Morning Tea

Morning Tea

The last time I went to Betty’s Tearooms in York was in 1990, though since then I did visit their tearoom in Harrogate a couple of years ago and had a lovely pot of tea and cream scone.

Visiting York we decided to visit Betty’s in the blizzarding snow for a second breakfast. I was surprised by how busy it was at 10am in the morning, we had to queue!

We were given a lovely table next to the window from which we could watch people struggling in the wind and the snow.

It was early so alas the cake trolley wasn’t available and to be honest I don’t think I actually wanted a cake at that time of the morning, so went with the second breakfast.

We ordered the Breakfast Tea, and this is very nicely served with loose leaves, and so you have a tea strainer. I will say that I wasn’t a fan of the tea, though I finished the pot. I think the last time I had tea at Betty’s I had a different, much nicer tea. Personally it was a little too strong for me.

Alongside my tea I went with toasted pikelets, I don’t recall having them before, but the best way I can think of to describe them is they reminded me of a squashed crumpet, and they certainly tasted more of crumpet than pancake. In some areas of the world pikelets are more like pancakes, the ones from Yorkshire are more like crumpets.

Alongside the pikelets we had toast and crumpets. This was all served very posh like on cake stands.

It was a lovely second breakfast and with wonderful friendly service we all felt we had been really spoilt. Even though the place was really busy, we weren’t rushed and the whole affair was very relaxed. By the time we finished, the snow had gone and we were ready to continue with our day.

Fishing for Good Service

Spaghetti Pomodoro at Strada

I’ve not been to Strada before and was looking forward to eating there. It’s interesting how many Italian style chains there are around, from the American inspired Frankie and Benny’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo. Strada is owned by the same company which owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge. We went to the Strada branch in York with is on Low Petergate in a lovely old building. When we entered we were greeted in a friendly manner and offered a table by the window, the place didn’t look too busy.

Inside there was a modern Italian feel to the decor and furniture and it certainly did not feel as intimidating or posh as Prezzo. However I did feel from a service perspective that Prezzo was more family friendly than Strada. This wasn’t what I would have expected by looking at the websites and online menus, my impression, having not been to either Strada or Prezzo before, was that Strada was for families and Prezzo was for couples. Our experience of the two York branches was the other way round. Though having said that, crayons and activity sheets did arrive at the table as we perused the menus.

We placed our order when our drinks arrived, which was pretty prompt, though after that the service went a little downhill.

The children’s starters arrived and they got the order wrong. Now that does happen now and again, but when you realise that the children’s menu only has two choices and we had only ordered two starters (one of each) I wasn’t impressed that they messed up that part of the order. It did make me worry whether they would get the rest of the order right!

We then waited ages for our food…

We waited…

No explanation from the staff who were notably absent. What was apparent later (when visiting the bathroom) was that there was a group in the back of the restaurant and this had a very negative impact on the service to other diners in the restaurant. It wasn’t a huge group, but it had a noticeable impact on service.

Could they have not got in some more staff if they knew they were having this group in? I also wonder if they like Prezzo did not realise that though it wasn’t school holidays in York, it was in other areas of the country and thought it would be quieter than normal? Who knows.

Eventually our food arrived.

I had decided to go for something very different to what I would normally order in a place like Strada and went for the Tegamaccio at £14.50. This is a “classic” seafood stew from Puglia. With king prawns, mussels, clams, squid and red mullet with fregola pasta in a tomato, white wine and herb sauce.

Tegamaccio

It did look very nice, and the sauce was tasty. I was disappointed with the amount of fish in the dish, yes there were plenty of prawns and a fair few mussels filled the dish, however there was only a single small piece of red mullet and just a few squid rings. The dish was served with some toasted bread and in the bottom of the dish was fregola pasta, which is similar to the large Israeli cous cous. Personally I think the dish needed more fish and more pasta. Normally I am not one of those people who demands huge portions, but in this instance the issue wasn’t one of quantity, but one of proportions.

My son decided that he would go with the simple, Spaghetti Pomodoro at £7.75. Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, drizzled with pesto and topped with fresh basil.

It looked great and he said it was delicious and finished the dish off.

My wife chose the Penne Bufala at £8.50, the description said roasted peppers, courgettes and aubergine in a tomato and basil sauce with black olives and buffalo mozzarella.

My wife was disappointed that the dish was missing the mozzarella, now at the time I thought that wasn’t a mistake and we has misunderstood the name of the dish. Now with writing this blog post, I checked the menus for descriptions and as you have read above the dish was suppose to come with mozzarella. Having said that I think the reason my wife didn’t complain at the time was that by the time our main courses had arrived the staff then disappeared. When they did appear to wait on other people’s tables they ignored us.

The marghertia pizzas didn’t go down well with the two little ones, they said they “didn’t like it” but I think the reason was that the pizza bases were paper thin. I do like thin and crispy pizza bases, but in this instance these were too thin, they felt even thinner than wraps! As a result the pizza felt as you ate it that you were eating cardboard covered in tomato paste. A real disappointment, if we had known, we would have ordered the spaghetti bolognese.

Having finished our food, it then took ages to get the attention of the waiting staff so that we could pay the bill. In the end the only way we could get their attention was to get our coats on and start walking towards the exit! That is not good service, and though the food was okay, what really let the place down was the poor service.

Prezzo Perfecto, well nearly

I’ve not been to Prezzo before, there isn’t one close by that I had seen, though I have since found one in Bristol, they occupy the old leadworks where the Firehouse Rotisserie was. However on a recent visit to York, we decided to have lunch there.

It did feel a little “posh” when we went in, and as a family I wasn’t sure we had made the right choice. The ambience, the decor and look of the place was very much a sophisticated place than a family run Italian restaurant. I shouldn’t have worried as the waiting staff immediately made us feel at ease, guided us to a table with a great view outside and provided colouring pencils and stuff to do for the children. Though my first impression was of a place not suitable for a family, they certainly provided a service that welcomed families.

Looking over the menu, the smallest in our family chose pizza, whilst the second youngest chose spaghetti bolognese.

My wife went with the Bianca Pizza for £9.95, I chose the Lobster and Crab Tortelli at £11.95. My eldest son was a little hesitant, at ten years old he often finds the children’s menu a little too young. I don’t think he’s forgiven us when we ordered a children’s meal for him recently and it came on a teddy bear plate! Having said that though, he still enjoy’s a kids lunchbox. In the end after lookng over the menu, he went with the Fusilli with Italian Sausage at £9.25. This is described as being made with red onion, garlic, fresh rocket and fresh chilli in a spicy tomato sauce.

The waiting staff were certainly taken aback when we placed our order and did say that the Fusilli pasta dish was quite spicy. However my son was happy with that and he does enjoy spicy food.

As we waited for our food and looked out the window we realised that this wasn’t an ideal location for a restaurant on the corner of a reasonably busy junction.

Prezzo in York

However what with fire engines and lots of buses passing by, the children loved it, and spent most of the waiting time looking out of the window. They didn’t have to wait long though, as the food arrived promptly and looked great.

I had ordered the Lobster and Crab Tortelli which came with baby spinach and red chilli in a creamy saffron sauce. I have decided that this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. This was certainly something very different, as I can’t recall ever ordering a filled pasta like this before.

Lobster and Crab Tortelli

This wasn’t an excessively large portion, but certainly wasn’t tiny either. For me it was about right. The pasta was cooked to perfection, not too soft with still some bite. I did feel that the filling lacked a little in flavour, however the sauce, which I felt might have been overpowering, was not in the least and complemented the pasta well. I did enjoy the addition of the baby spinach and thought the dish was delicious and very nice to eat. It was a great sized portion for lunch, but if you had a bigger appetite you might have wanted to add a salad, or had a starter.

My wife had gone for the Bianca Pizza which had on it goat’s cheese, grilled courgettes, baby sunblushed tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato. She had taken the light option (which increased the price) that takes half the dough of the Classic pizza and the pizza is then served with a mixed salad with a low calorie Italian dressing. It looked really nice and she said it was just right.

So what of the spicy Fusilli with Italian Sausage that my son had gone for? Well it was certainly hot and spicy, but it was scrummy and he finished the entire dish. I was expecting to see slices of sausage in the dish, but it was cooked with “lumps” of sausage, almost like a bolognese consistency. It looked great and I was allowed a quick taste. It certainly was spicy, but not too spicy to be unpleasant as can sometimes happen.

The children’s meals looked great, the pizza was enjoyed as was the spaghetti bolognese. The spaghetti bolognese was a proper bolognese and again I had a quick taste and it was really really nice. It was probably something I would order if I went to Prezzo again.

So why the “well nearly” in the blog post title?



Well alas the service let us down. It started off so well to begin with. They were welcoming and friendly and our food did arrive quite promptly. However after that it all went a little downhill. I am not sure why, but I think the main reason was that there wasn’t enough staff on. It was a Tuesday lunchtime and I think they anticipated that as it wasn’t a school holiday (schools in York broke up a week later than many parts of the country) they wouldn’t have too many customers. However though when we arrived there was only a few tables occupied, by the time we had finished eating our main courses the place was full and they were turning people away. As a result the two waiting staff appeared to be rushed off their feet. For us that meant it took a while to sort out the desert (just ice cream) and get the bill. The staff though did keep smiling.

So apart from the service issues towards the end of the meal, the food was delicious, it looked great and appeared to be made fresh to order. Really nicely done and now I have found where the Bristol branch is, we might go again.