Where to eat and stay in Harrogate during the Tour de France and beyond
PUBLISHED: 12:09 02 July 2014
With the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire what better excuse to explore Harrogate? Says Janet Reeder
The spotlight will be shining brightly on Yorkshire this month as the world’s greatest cycle race the Tour De France kicks off in the county.
It’s the first time the Tour has ventured as far as the north of England and visiting Harrogate a few weeks ago I got a glimpse of the build-up. Bikes are everywhere, all over the town. Painted yellow, hanging on the walls of restaurants and bars, dangling from ceilings, there’s even a tree that has been sculpted to look like one. It’s all rather fabulous.
And it’s not only bikes. A 100-day cultural festival has been running prior to Le Grand Départ right across the county and Harrogate – the finish of stage one – has its own programme of shows to enjoy.
But even when the best cyclists in the world have pedalled off for their gruelling 3,656 kilometre race, covering 21 stages and culminating in the final push along the Champs Elysées in Paris on July 27th, lovely Harrogate will continue to draw the crowds.
For me, the town is a very smart place to spend a weekend. Maybe it’s the elegant buildings and pretty parks and the fact we were staying in an area called the Montpellier Quarter but it can feel European too.
Drinks in The Badger bar at the White Hart hotel on Friday night draw an elegantly-attired crowd of pleasure seekers, a mixture of smart townies and tweedy toffs. It’s a great place to kick off the weekend with a couple of drinks before dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants. Beware though. Booking is advised at weekends, as we discovered after assuming we could just walk into any dining establishment and a table would be ours. The upside is that the town in buzzing.
We ate at a delightful French place called The Mirabelle within strolling distance of where we were staying (well we were in Le Tour mode) where the Maitre d’ made us immediately feel at home.
The restaurant is currently cooking up a menu themed around the stages of the Tour De France however we chose à la carte, where the highlights included porcelet & joue de porc, slow braised suckling pig, Mill Close Farm, Bedale, Yorkshire, pig cheeks & cider soaked raisins suet pudding, heritage carrot, Cox apple & cider veloute, pork gravy – and a delicious pithivier au champignons et artichauts which is a wild mushrooms & artichoke pithivier, pea broth & pea shoots.
A visit to Harrogate has to include a trip to Bettys Tea Room. Queues form around the block at weekends for those who want to sample the delights of this legend, however you can also book for the full afternoon tea experience, which means you are swept up to the first floor where coats are checked in and staff attend to your every whim while serving up sensational sandwiches, scones and cakes. There’s nothing French about the fancies here (OK, except for a glass of lovely vintage champagne). It’s all gorgeous and traditional. Starched white tablecloths are laden with silver tea things and you can order as many different leaf teas as you like from the menu.
“We have built our business on lifting people’s spirits with simple pleasures” is one memorable quote from the Book of Hearts, Tarts & Rascals, The Story of Bettys by Jonathan Wild.
Around 170 staff keep Bettys in Harrogate open seven days a week and if you look closely, you can check out their brooches; bronze for ten year’s service, silver for 20 years’ and gold for 30-years. it’s all about being part of a family.
We stayed one night in Hotel Du Vin, which is Harrogate’s discreetly elegant Georgian fronted boutique hotel in the smart Montpellier district. With its Egyptian cotton sheets and roll top baths it is all you’d expect from a chic hotel. It has a trademark bistro serving French classics with a British twist – perfect for Le Tour, cosy low lit bars, a games room and a fabulous breakfast. We even celeb spotted Josh Widdecombe who had been performing at Harrogate’s theatre the night before.
And for our next night we decamped to the Crown Hotel, in contrast one of Harrogate’s older hotels but none the worse for that. It has undergone a recent refurb and has taken on a boutique feel too. It is where you can immerse yourself in a little bit of the town’s history and enjoy huge rooms overlooking the pretty park.
The Crown’s dining room where we took breakfast is quite simply amazing. It’s panelled, elegant and really beautiful. You can easily imagine elegant Edwardians staying here then taking the cure at the baths. Fantastic breakfast to match the surroundings too.
The Crown Harrogate: www.thecrownhotelharrogate.com
Hotel du Vin: www.hotelduvin.com
Visit Harrogate: www.visitharrogate.co.uk
This article originally appeared on www.cheshireresident.com