The Christmas break means something different to everyone, for some it is the chance to see family and friends, others the excuse to over indulge and for many it is the overall atmosphere of festivity. For me the christmas break meant one thing, time.
Time to laze about in bed until 11am, time to sit on the sofa by a large fire and while away the afternoon reading, and most importantly time to eat, drink and be very merry, which I definitely took full advantage off. 11 shiny, shiny, beautiful days off from work.
Being back in Yorkshire for the duration, there was, of course, also time for tea. Harrogate is famed for its water, its baths but is probably most well known for its tea, being the home of Taylors and Betty's cafes.
You know when you're visiting a place, there are things people tell you you must go to/eat at/see/visit. Well Betty's tearooms is definitely one of those things, the original no reservation restaurant, with a permanent cue snaking out of its door, famed for its cakes and impecable service. But it is, at least to my mind, one of those things you don't actually go to yourself if you live in a place.
It seems much more of an 'occasion' to visit and made me feel like I was really treating myself when I arranged to meet friends there. It was all very proper loveliness, a friend getting a traditional cream tea with scones and thick whipped cream and homemade preserves. I have had a craving for proper hot chocolate for about the last 3 months (more on this later), and enjoyed the swiss inspired cream hot chocolate with a selection of mini florentines.
Betty's is a grand old institution, which will never loose its charm.
But what I really wanted to tell you about was one of the newest cafe openings and definitely one of the best i've been to in a long time. Baltzersens is an independent Scandinavian inspired coffee shop serving up open sandwiches, huge cinnamon buns which seem to be the staple of any Scandi diet and a better hot chocolate than Betty's (!).
My good old mum had actually recommended that I check this place out, and then I found out all my friends mum's had done the same with them. If you've got the mum's of Harrogate on board then you've got to be doing something right, as they have about 135,749 cafes to choose from.
The decor is exactly what I like, white tiles and tidy dark wooden tables in the front section, before opening out at the back with leather arm chairs and an exposed brick fireplace, all decorated with traditional christmas decorations and simple design touches.
The food was superb; homemade potato salad and this little beetroot, apple and mint thing accompanied open sandwiches served on light or dark rye. Gravlax was home cured, with a light, subtle flavour and a paired wonderfully with a thick dill sauce, the meatballs were topped with melted jarlsberg and a lingonberry jam with a sweetness to contrast with the well seasoned meat. The hot chocolate was thick and rich and not too sweet, the perfect comfort drink on one of many miserably, wet winter days.
It's not that I don't like Harrogate, but it can often (read: all the time) play up its pretentious, well to do image and the cafes and bars, and people who frequent them, can seem like an endless repetition of each other. Baltzersens felt like something a bit different, doing something that wasn't run of the mill and doing it very well. There was no 'occasion' about it, it's just very good.
O and they do hot waffles if you weren't already convinced.
Baltzersens is on Oxford Street, HG1 1PU and is open all week.