sample.
We weren't rushed in any way, spending two hours working our way through the tea menu and delicious food.
While the experience is somewhat expensive, it does offer value for money, with the food and drink replenished on request. For a birthday treat or special occasion, it's a little taste of luxury in an elegant setting.
Appetiser: Prawn cocktail
Savoury selection: Smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill roulade; minature gala pie
Sandwiches: Roast Yorkshire ham and tomato pate; coronation chicken; egg mayonnaise
Scones: Sultana scones; Yorkshire lavender scone, served with clotted cream and Bettys homemade strawberry preserve
Miniature cakes: Grand Cru chocolate and raspberry square; strawberry macaroon; chocolate and praline slice; fresh berry meringue; miniature Battenberg; orange religieuse