Sunday, 16 June 2013

The odd things too much cake can make you do: a trip to Bettys, York

First up - apologies. I have been a bad, bad blogger. You might be mistaken for thinking that I came down with some kind of fatal food poisoning since my trip to Handmade Burger Co in April. Rest assured, I'm very much alive and well - obviously this here blog is proof that I'm not a modern day Blogger Jesus.  Instead, I've been busy wedding organising, celebrating (a lot), contemplating moving house, trying to get a bit fitter, and generally being a bit, well, busy.

But fear ye not, I'm back. And today I'll be talking about something exceptionally important and close to my heart - CAKE. And afternoon tea. Oh my. This is what dreams are made of.

Since we came back from Croatia, I've been attempting to be good on the food front. You know the drill - no naughty-ness, lots of salad, more vegetables than Mr McGregor's garden, counting Weight Watchers points until they come out of my ears and absolutely no cake. Boring boring boring. Of course, however, I made an exception for this bad boy - made by my brilliant friend Sophie in honour of our engagement and containing two of my most favourite things in the entire world - chocolate and Diet Coke. How could I say no to a slice of that?

Anyway, you get the picture. Over the past two months, the lbs have gradually started to drop off but I have been dreaming of cake. So you can imagine my excitement when two of the Mr's lovely friends from Uni bought us a voucher for champagne afternoon tea at Bettys (which mysteriously doesn't have an apostrophe - but don't let that put you off).

Bettys is somewhat of a Yorkshire institution. When I first decided to move to God's Own County for university my mother dearest could hardly contain her excitement of a) having a child-free house and b) having an excuse for regular trips to Bettys. Founded in 1919, the company now has six tea rooms across Yorkshire and a successful mail order company. Although the queues for their tea rooms often stretch round the corner and prices aren't exactly akin to buying a Tesco's bakery danish pastry, the amazing service, beautiful decoration that's reminiscent of a bygone era and the promise of exceptional cake make both the wait and the threat of a slimmed down bank balance worthwhile.

Keen to avoid the queues, I  managed to book a table for afternoon tea at the Belmont Room at the York branch. Away from the hustle and bustle of the main room and shop, the Belmont Room is a bookings only space that's above the main restaurant area. With a separate side entrance, it feels slightly department store-ish (I think maybe something to do with the darkness of the room due to a love of thick blinds) and it isn't quite as opulent as the main tearoom. However, when being faced with waiting in the rain in among a street load of Japanese tourists eager to get their mitts on some cake, the sacrifice was well worth it.

After being seated by a very friendly maître d, there was some confusion about the validity of our gift voucher for the Belmont Room that I wasn't made aware of when I secured the booking - apparently prices in the Belmont Room are slightly higher than they are in the main cafe tea rooms. However, it was quickly rectified after the maître d agreed that it was an error in communication on Bettys side, leaving us to enjoy our glass of champagne. 

After a peruse of Bettys substantial tea menu (containing no less than 18 different types of tea), the bubbles from the champagne made me divert from my normal (boring) choice of breakfast tea and instead opt for China Rose Petal which promised to keep my "mind, body and spirit in natural harmony." Very third age, but delicious none the less.

And then came the afternoon tea. Three amazing tiers of completely diet-unfriendly bliss which began with a selection of the most beautiful sandwiches - chicken and tarragon mayonnaise, smoked salmon, ham and mustard and egg and cress. The bread was oh-so-moist and fresh and the flavours complemented each other in a way that only the God of Afternoon Teas could create. In fact they were so good, we asked for more (forgive me Weight Watchers for I have sinned). 

Next came the scones. Ohhhh the scones. You know that thing when you cut into a scone and it's got a delicious crust on the outside and then it's beautifully soft and squidgy on the inside? Yeah? Well that in abundance. With cream and jam. Four little pieces of heaven.

And finally it was the turn of the cake. There was delicious macaroon, melt-in-the-mouth lemon meringue, coffee and ameretto sponge, victoria sponge to die for and a little slice of chocolately goodness. Oh my. I'll let the picture do the talking.

With that we finished our tea and rolled back down the stairs into the hustle and bustle of York, having spent two hours in Cake Utopia. Thanks Sarah and Jay.

The tea (along with the sugar high and added champagne) must have done something to my mind, body and spirit as promised as we then decided to go take a very romantic trip to a Go Outdoors store. More than two hours and a lot more than a few pennies later, we walked out clutching a tent, two rucksacks, two waterproof jackets, walking shoes, top of the range self-inflating sleeping mats (who even knew they existed) and a whole load of other stuff having taken the snap decision to walk from Saltburn to Filey this summer (and camp along the way). Maybe I need to lay off the cake if this sort of thing is the result. Lesson learnt.