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Betty's Tea Rooms, Review

Paul Clarke takes tea with a Northern legend

Written by . Published on July 19th 2011.


Betty's Tea Rooms, Review

IT'S BEEN years since I took afternoon tea at Betty's in Harrogate but I remember it was top of the premier league for foodies then.

The good news is that on this visit, it was just as good as I remember, with an emphasis on top-drawer food and outstanding service. 

The afternoon tea is quite simply a work of art delivered on a three tier silver platter that had us both salivating as it hit the table."

Like all the best eateries, it's the ruthless attention to the detail that marks it out as special.

For a place that dates back to 1919, it's enduring appeal is phenomenonal. There's hardly a Yorkshire guode book that doesn't include Betty's in the list of 'must see' attractions.

Proper teaProper teaWe got off to a good start as the small queue – it is an institution so expect to wait a while - outside was dealt with efficiently, and we were soon sat down in the brightly lit basement.

My partner was a Betty's virgin and didn’t take much persuading to order the famous Speciality Afternoon Tea (£19.95), while I plumped for our servers’ recommendation of the Betty's Yorkshire Rarebit (£8) but minus the optional Yorkshire bacon.

The afternoon tea is quite simply a work of art delivered on a three tier silver platter that had us both salivating as it hit the table. There is a strict order to tackling this Yorkshire smorgasbord with sandwiches up first.

I pinched one of the crab, prawn and avocado mini masterpieces on scrumptious white bread. The prawns were top quality - unlike most cheap café fare - with the sweetness of the crab and avocado creating a sublime mix of flavours. 

Across the table the tomato, basil and mozzarella was hitting the spot with the high-quality cheese reported as properly milky.

Afternoon teaAfternoon teaMeanwhile, I was munching my Yorkshire Rarebit, which was the best I have ever eaten by a mile. The strong local cheddar cheese had a real kick with a lovely hard glaze on top, and the chef had got the Worcester sauce just right. I also liked the neat touch of some Yorkshire ale added to the mix.

Across the table the sultana scone with local strawberry preserve and Stamfrey farm Clotted cream had already been demolished with a comedy smack of the lips. 

Foodie kleptomaniac that I am, the elderberry cake had found its way to my plate and, although I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it just melted in my mouth as the unusual flavour washed round my taste buds.

All the mini cakes are made in the Betty's bakery and the years of experience showed as the miniature chocolate éclair was just perfect.  I had half the fresh fruit tart, which we both agreed was the king of the cake world as the fruit was supremely tart.

All this was washed down with a pot of Betty's famous specialty teas and - although I am usually strictly a coffee man - it seemed sacrilegious not to order some so I went for the recommended Nitgwe Estate Kwazula (£3.50). 

Betty’s has ordered from this tea garden since it was created, and you can see why as it was incredibly strong with a real depth to the flavour.

Welsh rarebitWelsh rarebitThe Pi Lo Green Tea was packed full of leaves which were nice and bitter but refreshing. Both teas came in heavy and buffed silver tea pots which added to the genteel and relaxed experience.

The packed cake trolley had wheeled past our table a few times so it seemed impolite not to finish with a slice of something sweet. We shared a fruit frangipane tart (£3.95). Not surprisingly given the Betty's obsession with high-quality cakes it was wonderful with just the right mix of fresh raspberries and glazed almonds.

Both of us hate bad service and our waitress was training, but she did a good job, supported by a Betty's veteran who used her years of experience to make a series of goodrecommendations.

Afternoon tea at Betty's is a must for any Yorkshire food fan’s bucket list, and never mind the Premier League, this wonderful institution is the Barcelona of tea rooms.


ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Betty's Tea Rooms
1 Parliament Street, Harrogate, HG1 2QU. Tel: 01423 814070

Rating: 17.5/20
Food: 9/10
Service: 4.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Bruce WayneJuly 19th 2011.

Top stuff!

rawheartsJuly 20th 2011.

how wonderful! lovely to see something so tradional in a world chocka with boring homogenised americanised coffee outlets.

Calum McGJuly 20th 2011.

Sounds just sublime. Must visit, must visit!

MizzyJuly 21st 2011.

Would have loved to try this but the last time I went, they refused to seat us (group of 5). We weren't dressed in jeans, drunk or rowdy. The people before and after us (larger group with no bookings) were seated and we were ignored point blank.

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