York is one of the most beautiful cities in the north of England, home to many great attractions, from the York Dungeons and Jorvik Viking Center, to the famous Little Shambles street. But there is also a fair share of great foods, drinks, and treats to enjoy in this city.
On a recent visit to the city we sampled some freshly made chocolate and lemonade, some delicious locally grown produce, and so much more. Some of the best food and drink we sampled came as part of some York afternoon tea establishments. We tried over a dozen of them over the course of two trips, and here is a selection of the ones that we enjoyed the most.
Afternoon Tea at the National Railway Museum
The National Railway Museum is a must-see during any visit to the city of York and the fact that it also offers high tea makes this a double whammy that we simply can’t refuse.
Cream tea at the National Railway Museum is served in a renovated railway carriage. If you have ever wanted to dine on the Orient Express but couldn’t afford the ticket, this is a great alternative. It isn’t quite as luxurious, the train isn’t moving and there is no final stop getting off at one of Europe’s best cities, but it’s still a fantastic experience and a cheap one at that.
You can get afternoon tea for just £22.50 per person, spending £7.50 more if you want a glass of bubbly with your food.
Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel
A five-star hotel in the heart of Yorkshire, the Grand Hotel offers a high-class, high tea experience for a reasonable price. You will pay just £25 per person here, with options to upgrade to gin for £32 or to Champagne for £39.
The menu is seasonal, so it changes all of the time, but when we sat down for high tea here we were served an array of loose leaf teas (green teas, herbal teas, and black teas) with some of the best sweets we had tasted in the city. It was a day of decadent bliss, with options for vegetarians and gluten free diets to ensure that everyone can enjoy it.
Afternoon Tea at Bullivant of York
This was a surprising find. We stumbled across this gem of a tearoom during our first day in the city. At the time we had booked in for afternoon tea at few hotels and some other usual suspects and we just wanted to stop for a spot of tea and a bite to eat.
As it happens, we stumbled upon them just as they were serving afternoon tea. We sat, we ordered, and we enjoyed. The price was only £17, but everything had a lovely vintage feel, with big chunky scones and cupcakes. It was like dropping by your grandparents for some tea, the sort of grandparents who say they’ll just fetch a pot of tea and a few biscuits and then bring out a huge tray of goodies.
We loved every minute of it and would happily recommend Bullivant of York to anyone looking for a more traditional experience. Even in deepest Northumberland and Durham we couldn’t find anything this vintage and this quaint.
What About Betty’s Afternoon Tea?
We can’t write an article on afternoon tea in York without discussing Betty’s Tearoom. It is simply not possible.
We wrote extensively about the Bettys’ experience in Harrogate. It was one of the best places to enjoy cream tea in that city and we expected something similar here.
To our delight, the queues were nowhere near as long and the service was just as impeccable, but it lacked some of the charm that you will find in the Harrogate location. Maybe it’s the fact that Harrogate itself is smaller and alot more upmarket (no disrespect to York, as this is an awesome city) but whatever it was, it was lacking.
That’s not to say that it isn’t a great place to enjoy afternoon tea in York though, because it most definitely is. We just wouldn’t put it at the top of the list and would happily give it a miss if there was a queue of Harrogate-sized proportions.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro
This is a chain of hotels that can be found across the north of England and Scotland, including Newcastle and Edinburgh. Chains don’t always have the best afternoon teas simple because they tend to keep everything uniform and bland, shipping the same produce in for every location and losing originality in the process.
But it’s a different story with the Hotel du Vin & Bistro in York. They provide a modern take on classic cream teas, with the finest ingredients. These include bagels made with cream cheese and smoked salmon from the Severn and Wye, a croissant made with Gruyere cheese, and some amazing jams.
To top it off there are desserts that are a little more familiar, including homemade candy floss! To say that these desserts wowed us would be an understatement. It was a great way to finish off a fantastic meal.
It’s the sort of menu that may lead to a few twisted faces and some trepidation, but one that always goes down well. In fact, we eat every last morsel and we enjoyed the price just as much as we only paid £22.50 per person.
Other Places to Enjoy Cream Tea in York
We went to many more places than the ones listed above and while most of these were good, they didn’t quite compare to the ones that ultimately made the list.
We love the city of York though and will return again and again. If something else comes up, or we feel like one of those previous locations makes big improvements, we’ll add it to the list.
This is glorious city that the rest of the country doesn’t give enough respect to. The average person would struggle to think of any attractions other than Little Shambles—a small street that looks like it has been taken from a postcard of Stratford upon Avon—but there is so much more to see.