Saturday, 31 August 2013

A Trip to York and a Couple of Reviews

I feel like a bit of a cheat writing a post without giving you a recipe but I do so want to tell you all about a lovely day I had in York with my mum yesterday. It was the last Friday of my summer break before I go back to university tomorrow so Mum took the day off work and we went on an adventure. We've both wanted to go round York and explore all the little twisty streets for some time now, and of course go to Bettys (that missing apostrophe is killing me). There's no point in writing a review about a tea room which is so renowned already but there are a few other places in particular that I wanted to tell you about. I haven't taken many photos, partly because my photography skills are somewhat lacking and partly because my camera battery was on it's last legs. Silly me forgot to check and recharge it the night before.

Here's Mum and myself. I told you I'm not great at photography. This was one of those hold the camera out in front of you and hope for the  best pictures while we were waiting for the train. We both hate having our photos taken but it seemed fitting to have a record of the day. 

When we got to York we realised we didn't know where anything was so we just started off wandering. Our first point of call was the railway museum but when we got there we changed our minds and asked someone to direct us to the twisty turny streets and the Minster. On our way there I spotted a quaint little cafe half hidden away. Mum saw some comfy looking sofas through the open window so we started the day properly with a cup of tea and a biscuit. 
This cafe, The Perky Peacock, might be small but it is one of those places that is full of character. You can just see a couple of table outside the door and there was another at the bottom of the steps as well as two sofas with those things that look like giant cotton reels as table, and a bigger table with five chairs inside. I've taken some pictures so you can see what I mean but not of the bigger table because I didn't want to distrurb a lady who was sitting there enjoying a homemade brownie. There was a selection of homemdae sandwiches (which I admittedly didn't study because Mum and I headed straight for the sweet stuff), three big cakes to choose from, some traybake style bars and biscuits. The staff were lovely and friendly and things seemed to be reasonably priced. For 2 cups of tea and a package of three chewy ginger biscuits we paid £3.55 I think. What I thought added an extra special touch was the selection of books for customers to read while there along with some work by a local author for sale too. The book was called Chosen and sounded just like the sort of fantasy fiction I like but I haven't started it yet. I would've been willing to pay more than the requested £2 for it for sure. Here's some pictures of the place which I defintely recommend which you'll spot as you go across Lendal Bridge. 
Our sofa
A good selection of food and drinks for such a small place.
Charming decorations
Written by a local author - I feel a cup of tea and cake coming on!
A little further along the road, off the bridge I spotted a shop which I can't help but mention. It was a liquid deli named Demijohn. Normally I would bypass these sorts of things but something about this one drew me towards it. The shop was very open and well lit and the two members of staff were helpful and attentive without being annoying and bothering you as soon as you stepped through the door. They stock different flavoured oils, vinegars, liqueurs and spirits gathered from smaller brewers and sell them in decorative glassware. Some of the flavours sound absurd but if you have an open mind and like to experiment with recipes (waves hands and feet in air) then this would be a very good place to visit, or if not York then one of their stores in Edinburgh or Glasgow. You can try anything you like before you buy it and unusually I really did feel like there was no pressure to buy anything if you didn't want to. I had every intention of going back to buy some butterscotch cream liqueurs but sadly the route the sign posts took us back to the train station after our final exploration of the York Castle Museum bypassed the shop in favour of going round and round (and round and round and round) all the boring streets. Really, if you don't have a street map with you, don't follow the signposts. Ask a local for directions instead! I don't drink but I thought the sample I had there was lovely. I wanted to try it in a soft biscuit recipe or a cheesecake. Yes, it was expensive but I think it would have been worth it to have something unusual. Plus, the glassware which you have to pay for in addition to its contents is reusable and if you take it back to one of their shop, you will only pay for the refill. The other thing I tried was the strawberry vinegar. I know that sounds awful but it had a really strong strawberry flavour (yum) and only a little vinegar one. I wanted to drink it not sip and tiny sample! I wouldn't have bought any of that though because I couldn't think of how I would use it. Here's some pictures.
Don't let the peeling sign put you off!

After this one we carried on, nipping into an antiques shop and ending up at the Minster where we had a quick look before heading round the Shambles. Lots of interesting shops there! It's without a doubt one of those places where you could keep going back and still discover a new thing to explore each time. And so many tea rooms! Would anybody be able to help me out here and recommended some good ones in York? I absolutely want to go back but I want to try somewhere other than Bettys next time. i wouldn't have wanted to go to York this time without experiencing Bettys but there are so many more options available it seems unfair not to give at least some of them a go.

After getting a bit lost we gave up and asked for directions to little Bettys and it turned out that we had practically walked past it. Look for Strbucks on the corner of Stonegate, walk down there with Starbucks on your left and Bettys will be on your right about half way down. Easy really. We didn't go for the afternoon tea in the end, choosing to share a sandwich, then a scone for Mum and a strawberry tart for me. It was very hard to decide and I kept trying to have sneaky glances round to see what everyone else was having. Mum and I really enjoyed what we had and even more the service. It is so nice to be treated in that way. It's not something to be described - if you haven't tried it already then you absolutely must when you visit York or another Bettys town. The only thing I would say against the little Bettys (I don't know if the big version was the same) is that it wasn't very nice to have to wait for a table on the stairs. I don't want to focus on theat thought because I can't see what they could have done there was no room to set up a waiting area and once customers had finished at their own pace and left, the tables were cleared as soon as possible. 
Downstairs at the front of the shop there was a selction of goodies to be taken away and I couldn't leave without a famous fat rascal. They even get there own special bag! I kept wanting to tear bits off to eat on the train on the way home but I was good and managed to save it. I'm sure everyone knows that Bettys have premium prices for their premium services but the £1.90 for such a large fat rascal seemed to be an exception. I think it has to be my favourite thing about Bettys. It was gorgeous - buttery, fruity and fun. Of course I want to make my own now but when I go back I'm still going to buy one (or two) more.

After refuelling Mum and I explored the Shambles more thoroughly. We didn't buy much to be honest but I made sure I tried some of the chocolates from Monk Bar Chocolatiers. All the chocolates are made on site and there are a good variety to choose from. I chose 6 or 7 from the chocolate box style ones and I most recommened the limoncello and caramel hazelnut ones. I didn't even know if I like limoncello but it turns out I do a lot! I can't attest to the prices because it's not often I buy handmade chocolates. Thortons is the closest I get to that but I still think they are wort a try. The shop has a few small tables to sit and have a drink at too. On a cold day I would have tried the hot chocolate for sure! (No photos from this one I'm afraid because Mum and I ate the chocolates as we walked round!)

Everywhere we went there were people eating ice creams so Mum and I caved in. I don't know the name of the cart that we bought ours from but they were so goo! Mum had vanilla and I had toffee ripple. Let's put it this way, I wanted another as soon as I finished.

We had a nosey round the farmers market which was on while we were there. I don't know how often it sets up so look ot for it near the Shambles of you do go. There were lots of foodie and craft stalls, some local and some from quite a distance. 

By this time Mum and I were conscious of the time and getting back so Dad wasn't on his own for too long after a day at work so we rounded off our visit with a trip to the York Castle Museum. We eschewed the Yorkshire Museum in favour of this one because we both much prefer looking at specific eras and how people lived then such as wwas at the YCM.The leaflet describes it as a time tunnel which is a good summary. I especially love that sort of thing because I read a lot of historical novels so I like to imagine what it was like back then. If you do like looking at fossils and so on too though, at the moment there is a special offer on to get a ticket for both museums for £10 which lasts all year.

Overall Mum and I both really enjoyed our day. We walked a lot and ate even more but then exploring does take a lot of energy so I think it was all justified. I can't wait to go back again. Does anyone know of any other places to explore? I'm itching for another adventure already!


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