WE thought it was time we did our bit for the High Street.

So, armed with our Love Northallerton Little Book of Treats – a series of festive offers for businesses in the town centre – we found ourselves in Bettys.

It’s the first discount offer in the book and the most tempting in our view – a free glass of champers with afternoon tea.

It also served to remind us that while we have previously enjoyed breakfast, lunch and high tea at this most civilised of venues, we’ve never sampled afternoon tea there – which is a bit like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower.

And afternoon tea is now the new dinner, so I am told. By which I mean that its popularity is soaring and is once more seen as a rather fashionable thing to do. Not so long ago, afternoon tea was something one only took if one was entertaining an aged relative.

And for the sake of clarity, I should say that dinner in this context is an evening meal, not lunch. We’re talking posh here.

Bettys is, of course, famous for afternoon tea. It boldly claims to be the “home of afternoon tea” which I think anyone from Yorkshire might well agree with as the tea rooms in Harrogate, York and Ilkley, along with Northallerton, have become a County institution.

An institution which this year will be 100 years old. The first Betty’s Café was opened by Swiss chocolatier and baker Frederick Belmont in Harrogate in 1919 and the first afternoon tea was served in 1927.

Exactly who Betty is or was nobody seems to know. And neither is it known when or why the possessive apostrophe disappeared from the name. The framed old Betty’s advertisements on the wall of the Northallerton tea room suggests it was definitely there until the 1950s.

It seems strange (to this old hack at least) that a business so based on tradition and style should choose to dispense with an essential element of punctuation. I know nobody cares but they, and Bettys – sorry Betty’s – should. If you don’t know what I’m banging on about Google “When to use a possessive apostrophe”.

Rant over, I can only rhapsodise about the Bettys afternoon tea.

Firstly, it looks beautiful. We don’t usually takes pictures of food but the Bettys presentation of their signature meal made it worthy of an exception being made. The three-tier cake stand holds the three courses starting at the bottom with the sandwiches, the scones on the middle tier then, topping the lot, the miniature cakes.

Shared between two people it doesn’t look like a lot but appearances are deceptive. You would have to have a gargantuan appetite not be sated and that’s even with the crusts cut off the sandwiches.

Of course the crusts are cut off. One would expect nothing less. And there is also a knife a fork supplied just in case you’d rather not soil your hands on the cucumber, cream cheese and dill, the coronation chicken, the ham and mustard or the smoked salmon.

That selection is the standard one but variations can be requested as we did, swapping the cucumber, dill and cream cheese for an extra round of coronation chicken.

What else can we say about sandwiches? The soft brown bread was fresh, they were not overfilled but neither were they ungenerous.

The two sultana scones were substantial and equally fresh. They came with plenty of clotted cream and, which led to the usual unresolvable Warne debate about which goes on the scone first – cream for me, jam for Sylvia.

Then to the cakes. There were six – two chocolate and hazelnut pave, two fruit tarts and two lemon and orange macaroons.

The macaroons were the pick of the bunch, for their lightness, their soft crunchiness and smooth sweetness.

All this was washed down with proper leaf tea - Bettys Tearoom Blend is the default option but it could have been Earl Grey or some of the other Bettys’ blends – tea strainer supplied and served with extra hot water.

We had enjoyed our glasses of Moutard Rosé Prestige Champagne which served as a refreshing aperitif while we waited for the main event to arrive.

The champers, if not funded by the offer, is a bit pricey at £7 a glass, but we thought the standard afternoon tea at £19.95 a head good value.

Service at Bettys is always excellent, we find, and on this occasion it was no different. It is formal, courteous in an old fashioned way but always accompanied with a smile.


Bettys, High Street, Northallerton, DL7 8LF

Tel: 01609 775154

Web: www.bettys.co.uk

Open: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm (5.30pm Saturday); Sunday 10am-5pm.

Disabled access. Gluten-free options

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 10, Service 9, Surroundings 8, Value 8