Eating everything in York
First stop, while we were still in the railway station: the West Cornwall Pasty Co (warning: website is an impenetrable Flash nightmare). We were drawn in by the enormous pastries, but ended up ordering a lovely, warm Cumberland sausage bun.
And then Julie's train arrived, and we all set out into the cold, damp day to find Bettys.
One of the greatest misapprehensions about the English is that we spend a significant part of every day drinking tea and eating tiny, crustless sandwiches.
While it's true that My People do put away a fair amount of tea — in preparation for visiting my parents, The Boy and I have to increase our caffeine tolerance — the whole china-tea-service-and-dainty-cakes concept is a special event, not a daily occurrence.
But though English people have more important things to do than eat petits fours and sip Earl Grey every day, that's not to say they don't enjoy it, given the chance. Bettys, a 100-year-old chain of teashops local to Yorkshire, fulfills the need.
The York branch is the flagship, allegedly designed to resemble the Queen Mary. It's a good mix of solid brass and delicate stained glass, with huge wraparound windows, which are great when you're inside, staring at the long line of people waiting outside for a table.
Bettys menu is pretty extensive — everything from toasted teacakes to steak pie, with a wide variety of teas and coffees. We thought about doing the full-on afternoon tea (sandwiches, scones and clotted cream), but then Julie and I decided on the Yorkshire Rarebit (strong Cheddar and Yorkshire ale):
The Boy went for the bacon, Gruyère and Raclette rösti, creamy and sweet with a touch of smoky saltiness:
And then, because it's a Bettys thing: Fat Rascals.
They're scone-like, with raisins and candied fruit, and a face made of almonds and cherries. They're fabulous warm with butter. Here's a Fat Rascals recipe.
Finally, stuffed with cheese and Rascals, we stumbled back out into the gray, damp day, and strolled around York Minster. You want history? This version of the building was begun in 1080. The first church on the site was thrown together in 627. Old enough?
Oh look, more pasties.
Back in my day, pasties came in two styles: meat and potato or cheese and onion. Now you can get everything: pork and apple, balti chicken, something with feta (!?). The world has changed.
One last stop on the way back to York train station: Demijohn, which sells artisanal oils, spirits, vinegars and preserves siphoned out of ... well ...
We got to sample the sloe gin, which was berry-bitter, refreshing and warming.
And then back to the station for hugs goodbye and a train heading north and the realization that there was so much more food to discover.
Thanks for a fab day, Joolz!