Since 1919, Bettys has been a bedrock of great Yorkshire food. Ever since then, the people of Harrogate have been very, very lucky! Although the institution has spread from Harrogate to Harlow Carr, Ilkley, York and beyond, it’s fair to say that pure magic still happens in the Harrogate bakery, which still creates the breadcakes, traditional cakes, and fancies, day in, day out.
Sadly for me, it wasn’t until this Sunday that I finally got the chance to sit in the original café tea rooms in Harrogate. Sometimes, though, the wait is more than worthwhile!
Having previously really enjoyed breakfasts and sandwiches at the Harlow Carr branch of Bettys, I knew I was in for a treat. I can safely say that the Eggs Benedict is a true favourite of Charlotte’s and I cannot say no to pretty much any breakfast on offer! That said, I had not tried a main course dish before at Bettys until I visited the main cafe on Sunday, at which point I entered the world of Bettys proper with gusto!
Having spent about 20 minutes standing in the obligatory queue for Bettys that you see during any typical lunchtime in Harrogate, Charlotte, her brother, his fiancee and I were shown downstairs into the café tea rooms.
I will mention now that the excellent service we enjoyed started even in the queue as the staff welcomed us, gave us a menu, and informed us about the rough waiting time ahead. Once we arrived in the cafe tea rooms, we were all struck by the traditional decor and the fact that the tea rooms are so much bigger than we ever imagined from looking at the exterior! With the courteous staff again helping to make us feel welcome, we sat down to choose from a hugely diverse range of dishes!
I haven’t mentioned so far that Bettys is not afraid of change or controversy when the need strikes. For those of you with a penchant for grammar accuracy, you may have been questioning the lack of an apostrophe in the title. This was dropped for purely aesthetic reasons in the 1950s and I like the fact that Bettys is not afraid to admit that. It screams: love me or loathe me, I am what I am.
Added to this is the Swiss connection that Bettys has. Almost as a bolt out of the blue you find yourself eating Yorkshire’s finest produce but in an environment that makes you imagine you’ll be heading out to the Alps after lunch! This pride in being itself really endears Bettys to me even more.
Back on topic and the food choices were fantastic. Breakfast is served all day, afternoon tea is delightful, and the sandwiches and main courses scream indulgence at you. I opted for one of the swiss /Yorkshire blends of macaroni, Charlotte went for a rosti, while her brother went for a salmon and prawn sandwich and his fiancee opted for afternoon tea.
With this in mind, the challenge was clearly on for the kitchen staff to get everything to us on time and also to make sure that everything was still warm and tasty. This was especially the case with my dish as cold macaroni is perhaps the most horrific thing to eat, with stodgy cheese and heavy pasta not exactly a combination for the ages!
While waiting for the food to turn up, our tea was brought to us. While I enjoy tea, and certainly high quality tea, I have to say that the tea at Bettys was especially beautiful and really helped to bring the place to life as we sipped and enjoyed soaking in the calm atmosphere.
That said, the real highlight came along shortly afterwards and was what we were all waiting for!
When the dishes arrived, they all looked wonderful and we were desperate to get stuck in. My macaroni delivered on all counts with a great flavour burst in my mouth as the raclette cheese, bacon and new potatoes mixed fantastically with the penne pasta. I was a fan.
My wife created food envy from every corner with her rosti that managed to really elevate a humble dish to new levels.
Her brother loved his salmon sandwich, learned what sour dough bread is, and enjoyed the experience, and his fiancee had nothing but praise for the afternoon tea.
In fact, I would say that looking at the neat, crust free sandwiches, the elegant fancies and the amazing scone, I would place the afternoon tea up there with the very best. All in all, the flavours delivered as much as the history and elegance of Bettys.
I won’t beat around the bush in as far as Bettys isn’t cheap. I would say to those who like to moan about the price that it would, in my humble opinion, diminish the experience if it became somewhere that you felt you could go every week. Bettys screams out to you that it is a special place and over-familiarity would not aid it in this cause.
For those of you looking for a simple taste of the place without all of the indulgence, you can nip in to the takeaway area as we did on our way out and pick up a cake for the road. We recommend the pink fondant fancies, with their delicate icing and moreish layer of jam and buttercream. Mr Kipling fondant fancy this is not!
All in all, as the title of this post suggests, you can have trendy and up and coming restaurants, but history and class shine through when they are present, as they truly are at Bettys.
Categories: Restaurant reviews