When it comes to choosing somewhere for a special celebration in York, the first name that springs to my mind is Bettys. We might not go very regularly, but like many Yorkies, Bettys is in our blood. My mum took my siblings and me to Bettys as an occasional treat when we were little, and we went there with our grandparents too. I remember making sure I got every last drop of the delicious banana milkshake up through the straw, and almost dissolving with indecision when the cake trolley headed my way. Now we’ve grown up and it’s our turn to introduce our little ones to the delights of York’s favourite tea room.
My mum’s recent birthday was the best excuse we could find to go back to Bettys as a noisy extended family, kids and all. As our party was into double figures, we decided to book a table for afternoon tea in the Belmont Room rather than taking over the tea room downstairs. The Belmont Room is a spacious and sumptuous function room above the main tea room that’s accessed through a different door. It feels just like the tea room below but is calmer and more relaxing, especially with the pianist playing in the background.
I’d been a bit worried about taking the children with us and spent the whole journey there annoying the biggest viking by constantly reminding him to spare the other diners his dinosaur impressions. I needn’t have worried, though. As soon as we arrived we were made to feel comfortable and relaxed. The tables are so far apart that we didn’t feel at all worried about any noise the kids might make. And the staff were fantastic; they brought a highchair and toys for my brother’s six-month-old and a great colouring in sheet with puzzles that kept the biggest viking occupied for ages. They also kept coming back to check that everything was okay and to ask if we needed anything else.
The afternoon tea itself was fantastic: a three-tiered cake stand each, with a selection of delicious sandwiches, fresh scones, cream and jam and fantastic cakes. We each had our choice of tea – although some heathens in our party opted for coffee – and I have to admit that we couldn’t turn down the suggestion of champagne. It was an important birthday, after all. And the little vikings didn’t miss out either – for around £10, the ones who were old enough had their own afternoon ‘tea’: a slightly scaled down version with juice rather than tea. The biggest viking tucked into his sandwiches and cakes with gusto – he’s never eaten without a fuss like he did that afternoon. In fact he managed to sit still and chat nicely without roaring or running around for a whole two hours. A record. I think he was genuinely enjoying doing something so special and grown up.
We were really touched when the pianist started playing ‘happy birthday’ and our waitress brought out a little birthday cake with a candle in it for my mum; we hadn’t asked for it, we’d just mentioned in passing as we sat down that it was her birthday. It’s little touches like that that makes Bettys such a special place. When the next family birthday rolls around and we’re deciding what to do, I know what’s going to be top of the list.
Good to know – you can have afternoon tea in the tea room every day (£18.50 per person) or you can book a table at the Belmont Room like we did (£26.95 or £33.95 with champagne); it’s served every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12.30pm – There are steps up to the Belmont Room so buggies need to be carried, but there is plenty of room for them once you’re up there – There are baby changing facilities in the ladies’ loo, and a potty too. There are also comfy chairs in the lobby where you can feed a baby and watch the hustle and bustle of St. Helen’s Square.
Afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Rooms, York – Betty’s Parliament Street, 6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York YO1 8QP – For more information, visit the Bettys website.