Harrogate, in Yorkshire, is renowned, says the gal, for gardens, spas and thermal waters, and fine foods. This is, for instance, the home of Bettys and Taylors Group, founded in 1962 as the marriage between Bettys, which goes back to 1919 and tea specialist Taylors of Harrogate, which can claim lineage back to 1886.
Chairman of the Board Jonathan Wild and MDs Andrew Brown and Linda Close look after a global empire that is best known for chocolate, coffee, tea and breakfast through to evening sustenance, to the tune of well over £100 million a year in all. Cleverly, Bettys Cookery School suggests not only individual lessons in, says, baking & desserts as well as chocolate, but also corporate event activities. What a great idea for making an assembly of accountants – yawn yawn – more interesting, get’em all to put on aprons and learn how to make quiches (OK, we know real men do not eat’em anyway).
On one occasion in this beautiful Yorkshire town I took part in a murder-simulation weekend (Agatha Christie temporarily disappeared from here). This time, however, I was fascinated to see how the Bettys and Taylors Group works so closely with the town’s leading business and convention hotel, Crowne Plaza Harrogate, of which more later. Anyone with an enquiring mind staying at this most agreeable hotel is going to visit the main Bettys Tea Room, in Parliament Street, a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the hotel. You enter the café area, above, through a foyer with a wall of teapots, which reminds me of the display in the Tea House at Beijing’s NUO luxury hotel. My eye was also caught by a display suggesting Bettys gifts as thank-you to teachers at the end of the school year: not having a teacher to thank I still came away with lots of goodies, mostly chocolates and the like, memories of my extremely happy stay in Harrogate. And, as so often, I wished yet more hotels partnered more closely with brand names in their destinations.
Another example of this is also found in England, but further south. Any luxury hotel in the Banbury, Blenheim, Oxford and Stratford area would be well advised, when suggesting places for guests who must ‘eat out’, to send them in the direction of The Chandlers Arms in Epwell. Why? This modernised pub is run by Assumpta Golding, a lovely warm fireball of a lady from the West of Ireland. She epitomises hospitality, makes everyone, even a first-timer, feel at home. Come here for typical English cooking – say salmon and new potatoes, with a good glass of wine (and visit the washrooms, adorned with just-picked fresh flowers in vases). Again, I wish more hotels would partner with others close to their destinations.