My fiancé and I booked a long needed and deserved holiday recently to York, (sadly not New York, we couldn't stretch to that!) we stayed 5 nights in the city centre at an apartment that was perfect....that's another story and ripe for reviewing in it's own right.
Now I have long wanted to visit Betty's in Yorkshire, I am a big fan of tea rooms in general and always manage to sniff them out when we visit anywhere new. A big pot of tea with scones and lashings of jam and cream is my idea of heaven (not my hips idea though!)
I was delighted to discover that in York itself there are two branches of Betty's, in actual fact there are several in the area, including York, Harlow Carr (on the outskirts of Harrogate, Northallerton and Ilkley. I hear that the owners refuse to open any further branches further afield as they want to be able to keep an eye on them personally and expanding would erode their charm, I like that.
I always assumed that Betty's was English so was surprised to learn on visiting that the chain was begun by a Swiss chap who settled in England in the early part of the 1900's. The food now served is a mixture of Swiss and traditional Yorkshire fare, trust me it's better than it sounds.
We visited the main branch in the centre of York, it's located in an imposing building on a corner of St. Helens Square, you can't really miss it as it stands out the second you turn the corner into the square itself. The window displays draw you in with their rows of delicious looking breads, cakes and other rather lovely treats, of course we didn't need any persuading as we had long ago made up our mind that a visit for afternoon tea was not to be missed during our stay.
We decided to visit early afternoon on a Tuesday thinking it wouldn't be too busy...hmmmm I was wrong there...when we arrived the queue to enter was snaking down the road and around the corner, sod it though I want tea! so we joined the queue prepared to wait for however long it took. Thankfully we only had to wait for around 15 minutes to get in, not too bad really considering the state of the line when we first arrived. We actually didn't have to wait for the queue to completely go down as a waitress approached us and offered us a table as there were only two of us, result!
We shown to a table in the main dining room with a view overlooking the square outside, the table was small and close to the others around it. The table was so small in fact that we struggled to fit all our food and drink onto it!
Once seated a waitress welcomed us to Betty's and presented us a with a menu each, we didn't need it as we knew what we had come for, full afternoon tea each - no mucking about. Here I would point out that I love tea whereas my other half hates it and would rather drink his own...erm....you know. We asked if we could swap his tea for coffee which we would told with a smile, yes fine Sir, just choose the coffee you'd like from the list. Nice.
Whilst waiting for our order to arrive we checked the rest of the menu, the selection of teas and coffees is as long as your arm with every type you can think of and more besides. Impressive and worth a visit for itself to try something different. There is an extensive food menu with anything from a simple tea cake right up to a full on evening meal, you could, if so inclined eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner (might cost you though)
Like I said, we chose the afternoon tea with a pot of tea for me and coffee for my better half. This cost us the rather princely sum of £17,95 each. For that we received a selection of sandwiches, a scone with cream and jam and a selection of little cakes all presented on a silver stand. It looked impressive and tasted just as good, in fact there was so much of it I struggled to finish it all. Our drinks were very nicely presented too with proper silverware and china. I'm such a chav that I didn't know what the tea strainer was for! LOL! (I know, I know.....)
We enjoyed our tea enormously and felt like we'd had a proper good feed by the end of it. Well you should after spending the best part of £40. The food was fresh and full of flavour, and didn't take an age to arrive despite the place being packed to the rafters while we were there.
I would say the downside to our visit was, apart from the long queue to get in and crowds getting in the way, trying to book a table the evening before. We thought it wise to see if we could a table to save having to queue and potentially being disappointed. We paid a visit the Monday evening and asked a young lady in the cafe if this was possible, she said she would check....she returned saying you can reserve afternoon tea if you like? ok great we'll do that we said....she then tried to flog us gift vouchers which we had to pay for there and then....erm that's not what we asked for....can.we.book.a.table.for.tomorrow......that's how I actually had to ask her....erm, I'll check she said....OH FOR...forget it, we'll try our luck tomorrow!
...I have no idea if she was new, a bit dim or what....but...anyway's despite that we had a great time and would recommend Betty's to anyone visiting the area. You have to, it's the law!
If you're in York this Bank Holiday weekend and hungry or thirsty, you could do a lot worse than visit Betty's Tea Rooms. It's one of those places everyone says you have to experience, so on a recent trip to York, Mrs SWSt and I decided to do just that.
Betty's is more or less in the centre of York, just a few minutes away from many of the biggest tourist attractions. Standing on the corner of one of the main squares just off the main street, it's not exactly difficult to find. And even if you do get lost, pretty much anyone you ask will probably be able to direct you there, since it is so well known.
They say that Betty's is an experience, rather than simply somewhere to go if you fancy a quick cup of tea and that is certainly true. If you've only ever been in a chain coffee store, walking into Betty's is like walking into another world.
The York shop is very big, yet light and airy. The first floor looks out onto the main shopping street and square, whilst another room downstairs is done out with darker, panelled wood, giving it a slightly more old-fashioned feel. We sat in the first floor area which has windows all along the outer walls so on sunny days is very light and warm. You can also do lots of people watching whilst relaxing with your drink, which is always entertaining! Of course, the downside is that it can feel as though you are sitting in goldfish bowl, as everyone can also see you, although we didn't feel this was a problem even though we were sitting right by a window.
The room very busy when we arrived and even though it is packed with tables, there were only a few free (which were quickly filled up). Despite this, we didn't feel it was particularly overcrowded. Although some of the tables were quite close to each other, we didn't feel it was uncomfortable. There was also a constant buzz of conversation from all the surrounding tables, yet we didn't feel this was intrusive or meant that we had to shout to hold our own conversation. Again, this could depend on when you visit. I can well imagine that at certain times of teh day and year, it gets very noisy and is, perhaps, not quite so relaxing.
Stepping into Betty's really is like stepping back in time. As you enter, you are greeted by a "maitre d'" who notes down how many are in your party, before gliding off to (hopefully) find one and take you to it. This gentleman was impeccably polite and treated everyone like they were his favourite person in the world. If no tables ready, you were advised how long you were likely to have to wait and given a menu, so that you could start deciding what you wanted - a very sensible way of speeding things up.
Betty's it does get incredibly busy and if you go at peak tourist times or in larger groups you might have to wait quite a while for a table to be free. Mrs SWSt and I got lucky. For a start, we went out of season, and go there just before the lunchtime rush but after the traditional morning coffee time. Since there were only two of us, they could squeeze us in fairly easily and we were waiting for no more than five minutes. However, by the time we left about 30 minutes later, the queue was out of the door and I would estimate the wait was at least 30-45 minutes and if you go at really busy times during the peak tourist season, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you had to measure your wait in hours, rather than minutes.
Betty's is all waitress service, so there is none of that tiresome having to get back up to place your order! Whilst the waitress we had was not quite as friendly as the maitre d', she was attentive and pleasant enough. Service was quick and efficient and from placing our order to it arriving was less than five minutes. Considering how busy they were this is quite impressive. Obviously, they wanted to get us served and out as soon as possible, so they could give the tablet to someone else, but we never felt pressured into drinking up and leaving, and were left to drink our coffee in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.
The menu was surprisingly extensive. I'd assumed it would simply offer a selection of coffees, teas and cakes. In fact, Betty's do a whole range of food from light snacks to full meals and all of them sounded very tempting, although we settled on just some light refreshments: I had a stem ginger and almond cake, whilst Mrs SWSt opted for tea cakes. We also had standard coffees, although there was an impressive selection of speciality coffees and teas available if you wanted something a little different.
The food arrived very soon after arriving. Mrs SWSt's teacake was smothered in butter, so was thoroughly unhealthy but all the more gorgeous for it. I was surprised to see that I was given not one, but two reasonable sized slices of cake which was absolutely delicious. It was incredibly moist and you could both see and taste the stem ginger, which was present in great big lumps. It was also not too sweet, which is often a failing of cakes in other places. The coffee too, was very nice. It had a pleasant bitter edge to it, without being too bitter to drink. All the food was served on one of those old-fashioned three tier cake stands, which once again added to the sense of coffee shops from a bygone age.
When it came time to pay, I was pleasantly surprised by the prices. Although it was slightly more expensive than the chain shops, it was not horrendously so. I would estimate it was probably around £2-3 more than we would have expected to pay for the same sort of thing in Costa. However, the quality of the food and drink and the pleasant atmosphere was more than worth this little extra premium. Of course, we had only had a coffee and cakes and certainly some of the prices for other options were quite high. Although the full meals looked delicious, they were pretty expensive (none were under about £15, if I recall correctly). Similarly we only chose from the basic coffee range, but some of the speciality coffees were priced at £5 a cup, so if you choose to be adventurous, this will bump up your bill considerably. However, I was pleasantly surprised that for the quality of food and drink I got, I didn't need to take out a second mortgage to pay for it.
Normally Betty's would not be my cup of tea (if you'll pardon the pun), as I thought it would be far too snobby and refined for my heathen tastes. In reality, they are highly welcoming to everyone, serve excellent coffee and snacks. It's not somewhere you are going to want to (or could afford to!) visit on a regular basis, but it's worth treating yourself to the experience just once.
6-8 St Helens Square
Tel: 01904 659142
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Being from Ireland I had never heard of Betty's, however seeing my fiancée and her mum speak of it in such revered tones I was excited to see what exactly set this apart from any other cafe.
Betty's is based in Harrogate, although has branches in York, Harlow Carr, Northallerton and Ilkley, and is very much a Yorkshire institution since its beginnings in 1919.
The firm have refused to open branches outside Yorkshire, preferring to keep things small and local. And this has certainly worked, you'll find it hard to get seated on a weekend without a reservation at any time of the day, and even on a week day some cafes are full. Visit York on a summer's day and the wait for a seat can be over two hours!
The food in Betty's is based on locally sourced Swiss-Yorkshire cuisine, and focuses on dishes such as rosti and bangers, or thick ham sandwiches for savouries. They are twinned with Taylor's of Harrogate to provide their huge selection of teas.
However it is their sweets were they really shine. You can buy beautiful glazed cakes and biscuits, and their signiture Yorkshire Rascal, all fairly traditional but stunningly made. Each cafe has a shop attached to it, so you can buy your treats to take home if you prefer.
For my money I love their ice creams with hot chocolate sauce, thick, deliciously high in cocoa and sweet, with natural home made ice cream. Bliss.
The ice cream also makes some fabulous milkshakes, and they do a lovely range of bottled apple juices too.
The staff in Betty's are all dressed like Victorian waitresses, with long black skirts and blouses, and frilly white aprons. While this is a little contrived it keeps the traditional feel of the place.
I have been to the cafe in Northallerton and the one in York. The cafe in Northallerton is much smaller, very light and airy, with a beautiful glass domed roof in the rear annexe. In York the cafe is much larger, with a wood panelled underground cafe, as well as the ground floor cafe with stunning brass work, stained glass windows, and open glass vistas out into the cobbled York streets. Near the downstairs toilets all the mirrors have been signed by the servicemen who ate here during the second world war. I've been to the one in York during the very busy summer season when they had the first floor open. This is a real hidden gem, with original art deco panelling and detailing, and is probably my favourite part of the cafe.
Betty's also now offer a mail order service, however I'll use any excuse to pop along in person so haven't tried this yet.
Betty's keeps a hidden England alive, staff are impeccably smart and clean, food is to a high standard, and there are no gimmicks. Prices are not cheap, expect to pay around £30 for two sandwiches, two cakes and a couple of drinks, but time just stops when you step through the door, and the relaxation you feel inside is worth any money.
For more information please see www.bettys.co.uk, or pop along for a scone at one of their fabulous branches.
I have visited various Bettys in the dim and distant past and can't remember ever being particularly impressed.
I visited the Bettys in Harrogate again recently as part of a hen weekend. We went at about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, there were a party of 12 of us but we had been unable to book ahead as it was a Sunday. We 'only' queued for about 10 minutes before being found a space big enough for us all to squeeze around despite warnings of a long wait and the offer to split us up from the 'queue master'.
Being someone who could practically bake before I could walk I am invariably disappointed with cakes that I buy, or as is more probably the case in Bettys I would find the cake pleasant but be annoyed at paying a price for a slice that I could make probably 2 cakes myself and they'd be just as nice. For this reason I avoided cakes and the very dainty afternoon tea service (£15.95 for 4 small sandwiches, a scone, 3 miniature desserts and a pot of tea) and chose a potato rosti with smoked chicken and mushrooms (an Autumn speciality) at £10.45. Although it was very nice I just didn't find that it was anything I couldn't do myself and it certainly didn't seem worth the money as it was only a small portion.
Betty's is an experience, the food is tasty, there is a nice atmosphere and the staff were unfailingly polite and helpful and quite 'proper' without being haughty or snobbish. I just don't like spending money and certainly not lots of money on things that I can do just as well as home so its not for me.
The British are famous for their tea loving nature. Betty's exacerbates this to an extreme.
Stepping in to the shop part in the Harrogate tearoom is like stepping in to a time warp (aside from the electric till.....) Every thing is very neatly organised, with cakes behind the counter to the right and teas (bags or in lovely tins), gifts (kitchen stuff) sweets and books are all along the left and in the middle. I wanted to buys loads - the smell along with how pretty everything was does insight excessive spending!!!! I'm almost glad I don't live near there - I would be eating their cakes on a daily basis!
The staff are very polite and let me look without bothering me. When i did want to ask a question I caught one lady's eye and she came over straight away.
Going through the arch and down to the tea room there is also another shop stand just for teas. They do have some loose here and a fantastic ornamental set of scales.
We had a wait when we got there - but there were 6 of us and it was no longer than 10 minutes which is good in the mid afternoon. The restaurant is tastefully decorated and has a window to the kitchen - making it slightly noisy.
The smell is very sweet- a mix of tea and cakes. The menu is well detailed and each cake is described - but you can also seem some in the display or on a trolley. Although renowned for tea and cakes the food here is good too.
The tea menu is extensive. Aside from the listed they also have special limited time teas. You get them in lovely size pots. My absolute favourite (so far) is the gunpowder tea - its really smoky!!! Again they are very well explained in the menu so you can be sure to pick a flavour you like.
It isn't cheap - you could have a drink and snack far cheaper, but not so good and not such an experience
My husband and I recently went on a trip to Yorkshire to visit a friend who lives in Harrogate. I found myself with a bright sunny day alone in Harrogate as the menfolk went off to conqueor nature (read: walk miles and miles with sunscreen in their rucksacks, failing to use it and getting burnt to a crip). Having chosen to forego the nature experience I decided to have the Harrogate experience which I had been told is not complete without a trip to Betty's. The address listed above is for the main Betty's in York, but this delightful gem of Yorkshire can also be found in Harrogate, Northallerton and Ilkley. Their website (http://www.bettys.co.uk/) also indicates that there is a Betty's by Post mail order service available. While in York I did peer through the window of the Betty's location there and can report that the Harrogate is definitely up to the same standards. It is in a lovely location in the middle of Harrogate overlooking the Stray with beautiful hanging baskets on their iron canopy.
Established in 1919 Betty's is now a Yorkshire institution for cream tea, delightful baked goods and elegant day time meals. Several other reviews have reported that queues are one of the downsides to a visit to Betty's. I went to visit the Harrogate location for 11sies and there were people waiting to be seated which made me nervous about taking up a table for two with just one person. After watching for a few minutes I realised that no one was actually waiting long, it was just that the place was so popular that the line was replenished with new people every few seconds. I waited less then 3 minutes before being whether I wanted the smaller tea room where one could only order from the smaller list of baked goods and sandwiches or the main room for the whole menu. As I was not looking for a full meal I chose the first. I was then seated immediately.
Betty's runs the risk of being pretentious and off-putting to younger folks, but manages to remain warm and welcoming with cream walls, polished wood, gleaming display cases and friendly staff dressed in black trousers and white shirts. There is an old-school feel to the place, with a level of class that one simply can't get at your average coffee shop. This does not make for a stuffy feel. I was seated near a young family with a little girl who could not yet have been three. The staff was wonderful with her and brought her a Betty's colouring page (book? I didn't want to stare). There was a group of eight with a small baby being accommodated in the smaller front room, but there were at least two other tables where a single person was seated, like myself. The staff never once made me feel rushed despite the fact that little old me was taking up an entire table with my pot of tea and torte. They were also exceptionally patient with two foreign students (well they were in their early 20s) who were somewhat confused about the process.
The menu in the smaller room consisted of croissants, little sandwiches and a variety of cakes and tortes. The sandwiches looked a little overpriced for my tastes, but my scrumptious chocolate raspberry torte (think quite dark and rich) and pot of tea (good size pot with a piping hot pot of hot water for topping up) came to £7 which I found very reasonable considering the ambiance I also experienced. The meals on the main menu were still quite reasonably priced with options around the £10-£12 mark. Cream tea is served on those delightful three-tiered trays that we foreigners get a little thrill out of. The menu can be found on their website, mentioned previously.
Betty's is also very well known for the wonderful, colourful window displays of their carry-away shops attached to their tea rooms. The Harrogate window was worthy of a photo with macaroons in pale pink and green piled in delightful pyramids. The shop sold a huge variety of their fresh goods as well as teas and coffees. There is also a range of Betty books.
My Betty's experience was a lovely one and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Yorkshire. Certainly one could probably spend a great deal of money there (I sooo wanted to purchase lots of yummy goods to take with me but that torte had taken care of my calorie count for the day!), but even someone on a tight travel budget can spend an hour there without having to fast for the rest of the day!
It was my wifes 40th birthday last year and we went to York for the weekend which was great. As part of her birthday friends gave her money to go to Bettys for lunch.
When we arrived it was so busy we had to wait outside for about twenty minutes. First impressions were that we were going back to the late 70s early 80s to have a nice high tea. It had that sort of feel about it. The decor was from the same era but in a nice way. There was alot of glass and mirrors with polished woodwork everywhere. The staff were all in white blouses and black skirts and were very friendly.
I wasnt sure what the menu would be like but it all looked good alot of cakes and sandwiches. I had a club sandwich which is the freshest tastiest club sandwich ive ever had it was followed by a scone complete with fresh cream and strawberry jam. My wife went for a simple ham sandwich, cheese sandwich which was part of a deal and also included a selection of mini cakes. All the food was really fresh and tasty and you felt like all the bakery products were made in a traditional way on the premises.
It really was a special lunch and we had a good time. I think in total including tea and cold drinks it was about £35.00. Quite pricey but you were also paying for the surroundings and brilliant service. I would go back in a flash.
As a pair of 27 year olds looking in the window of Bettys we wondered if we'd fit in. First impressions-posh little cafe/restaurant serving afternoon tea by waitresses in long black skirts and frilly blouses. Looking beyond that we started to see the people that were in there. Old retired couples, families with children and people that looked like us young couples. Don't be put off by the huge queues. It almost adds to the occasion to wait a little while. Besides the queues clear quickly.
The history- Bettys has been open from 1919. It mixes traditional yorkshire fare with a continental twist. The founder wanted his food to be 'fresh and dainty' and i can definately agree that it is.
Locations- There are Bettys located in York, Harrogate, Northallerton and Ilkley
The shop- attached to each of the Bettys is a shop selling all of their freshly baked cakes and savoury goods. I particulaly love thier HUGE selection of artisan breads. You have to try a 'fat rascal' (a hiuge fruit filled scone) The shop also sells Bettys own blends of fine teas and coffees
The cafe/restaurant- You can go to Bettys for breakfast and get bacon and eggs all the way through to a delicately prepared evening meal. As mentioned above all the waitors/waitresses are dressed elegantly in traditional costume. This adds a rare sense of attention to detail and not stuffiness and formality that you would immediately think of.
Price- Not cheap by any means but certainly affordable enough to treat yourself when you are near by.
This is my favourite cake shop. The setting is a wonderful old 1930s building, full of polished wood, glass and gleaming brass. When you walk in, it feels as if you're entering a different world - an older more civilized time, when people spent all day playing cricket, stopping only for high tea.
You are seated and served personally by polite, unsnooty waiting staff, who all look wonderful in their traditional black dresses and frilly pinnies. They will then bring you a selection of the most delectable cakes money can buy. You could try the local speciality, a Yorkshire fat rascal (big enough to be a meal in its own right), or any number of tarts, cream cakes and marzipan sweets. The coffee menu (yes, there's a separate menu!) is brilliant - every cup is freshly brewed from the bean. What really pleases me, though, is that this is one of the few places where you can still get a proper cup of tea - brewed from the leaf, in silver teapots! They also serve cream teas, sandwiches and lunches, all of which are excellent. The only downside to the place is that it's so overwhelmingly popular with tourists and locals alike that you may have to wait quite a whie to be seated at weekends. But rest assured - it'll be worth it!
Bettys also offer take-out cakes and breads for those in a hurry (or on a budget), and you can buy coffee, tea and handmade chocolate from their shop too. Additionally, they run cookery courses from their Harrogate base - and the idea of creating some of their masterpieces at home is definitely appealing!
It seems that every time I visit York, I end up going into Betty's tea room, either for a meal, or a tea and cake. It's not that there aren't plenty of good cafes in York. It's just that Betty's is so good - I just can't help myself, and always give in to the lure of the gently posh nostalgic experience that is Betty's. This is a place with a history. First of all it's not owned by a Betty, and never was. Frederick Belmont opened the first Betty's (in Harrogate) in 1919, and the York branch followed, in the late 1930's. He had been on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, and commissioned the same designers to replicate the Art Deco style. There's lots of wood paneling, and large mirrors, which, on the ground floor, make me feel as though I'm in a room almost twice the size. There's also an extensive collection of old teapots - Clarice Cliff and the like - around the room. A white grand piano has pride of place, and is played regularly - no piped musak here! Belmont used a combination of Swiss recipes with Yorkshire recipes and ingredients and, as in the old days, everything they serve is made by hand. You won't be able to buy any of the items you'll eat in Betty's from the supermarket. The menus feature Yorkshire ingredients, too - Wensleydale cheeses and sausages from Masham, for example. The Swiss influence means you're as likely to get potato rosti to accompany dishes, and the cakes, whether it's the chocolate torte or the Yorkshire curd tart, are delicious? but more of those later. It's called a 'tea room', and Bettys is certainly a great place to get a good a good cup of tea. The choice available is wonderful: Darjeeling, 'Tippy' Assam, Earl Grey, as well as the more exotic China rose petal, or Blue Sapphire, both well worth trying. It's loose tea, served in silver tea pots, and I don't know what it is (maybe it's the Y
orkshire water), but I've never been able to get it to taste quite as good at home. I'm not a coffee drinker, but there is an equally good selection of coffees. All coffees and teas can be bought in the attached shop. The food is also excellent, and it's not restricted to afternoon teas and cakes. There are Special seasonal menus (one for Spring, one for Summer and so on), with tempting, and often adventurous recipes. For instance, I had the gruyere omelete from this menu, and it came with a touch of sundried tomato in it. Other things I have sampled are the prawn and avocado sandwich (£4.40), Salmon muffin with scrambled egg (£5.85). Portions are not always huge, but the quality is always excellent. Chips are £2.25 a portion, and well worth it, good old fashioned style chips. OK, onto the cakes. A glance through the window of the bakery part of the shop is enough to demonstrate the wide selection available, but there's even more on the menu. They range from the plainer things like scones, Fat Rascals (fruity, spicy cake-y biscuits), curd tarts, through fruit cake (served with cheese, the Northern way), to creamier, sweeter concoctions. You've just got to ask for the sweet trolley, and take a look at the gateaux on offer. The individual Fruit flans (£2.95) are delicious, with fresh fruit. And the Chocolate roulade (£2.65) was so good that my partner wouldn't give me a taste. There is much more on offer - salads, all-day breakfasts, ice creams. It is even licenced, and you can have Samuel Smiths organic lager, for £2.80. The bill will be around £15.00 for two people, if you're having a cup of tea plus sandwich, or afternoon tea. A hot meal is likely to set you back around £30.00 I always buy something to take home with me from the shop, but there is also an online shopping service, at Bettysbypost.com There are also Bettys tea rooms in Harrogate, Ilkley,
and Northallerton, but I think I prefer the visit to York, where Bettys is on the edge of the main shopping area, in St Helen's Square, not far away from the scenic Museum Gardens. It's also on the same side of the city as the Minster and the narrow streets of the Stonegate area. I honestly do think Betty's is the best tea room in the world. It's best to view a visit there as a special treat, as it's not exactly cheap, and feels like an indulgence. A brilliant, elegant place to take your Mum for a day out, but once you've been there, you'll have been spoiled, and you'll want to keep going back. Like me. 6-8 St. Helens Square York Y02 2QP Tel: (01904) 659142 Opening Times: 9am-9pm (including Sundays)