Wednesday 31 October 2012

Betty's of Harrogate - With a Slight BBC Twist

I received an email a few weeks ago from a very polite journalist called Adam asking me if I would be able to help him with a radio documentary he was producing about Afternoon Tea and the history & etiquette of this fabulously British ritual. I agreed to chat and he continued to advise me that it was to be produced for the BBC and would be recorded at Betty's of Harrogate with a full afternoon tea tier to bribe me. 
Adam had won a competition with BBC Radio 4, through his university studies and as a keen radio producer, he had won the chance to produce and have played a documentary on a subject of his choice. 

You Should all know me by now... Never would I pass up the opportunity to try out afternoon tea at Betty's Tea Room with a friend or family member, let alone as a special guest of Betty's PR team - I went straight back into my office and asked for the day off from my day job so that I could attend!

Never have I seen 5.30am in the pitch black, following a gig the night before of which only allowed me 3 hours sleep ( I NEED my sleep or I am a troll!), which was of poor quality as I squatted on my mums sofa for the night, as staying at her house would shave 45 mins off my travel on the day of the feature! 
So off I trotted to Stevenage train station in the bitter cold, coffee in hand to wake me up (Buzzzzzzzzz) wearing (stupidly) my summer jacket. Stupid, stupid girl.
I actually ended up buying myself a brand new winter coat on my short walk from Harrogate train station, of which I needed anyway, so it was a bonus I found one today of all chilly days! It had even started to snow in Leeds on my way up, so it was needed for sure.


I did feel as though I had cheated on Betty's Tea Room slightly, as I firstly went to a pretentious coffee shop called "Jakes", with a very rude waiter for a pick me up before I headed over to meet Adam! - Sorry hehe!

I met Adam outside Betty's at just before 11am, being the first time I've met him, we got on like a house on fire, even the lovely Louise from the Betty's PR Team, who had been warming our seats to ensure we got a window seat (and lovely it was too : ) said that she thought from the way we were chatting we had known each other ages. It was lovely, as I so often find with other afternoon tea fans lately, we get on well naturally. Either that, or I'm becoming a much better people person...potentially hehe.  

I don't know why I was so shocked to see the queue outside the door at that time of day, Betty's is a British institution and does afternoon tea proud. More than proud!
It's one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had the privilege of enjoying. I haven't been paid to say this, or bribed, I actually went along preparing myself to be disappointed if I'm honest.
I had a few people on social media telling me that it wasn't all that and a bag of chips... They were wrong. Today it was freshly prepared, all sandwiches freshly made on the premises and cakes and sweet treats made in their main kitchens freshly every morning from 1am....Yep, you heard me right, 1am! 


Loose leaf tea is served in dainty silver ware, with a choice of milk or lemon asked of you by your waitress when you order which is a nice touch. You are also provided with hot water to top up without having to ask, I like that very much too. I've never been offered this, I've always had to ask previously at other establishments.


Finger sandwiches were cut into crustless triangles and included four different fillings including Salmon, egg mayonnaise & watercress, chicken breast finely sliced and a delicious ham & mustard filling.
A huge fruit scone was served on the middle tier, with plenty of strawberry jam and clotted cream. It was delicious and I think to was my favorite part of the tier, no matter how gorgeous the petit fours were on top. It was moist, warm and melt in the mouth, no dry crumbs to be seen.  Most importantly, no fuzzy tongue after eating.

I also was lucky enough to try one of their Fat Rascals, of which they are renowned for making, even offering online for you to have posted to you, they are amazing!
Even I was surprised, as a fussy eater, I'm never really a fan of fried fruit in cake, but these are delicious, buttery and sugary, with a light fluffy scone-like texture in the middle and a crisp sugary shell around the outside. They are decorated with glacĂ© cherries and almonds, they feel heavy to hold, so was surprised at how light they actually were inside. I've never tried anything like it before, I wonder how easy they are to make?... I'm sure there is a knack to it that may take a while to perfect! 


The cake tier was stunning to look at, with a beautifully piped chocolate brownie, a perfectly round pink macaron and fresh fruit tartlet which helped me to cling onto the very last of our summer, however short it has been. It was all too much for my retrained stomach to handle, no thanks to my weight lossplan, so I had the top tier packed away in a doggy box to enjoy at home with a cuppa curled up on the sofa with a satisfied snooze before heading out again for the evening.

I could have chatted to Louise all day about the history of Betty's and the events they are planning, even she said that she can't get enough of their menus and she works there all week! Hehe I loved her to bits. She was treating her husband to dinner there (they don't just offer afternoon tea) on this particular evening, as they are hosting a special 1950's evening with entertainment in their private room upstairs. 


In fact, Adam, as well as broadcasting, is also a pianist, playing at The Ritz, The Savoy and The Dorchester on a fairly regular basis. This guy is one talented gent, so should you be lucky enough to have tea at one of these venues, it could be well be him entertaining you during your visit. I still haven't been to any London venues other than Fortnum & Mason, so I must get down one day soon for a treat!

Anyway, get yourself to one of Betty's six venues, including two in Harrogate, Ilkley, Northallerton and two in York afternoon tea is a must. And, if you are like me and enjoy a good tipple with something sweet, treat yourself to a champagne Tea, you won't regret it.


Not forgetting that Betty's also has a fabulous shop to buy your favorite tea blend or cakey treat, even freshly baked bread to take home with you. I had a birthday to buy a cake for, so I actually purchased some naughty looking French Fancies (no thanks to the Great British Bake Off Final helping me along with the craving) and Halloween Owl Brownie treats as an alternative in a cute little box - Perfect : )

Betty's also have a cookery school, which is next on my list of cookery schools to try out, I may have to save my pennies right away to get myself booked for their 2013  "Betty's Experience Weekend" which offers a behind the scenes tour of their Craft Bakery, with plenty of tutorials to learn some of their secrets from the Cookery School tutors. With recipes to learn such as scones, Swiss tortes and bread, this is a winner for me, I am DESPERATE to join this one!

They also host special events in the "Imperial Room" at Harrogate, with anything from live Jazz or a pianist playing whilst you enjoy your Afternoon Tea, to Floral Design tuition to educate you over an afternoon. Their breakfasts also looked very good and had I not decided on the Champagne Afternoon tea tier, I would have easily chosen their salmon & scrambled eggs which looked like an amazing start to the day!

I am no expert in Afternoon tea history, neither am I an expert in Afternoon tea Etiquette, however, I am fairly knowledgeable with all things cake and Afternoon tea related and I do have a real passion and thirst for knowledge in this area, so if you ever fancy a chat or even learning about this fascinating subject in further detail, why not drop me a line or even book on my upcoming "Afternoon Tea Etiquette" workshops with William Hanson, both in Cambridge and in London for 2013...

Miss Sue Flay 


  1. Lovely write-up, it all sounds magical! Not only am I adding afternoon tea at Betty's to my Bucket List, but I also have an ambition to attend a Betty's Experience Weekend!

    Thank you so much for sharing x

    1. You and me both! I really want to do it! Can't wait to go back, it was lovely : ) xxx