Anyone for afternoon tea at Bettys?
Harrogate in the springtime - could anywhere look more lovely?
A host of golden daffodils stretching for miles welcomes you into the town within a garden.
Wide open stretches of parkland, immaculately manicured flowerbeds, stunning Georgian buildings - and, the reason why we’re here, Bettys Cafe Tearooms.
Famed throughout the world, Bettys is the place to be for people who like to take tea properly, at a leisurely pace. Elegant portions of top-class food are served on delicately patterned bone china by waiting staff with cut-glass accents while a chap tickles the ivories to add to the Twenties atmosphere.
There’s a touch of Downton Abbey grandeur about the place, from the chandeliers twinkling with crystal drops to the potted palms and pristine white table linen.
The attentive staff are immaculately turned out in black suits, the most senior wearing cameo brooches with the letter B on them.
We’re encouraged to sample the extensive range of infusions from around the world during the course of our Lady Betty Afternoon Tea - but begin with a glass of champagne.
Our opener is prawn cocktail served on a light, creamy avocado mousse. However, if fish isn’t to your liking, there’s the option of tomato and basis salsa.
This is followed by smoked salmon and cream cheese roulade or tomato and basil roulade for non-fish eaters and accompanied by a bite-size portion of pork and apple pie.
A cake stand arrives piled with the next three courses of this super repast.
Delicate sandwiches consist of coronation chicken, ham and tomato, egg and cress.
Melt in the mouth miniature scones are flavoured with lemon or rose petals and can be dressed with jam and clotted cream, although I suspect that they would be equally delicious without.
Half a dozen little cakes top off the meal - chocolate, lemon, pistachio and rhubarb, each a tiny work of art with edible flowers or fine latticework making them look almost too good to eat.
We sample four different teas with expert guidance about what to choose and how long to let them infuse before imbibing. Drink them too soon and you don’t get the flavour, leave them too long and they becomes slightly bitter. The Ceylon Blue Sapphire gets my vote, the Earl Grey proving so popular with my companion that he buys some to take home from the emporium downstairs.
We round off our wonderful afternoon by touring the fascinating Pump Room where the smell of sulphur coming up from an underground well pricks the nostrils while we learn about the health-giving properties of the town in years gone by as well as its fame for haute couture.
A day trip to Harrogate is a tonic for mind, body and purse with parking costing just £3.30 for five hours.
l Lady Betty Afternoon Tea at Bettys, Harrogate, is priced at £32.50 or £39.50 (with a glass of champagne). For further details, visit www.bettys.co.uk/bettys-cafe-tea-rooms/afternoon-tea-at-bettys/lady-betty-afternoon-tea