I could hardly have had a better day in Harrogate. It’s not only the fantastic places to get a good cuppa, but the weather was good, the blossom was out and even the local Tourist Information Office tuned into exactly what I needed to make this the perfect Fancy a Cuppa? day.
Things began rather well at LMDC Espresso Bar.
I knew I was in for an early morning treat as soon as I saw they used Square Mile coffee, and the great thing about top quality espresso is that it doesn’t actually give you the same rough-edged caffeine crisis you can quickly get from cheaper coffee. I’d have had a second cup if I didn’t have such a busy schedule ahead of me.
What a nice feel to LMDC, though. New owner Lesley has only been in charge for a month, but she’s inherited a great little place and has lots of ideas for taking it forward in the future. Oh, and her home-made banana loaf (toasted with butter) is about as good as any you’ll find in Sydney or Melbourne.
I was in for a surprise at the Tourist Information Centre in Harrogate.
It’s usually a good spot to get some ideas for where to find the quirky facts I like to add to my intros for each town we visit, but I rarely get talking about tea and coffee. Ah, but in Harrogate, they have Bridget.
Bridget is not only a mine of information on Harrogate (as are her colleagues, mind). She also has strong views on where to go for a good cuppa. I almost invited her to join the Fancy a Cuppa? team after she had listed about six must-visit tea places in North Yorkshire…
But I knew where I wanted to try next: it’s actually a Danish interior design shop opposite Harrogate’s Royal Pump Rooms.
Rasmus Café opened only last summer as an add-on to the interiors shop run by the same couple. This is the place to go for coffee in style, or rather surrounded by style. But it’s a very Scandinavian place, so the style is all Eames chairs and fittings that remind me of Arne Jacobsen.
The coffee is good, from Yorkshire-based Grumpy Mule, and the cakes have a bit of a celebrity connection, being made by another Yorkshire company which got through the Dragons’ Den on TV to win funding from one of the Dragons!
It was great to connect with Lydie, the café manager, who comes from eastern France and seems to have lived in all the nicest spots in England; and to say hello to Sally, one of the Rasmus owners, to hear her story. Oh, and if you go there, don’t miss the toilets for some very special taps…
Talking of taps, the Rasmus Café is right opposite one of Harrogate’s famous spa buildings: the Royal Pump Rooms. There’s actually still a tap on the outside and a button you can press…Trouble is, you get all the sulphurous smells, but the tap runs dry and not a drop appeared; not for me anyway.
And that was the only disappointment of the day.
Harrogate is a fabulous place just to wander around. The Stray is 200 acres of open green land, right in the middle of town – left to the town by some former baronial landowner, but to be used as common land – a fantastic space.
And there are beautiful old buildings all around. Many date from its heyday as a Victorian spa centre for curing your rheumatism and lumbago. But one of my favourites is the 1930s art deco cinema, still in operation today (and there aren’t many of those around England these days).
But after pacing the streets and the Stray, tea beckoned as usual.
I could have joined the queue for a traditional afternoon tea at Betty’s.
But, you know, lovely though that is, I’m more interested these days in the smaller tea rooms that are moving tea in the direction coffee took about six or seven years ago.
Bean and Bud is actually as much a tea room as a coffee shop.
They have a fantastic range of loose-leaf teas, and co-owner Ruth knows a thing or two about tea, having visited plantations during her time working for Café Direct before she moved north to Harrogate.
She steered me towards a very tasty Malawi tea, which washed down their special cake of the day – a Sussex Plum Sponge (very good, even though we’re in Yorkshire and plums aren’t in season yet!).
Ruth and Hayden run a fantastic place in one of Harrogate’s nicest independent retail areas – Commercial Street.
And such is their enthusiasm for what they’re doing and the quality of their coffee as well as their tea, they insisted I try their special single estate espresso before I left. What a treat. I shan’t get all lyrical about the fruity flavours (I hate that wine-buff style of coffee review), but you really can taste the sweetness in their Yirgacheffe…
Makes me aware of just how much I love what I’m doing with these Fancy a Cuppa? projects. I left Harrogate with a beaming smile on my face.
Harrogate recently came top of some sort of happiness survey conducted by the property website Rightmove. After days like these, I can understand why…