Posted by: OffToExplore | September 5, 2009

Out and About: Betty’s for Tea

Today Ryan got some extra leave for Labor Day weekend, and we took advantage of the extra time to seek out a Harrogate institution — afternoon tea at Betty’s tea room. Ryan wouldn’t let me take photos inside (too touristy, says he), so you’ll have to make do with a few from across the street.

Betty's from the War Memorial

Betty's from the War Memorial

Betty's view 2

Betty's view 2

Note the pretty glass-roofed awning with wrought-iron trim. At first we thought it was just ornamental, but then we realized that this is where you queue up for a table. And most of the day, the queue is fairly long. Must be fun in the true Yorkshire fall and winter, though I bet standing in the cold for a long time makes one appreciate a cup of hot tea all the more.

After a fairly short wait, we were directed down into the top level of three subterranean rooms. Betty’s is built on a fairly substantial hill, and the restaurant takes full advantage of the grade. We already knew what we were having — full afternoon tea, at an extortionate 15.95 per person. Having been seated, though, we realized there was another, more expensive option: the 90th anniversary celebration tea, featuring nostalgic sandwiches, scones, and the greatest hits of Betty’s pastry. Of course, we can’t resist a limited time offer.

So here’s what afternoon tea for two at Betty’s entails — a pot of tea (we had the special celebration blend, not necessarily recommended), four tiny tea sandwiches, two scones with clotted cream and jam, and six mini pastries. Our sandwiches included potted beef; ham and butter; cucumber, cream cheese, and mint; and crab, prawn, and avocado. Of these, the ham and the crab were definite winners. Ryan didn’t mind the beef, which tasted like upscale spam, but he declared the cucumber to taste “like some horrible cleaning product.” I ate all the rest of the cucumber, and I didn’t find it so bad, though I don’t know what the mint was supposed to add.

The scones were very curranty and came with clotted cream. I far prefer plain scones and whipped cream which is what you will find in many other tea rooms in this area. This particular clotted cream had a kind of cheesy taste that took away from the over scone experience.

The pastries were tiny and perfect — two each of fruit tart, lemon macaro(o)n, and chocolate coffee opera. Each was maybe two bites, even with my small mouth, but the fruit was fresh and the macaroon had a lot of zing. Apparently  in the UK, they use “macaroon” for what the French call a macaron. I haven’t seen any of the U.S.-style macaroons (more like a coconut praline) here yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open. I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what these are called.

We left Betty’s nicely full but a bit shaky from the sugar rush. The small finger sandwiches do little to balance the intense sweetness of scones, jam, and pastries. That said, it was 7 hours later before we were interested in dinner, so I guess in some universe you could call this a good value.

Betty’s charges a premium for being famous and having a lovely historical atmosphere. The servers are all dressed in classic black skirts, white blouses, and little aprons, and the management are all wearing tidy little suits. Teapots line the walls, and a pianist plays from time to time. Very posh, and worth the experience at least once. However, for a good value and tasty if not as fancy food, there are other tea rooms that we will likely frequent more often.



  1. What a delicious review (minus both the spam and cleaning product, but I am now warned). I wonder when the line is the shortest – do locals frequent Betty’s or is it all tourists all the time?

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