Tastes Worth Travelling For

From fine British cheeses to a full Scottish breakfast, there are dozens of local dishes you should make a detour for. But, says Jenni Muir, there's little to rival a really great afternoon tea
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Afternoon Tea at Betty's

Afternoon Tea at Betty's

While taking high tea in London's grand hotels is often a disappointment, a visit to Betty's never fails to delight. This small chain of tearooms is a distinctive blend of Yorkshire traditions and Swiss perfectionism. On the menus, Yorkshire curd tarts sit comfortably alongside franzipan fruit tarts, Fat Rascals alongside chocolate torte, rarebits alongside rosti. Founded by a continental patissier, Frederick Belmont, Betty's opened in Harrogate in 1919. Belmont believed everything should be "fresh and dainty" and that "if we want things just right, we have to do them ourselves". Staying true to these principles, the business has expanded to five branches yet the company still makes everything by hand. And it remains true to its Yorkshire roots, buying cheeses from Wensleydale, sausages from Masham and free-range eggs from local farms.

Tea at Betty's has become essential on any visit to Yorkshire and, if you're also sampling Harrogate's famous spa waters, they advise you do that first. "We've always had a sneaking suspicion Frederick Belmont opened Betty's to help visiting gentry take the taste away!"

Where: 1 Parliament Street, Harrogate. Yorkshire. www.bettysandtaylors.co.uk Tel: 01423 502 746. Branches in York, Ilkley and Northallerton.

National Fruit Collections, Brogdale

Which Russet with your cheese board? The popular Egremont Russet, with its firm, fine-texture, rather dry flesh and rich, nutty flavour is not just one of 33 types of apple in the National Fruit Collections - it's one of 33 types of Russet.

The full collection has 2040 varieties of apple, plus 502 pears, 322 cherries, 144 gooseberries and plenty more. When it comes to plums, there is not just the Victoria and Green Gage, but the Black Prince, Blue Tit, Blaisdon Red, Golden Bullace, Great Yellow and Late Orange.

This priceless 'living' collection of temperate fruit varieties is housed in 150 acres of beautiful orchards near Faversham and has immense gastronomic, social, scientific, horticultural and historic value. Kent has been a centre of fruit growing since the Roman occupation and in Tudor times, Henry VIII's fruiterer, Richard Harris, established the first large scale orchards at Teynham, just a few miles from Brogdale, scouring the known world for the best varieties.

The orchards are a spectacular place to visit in blossom time, but also in late summer and autumn when so much of the fruit is ready for picking. Brogdale's shop sells many of the fruits in season, as well as juices, jams and chutneys, country wines and ciders.

Where: Brogdale Horticultural Trust, Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent. www.brogdale.org, Tel: 01795 535286.

Scottish Breakfast

The 'full English' has nothing on a menu that is full of the Scottish pleasures of the breakfast table. During a tour of Scotland in 1773, wowed by the dram, porridge and array of conserves, Dr Samuel Johnson wrote: "If an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratifications, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland."

Porridge is but an appetizer to this delectable feast. You could also consider ham and haddie (finnan haddock with ham or perhaps bacon), a hot-buttered Arbroath smokie, or a fry-up featuring Ayrshire bacon, Stornoway black pudding and eggs. Then there would be jams made from the soft fruit for which Scotland is so famous, Dundee marmalade, heather honey, fresh butter and a choice of baked goods to slather them on - butteries, bannocks and oatcakes.

Sue Lawrence, author of Scots Cooking, says that for ingredient quality and range of dishes, the Turnberry Restaurant at the Westin Turnberry resort and spa is Scotland's best table for breakfast. Proper oatmeal, made with water and salt (never milk) and whisky to splash on it, kippers, local sausages.

There's even modern fare such as bloody marys, though with all the good things in a traditional Scottish breakfast, why would you want those?

Where: Westin Turnberry Resort, Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland. www.turnberry.co.uk, Tel: 01655 331000.

Clonakilty Black Pudding

People reluctant to try black puddings are often surprised how delicious they are and wind up enjoying them guiltily.

There are many ancient cultural taboos associated with blood consumption - the modern view is that it's just plain gickky - but if anything can persuade you to think of black pudding as a treat, it is the one made in Clonakilty by Edward Twomey of Harrington's butcher shop.

Demand is such that manufacture has recently been moved to a small factory, though the black pudding is made by hand to the same recipe Edward inherited when he brought the nineteenth-century shop from an uncle in 1976.

The flavour of pig's blood is mild and unobtrusive, so tastiness comes from flavourings added to the mix.

In the case of Clonakilty black pudding the combination is simple: blood, meat, onion, pinhead oatmeal and spices. The sister white pudding is slightly less fatty and contains pork meat, onions, oatmeal and spices. Both are packed in ox 'runner'. To cook, they simply need to be sliced about half an in thick and fried in a little oil until crisp on each side.

Where: 16 Pearse Street, Clonakilty, West Cork, Ireland. www.clonakiltyblackpudding.ie, Tel: +353 233 3733.

Buying Cheese at Neal's Yard Dairy

Walk into ritzy food hall Dean and Deluca in New York and you will be amazed at the number of British cheeses on offer - and they're all from Neal's Yard Dairy.

The international repute of this dynamic cheesemonger has almost reversed the hippy connotations of the 'real' Neal's Yard in WC2 itself, but when the business opened there in 1979 there was indeed a self-sufficiency vibe to it.

Cheese was made and sold on the tiny premises. Within a year, however, Randolph Hodgson began scouring the British Isles for farmhouse cheeses to sell as well, and eventually Charlie Westhead moved to Herefordshire to make Neal's Yard's own cheeses, cream and yogurt. Now there is a bigger shop and storeroom in Borough Market too, and a thriving mail order business.

In an era when the historic British territorials were being downgraded to mousetrap, Neal's Yard set about restoring their dignity. They let you know who made the cheese, matured it properly and told you for how long, gave you a taste so you could decide whether you wanted to buy it or another cheese.

The brilliant formula is still working, an army of assistants attends to the customers who queue patiently out the door, while lesser cheese-mongers are still struggling to provide a taster.

Where: 6 Park Street, Borough Market, London SE1. www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk, Tel: 020 7645 3554.

Also at 17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, London WC2. Tel: 020 7240 5700.