Tourists eager to sample Britain’s best traditional afternoon tea should head not to the Ritz or the Savoy but to the northern market town of Northallerton, home to Bettys Café Tea Rooms. Last week it was awarded the title Top Tea Place 2012, the highest accolade in the annual Tea Guild Awards, which the organisation describes as the “Oscars” of the tea world. Undercover inspectors from the guild, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting tea, toured the nation’s tea rooms and awarded top marks to Bettys for “delightful surroundings and affable staff” as well as the “variety and amount of sandwiches, scones and delicious cakes”. Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, Surrey, won the award for best hotel afternoon tea, while the Athenaeum Hotel was named London’s top afternoon tea venue.
Sir Richard Branson has announced plans to open a luxurious tented camp in Kenya. It will sit alongside Necker Island and the Lodge in Verbier as part of Virgin’s “Limited Edition” accommodation portfolio. Construction of the camp, called Mahali Mzuri (“beautiful place” in Swahili), is due to begin soon, with opening scheduled for next year. The camp will consist of 12 two-person tents, with prices from $580 per person per night, full board.
The eagerly anticipated NoMad hotel opens this weekend in a restored 1905 beaux-arts building on the corner of Broadway and 28th Street. French designer Jacques Garcia drew his inspiration for the 168 bedrooms from the Paris flat he lived in during his 20s (there are antique desks, claw-foot bath tubs and original artworks). Doubles from $395.
The centenary of the sinking of the Titanic is prompting a flurry of tourism activity, with at least three UK cities eager to capitalise on their connections to the doomed ship. Southampton will open its new £15m Sea City Museum on April 10, exactly 100 years after the Titanic set sail from the city’s docks. The museum will focus on exhibits about the ship’s crew, many of whom lived there. Despite sailing from Southampton, Titanic was registered in Liverpool (headquarters of the White Star Line), where centenary events include the opening of a new exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum this weekend and a three-day street theatre event, from April 20-22, produced by marionette experts Royal De Luxe and featuring a 30ft-tall girl who will walk through the city. But Belfast, where the ship was built, is trumping rivals with the £97m Titanic Belfast exhibition, the world’s largest. Housed in a purpose-built six-storey building on the slipways where the ship was built, it includes recreations of cabins and the Grand Staircase. It opens this weekend.
Hotel Hell, a new TV series presented by British chef Gordon Ramsay, is due to begin on Fox this summer. The show, which will also be shown in several European countries, will see Ramsay giving makeovers to struggling US hotels in the same manner as his Kitchen Nightmares programmes. But where Ramsay’s culinary credentials are beyond doubt, when it comes to hotels he may be less experienced than those he advises. Despite restaurant interests around the world, he has just one small hotel, the 10-room York & Albany in Camden, north London.