After some more garden viewing (which I promise I will get round to) we had a look at the alpines, walked round the plant shop, marvelled at the woollen compost and browsed the bookshop. We probably need at least one more day here to see the rest of the garden, if not two. Fortunately, with being members, we don’t have to pay extra each time we visit.
There had been a queue out of the door of Bettys when we had arrived (the main one, not the shed in the garden) but that had gone by the time we got out of the bookshop, so I suggested a cup of tea. I knew Julia had always liked the idea of afternoon tea, and that Bettys was a famous tearoom, so what better plan could a man have to treat his wife?
We had to wait by a sign, a bit like Little Chef. Then, after a man in a suit showed us to another sign, we had to wait again. Another man in a suit showed us to a table. This was quite a cosy arrangement, with us being close enough to the neighbouring tables to join in the conversation. In fact, we were so close it was difficult to avoid. You probably know from previous posts that I’m a bit of an eavesdropper, but I like it to be an option, rather than an inevitable consequence of crowded tables.
On one side a middle-aged woman talked to her mother about Doctor Who, before going on to use a noisy game on her phone.
On the other side two women in their mid-30s discussed work, dating and drinking. I know how old they were because it came up in the conversation. If only that was the only thing I knew about them…
Eventually, the food arrived.
At £19.50 each, I was expecting something quite good. It may not be expensive compared to the £58 charged by The Ritz, but it’s still enough to pay for a few sandwiches and a bit of cake.
So, was it good?
The waitress was very pleasant. The tea (loose leaf this time) was very good. The tiny cakes were good too – a fruit tart, a rich chocolate cake and a citrus macaroon.
I liked the sandwich fillings too – cream cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon, ham and mustard and coronation chicken. I normally steer clear of coronation chicken, but I really enjoyed this one. Good flavours and plenty of filling.
The scone, though not boxed or pre-jammed, was much the same as the earlier one. Note how I have avoided the jam/cream debate by doing one of each.
So far it’s not setting my world on fire, but it’s pretty good. What spoiled it was the bread.
Two of my sandwiches were dry. One of them had the suspicion of a curl. Two of Julia’s were a touch dry too, though not as bad as mine. That’s a pretty basic error. In my naivety I’d assumed they’d be made to order but they obviously weren’t.
I was actually so annoyed by it that I nearly complained. However, Julia doesn’t like it when I complain, and it was supposed to be her treat, so I let it slide. That doesn’t mean I can’t complain on the blog.
My verdict – if you can’t make fresh sandwiches you don’t deserve a good mark for an afternoon tea. It’s so basic it’s ridiculous not to get it right. It was excellent in parts, but that’s not what you remember. You remember the lacklustre scone, the dry bread and the feeling of being herded.
Without the dry bread you’d probably remember the excellent cake and sandwich fillings. Though I suspect you’d still think it lacked the elegance you’d hoped for.
It was pleasant enough, and not bad value in terms of afternoon teas, but I expected more from the Bettys hype and, to be honest, I don’t expect dried bread from anyone.
We will take a flask and sandwiches next time we visit, though we may well visit one of their other Bettys tearooms and give them another chance.