Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Friday, 12 January 2018

A hard days graft (Whelk Copper Tearoom)

Whelk Copper Tearoom,
Sheringham,
Opening times Everyday10-4,
Recommended 
Yesterday was going to be a hard days cafe cycling as I had 3 missions to complete. This was because the first consignment of the The Cake Crusader book had turned up and I needed to start to flog them if I was ever going to get to the top of the best sellers list.They have been flying off the virtual Kindle shelves with 9 copies already sold in only 3 weeks, I was hoping to crack the magic double figures in the next few days, but for now I have real books to sell.
The first consignment of the Cake Crusader book
To kick off the marketing campaign I have organised a ride for this weekend with family and friends before a book signing in the kitchen. I have been told by my literary friends that for such an event you need to provide nibbles. I'm going for cheese scones, flapjacks and sausage rolls as these were my previous things of the year. I would only have time to collect one of the actual winning examples and opted to go for flapjack from The Funky Mackerel in Sheringham. I can always make or buy the sausage rolls and scones.

Therefore my first mission of the day was to get to Sheringham to pick up the flapjack. The second mission was to review a new cafe while I was there. I had invited Big George as today's cycling guest and as one of the key characters in my book I decided to give him a copy. Knowing what I had written about him then the third mission was to keep him on side in order to avoid a potential libel case. I thought the best way of achieving this was to take him to his favourite stop which is the village shop and cafe at Itteringham. If we were really lucky we might come across some brownies for brownie of the year #BOTY but we weren't and we didn't.

It was a foggy morning but not too cold as we set off on our busy day. Big George had sensibly come in his bright orange jacket to make sure he was really visible and he was.
A grey day only brightened by Big Georges jacket
After an hour or so we got to our first stop at Itteringham.
Outside the fabulous Itteringham shop and cafe
I was excited to see there was now a new extended seating area rather than just the one table squeezed in the corner. However Big George is very fond of the table in the corner and insisted on sitting there while I ordered his coffee and sausage roll. I went for a nice cup of tea and some of the excellent tiffin I have enjoyed here before. I was saving my hot chocolate for the new cafe we would be going to in Sheringham.
Tea and tiffin
As always everything was excellent and the tiffin so nice that I nearly forgave the fact it had been delivered on it's serviette! But I couldn't quite and had to tweet a photo. Remember #Keepcakeoffserviettes.
You know what I think of this!
Refreshed we set off on the final leg up to Sheringham and today's new cafe The Whelk Coppers tearooms which we found right on the seafront.
Outside the Whelk Copper tea rooms
The sea views plus the lovely open fire gave it a high AAA. 
Big George was asked to move away from the edge
as his jacket was mistaken for Cromer lighthouse
The cake selection was smallish but still effective and I was informed it was much bigger in high season rather than in the middle of January. I opted for ginger cake and Big George went for a second sausage roll instead of cake so as to avoid having to get involved in any cake rating, which he hates.

Cycling guest cycling top tip No 65. If you want to avoid tummy ache then never ever ever have two sausage rolls on the same cafe cycle ride.
 
Part of the cake selection

Our drinks were fairly ordinary but my ginger cake was very nice and scored well. The staff were very friendly and the setting alone makes it worth a visit.
Half eaten but very nice ginger cafe
With two tasks complete we popped over to the Funky Mackerel where I purchase 8 pieces of giant flapjack for Saturdays big event.
Flapjack in the bag, literally
As it was still very foggy and getting cold we decided to take the train back to Norwich to end a very successful day. It was then back to Crusader Towers to start tidying up the kitchen for the big event.

Scores for Whelk Copper Tearooms
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.05
5.32
6.95
7.45
7.67
6.69
Route

Click here to download 38 mile Norwich to Sheringham GPX file for your Gps

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Plan D. (The Green Grocers Cafe, Norwich)

The Green Grocers Cafe,
Norwich,
Opening times Mon-Sat 8-5, Sun 9-4,
Highly Recommended 
It has been nearly a month since I last reviewed a new cycle cafe stop. This is a new record but not one I wanted to break. I have been thraughted be the weather, illness, injury and cafes shutting over Christmas. Fortunately it is now only the weather that I'm battling against (or so I thought).

However I have not been idle during this time as I have:
  • held the final of #SROTY
  • announced news of brownie of the year #BOTY in 2018
  • published the Cake Crusader book on Kindle (printed version available in next couple of weeks)
  • worked on my new Cake Crusader website that should be 'going live' in the next few weeks.
It has certainly been a busy time for me working away in my secret bicycle workshop hidden deep under Crusader Towers.

I was therefore relieved to get back to basics and go on a real ride today. However in the end it took some effort to achieve this. 

Plan A. Was to take regular cycling guest Andrew (who continues to be notoriously hard to please) on a route from Hard to Please House out to North Norfolk and return via the Farm shop and cafe at Roughton. However yesterday Andrew told me he had some good news and bad news as one of his daughters was coming on a surprise visit so he would have to call off. This all looked like bad news to me.

Plan B. Fortunately Big George was available at short notice so we arranged a 50 mile trip to a cafe just outside Beccles. However yesterday evening the weather forecaster informed me that strong and gusting winds were on the way making the trip look a little too dangerous to undertake.

Plan C. After a late night replanning session a new shorter and wind friendly 30 mile route was in place finishing at a cafe at Hellesdon Barns near Norwich.

Despite it raining quite hard Big George arrived on time as we set off on our mission. Big George was quick to tell me that he had read the first two chapters of my book as they are available as a taster on the kindle site. He was not happy. He didn't mind that I had mocked his strong scottish accent or highlighted his love of hoovering but he had taken exception when I pointed out that, despite his nickname, he isn't actually that big. I promised that in the next book (there won't be one) I would make it clear that for someone from mid west Scotland he was actually very big. Good job he hasn't read the rest of the book, I thought, as it could turn nasty.

As we got wetter and colder we were both pleased we had shorterend the ride and were looking forward to our hot drinks at today's venue near the end of the ride. But then disaster as when we arrived we were met by a locked gate and the discovery that Hellesdon Barns were having an extra long Christmas break and the cafe doesn't reopen until January 10th.

Plan D. We had an emergency replanning session and decided to go to the Green Grocers Cafe in Norwich which is only a couple of miles from Crusader Towers. When we arrived we were still not in the clear as it was very busy and we didn't fancy an outside seat as we already had hypothermia.
Outside the green grocer cafe in the continental outdoor style seating area
Fortunately there were a couple of seats at the breakfast bar indoor seating area so we squeezed in there. 

There was a very warm and buzzing atmosphere inside the hipster style surroundings. The cake selection on display was small but very interesting. I was pleased when the waiter confirmed they did have brownies for me to test as part of #BOTY and keeping with the cafes image I could either have a vegan or non vegan one. I'm sure you can guess which I went for as I disappointed the waiter.
Cake selection on display
Big George went for a bacon sandwich which is neither a cake or vegan so disappointed both me and the waiter.
Today's Brownie for #BOTY testing
Our Hot Chocolate and Cappuccino were both very good and we felt that Plan D had ended up as a very good one as the Green Grocers cafe performed really well and I highly recommend a visit.
Excellent hot drinks and a highly recommended cafe
It was now just a short ride home to complete today's trip and new cafe visit 323 was in the bag. I just hope it isn't another month before number 324.

Ratings

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7
8
6.4
7.2
7.3
7.18
Route

Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Weston Longville loop gpx file for your gps

Saturday, 16 December 2017

SROTY Final winner annouced

SROTY Finals 
December 2017
It was the most dramatic final for a thing of the year since the competition started 3 years ago. This years thing was the sausage roll and over the year I have tried over 50 at the various cafes I have cycled to. 

After qualification finished last week the top 8 were selected for today's sausage roll off back at Crusader Towers. However before the final, thing of the year rules dictate that I must collect the finalists by bike and this is where the drama started.

On Wednesday I set off for the first 3 cafe finalists (Earsham Street Bungay, Gardeners Kitchen Bergh Apton and Little Pigs Poringland). I had gone less than a mile when I clipped the curb and flew off my bike on to the pavement. Unfortunately I landed on my face and felt my front tooth bend in my mouth, then my ribs landed on the phone in my top pocket causing me some pain. 

Despite some blood, a wobbly tooth and bruised ribs I decide to press on or the SROTY final would have to be cancelled. Although a bit dazed and in some pain I completed the the 38 mile ride and the first set of sausage rolls were in the bag. 
Sausage rolls collected from Gardener's Kitchen
After a rib resting day off I joined up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House for the North Norfolk sausage roll collection. Things didn't look good as it was a 60 mile ride, there was rain in the air and my ribs hurt but even though Andrew is a vegetarian he knew that the ride must go on and encouraged us to set off on another epic ride. There was a good sign as we were met by an early rainbow. I felt this was an excellent omen meaning we would find sausage rolls at the end of it. As it turned out what it actually meant was that it was about to rain, which it did.
Rainbow didn't have pots of sausage rolls at the end but just meant it was going to rain
As we approached Creake Abbey Cafe farm shop Andrew announced he had a puncture so I left him to mend it while I dashed off to collect the necessary sausage rolls. As I entered the farm shop the heavens opened and one of us got a soaking. To add to the drama there was only one super large sausage roll left and it was Christmas themed (with added cranberries and chestnuts) but as there was no alternative I had to go with it (although SROTY really requires the roll to be a non fancy one).
Andrew fixed his puncture while I brought the SR's
When I returned Andrew claimed he could no longer feel his extremities and seemed unconcerned that I had only managed to get a Christmas themed sausage roll.

We continued in a constant drizzle to the Great Walsingham Cafe for our next collection. Whilst there Andrew insisted we phone our last stop (Artemis in Cley) to make sure they had 3 rolls left as we were now past lunchtime. This was very wise as they had in fact sold out.
Sausage rolls collected at Great Walsingham
Fortunately my first reserve (Owl in Holt) was also in range so we replanned our route and headed there.

The Owl in Holt came up trumps as first reserve
Day two had been long, cold, wet and painful but very satisfying as I was still on track to be able to hold the final.


Today the plan was to go on a final 30 mile ride, with my tasting panel and official adjudicator, to collect the last two finalists (Four seasons in Wymondham and Piano in Ketteringham Hall) before the final would take place back at Crusader towers.

Once again things didn't go smoothly as after a few miles we hit a road that was covered in black ice and with cyclists sliding and a couple of falling off incidents the ride was abandoned. I was left to slide off to collect the last finalists.

Back at Crusader Towers with everything now in place the draw for the first round of the sausage roll off was made. Jenny (Vegetarian) supervised proceedings while my tasting team warmed up and cleansed their palates.
Crack sausage roll tasting team ready for the first round
The draw for the first round saw 
Earsham Street Cafe v Gardeners Kitchen
Little Pigs v Four Seasons
The Owl v Creake Abbey Cafe
Great Walsingham cafe v Piano Tearoom

Just to reach the knockout phase is a real achievement as all the sausage rolls were excellent. Earsham Street and Four seasons had comfortable early wins before The Owl v Creake Abbey sausage roll off, which proved to be a cracking tie. Some of the tasting team felt the christmas additions counted against Creake Abbey and they went out 4-3. The Great Walsingham v Piano match was a battle of the sausage roll giants (literally) and lived up to its 'tie of the round' billing with the judge's finding it hard to pick a winner but Great Walsingham eventually came out on top.
Sausage Rolls being prepared for first round action
The semi final draw was made with Earsham Street playing Great Walsingham cafe and The Owl against Four Seasons.

The Earsham Street v Great Walsingham clash was a classic match up and would have made a worthy final but in the end Earsham Street proved too strong and progressed through. In the other semi Four Seasons came out a 5-2 winner but it was an excellent showing from the Owl to get this far after its last minute call up to the finals.

After the finalists were heated up they were introduced to the crowd ready for the last tasting of the year.
Last two sausage rolls standing
It couldn't have been a closer match as the tasting team were split 4 votes to 3 but Earsham Street had just come out on top to be crowned champions and Sausage Roll of the Year winners.
Action from the SROTY final
Many congratulations to them and all the finalists in one of the best (or only) sausage roll off's anyone could remember taking part in.

I will shortly be announcing what thing of the year will be next year when I will return to something baked and sweet.















Friday, 1 December 2017

Weather warning. (The Sitting Room, Sheringham)

The Sitting Room,
Sheringham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 9:30-5, Sun 9:30-4,
Highly Recommended 
Yesterday morning I waited patiently for Andrew's (who is notoriously hard to please) text to arrive which would call off our planned ride due to the wind, sleet and snow being forecast, but it never arrived. Last time he called off it was on the basis that there might be a light shower (there wasn't). 

When setting off time had arrived and with no text forthcoming I was forced to leave for Hard to Please House in the rain. Maybe it wasn't so bad in Aylsham I thought.

When I arrived (in heavy rain) Andrew claimed he wouldn't dare call off another ride after the stick I gave him last time so with neither of us wanting to be the one to wimp out we were forced to go. The plan remained to head to Sheringham but at least we agreed to go the direct way.

As we left the the heavy rain turned to sleet which turn to hail which turned to snow all within the 12 mile ride to the cafe.

Our destination was The Sitting room which is next to an Art Gallery on the edge of Sheringham town centre.
Outside the Sitting Room
Inside was nicely appointed, although it may also have been because we were pleased to find somewhere dry that we both agreed it deserved a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score.
Good AAA as Andrew attemots to warm up
It was an interesting if not huge cake selection with some posh looking individual cakes available as well as traditional style sponge cakes. I went for cranberry and orange cake but Andrew went for a croissant which doesn't count as a cake (although keen followers of Cake Crusader rules know that it would before 9.00am).
Cake selection including croissants which aren't cakes
We squelched over to our seats to warm up. Andrew liked his cappuccino and croissant but my hot chocolate was much more what was required on a day like this and was excellent. The real bits of grated chocolate on the top were a nice touch. My cake was also very nice so good refreshment marks all round.
Excellent refreshments espically the hot chocolate
The sitting room had turned out to be a very good stop on such a wintery day and I highly recommend a visit.

We were not keen to leave but then the waitress suggested that we go. She was not being rude but said a storm was on it's way so felt we needed to make most of the current lull. As coastal folk know about these things we dashed back to our bikes and set off in the dry. At least, that is, until we got to the top of the road when the rain and snow started again and we got very cold and wet on our return to Hard to Please House. 
Arctic conditions as we set off from the Sitting Room
Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 64. To avoid getting frostbite and hypothermia on your cafe cycle ride be prepared to postpone it when arctic conditions are forecast.

Next time I plan to follow Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 64. 

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8
6
6.5
7.82
8.5
7.31
route to be published shortly

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Winter is coming. (Alby Tea rooms, Alby)

Alby Tea Rooms,
Alby,
Opening times Tue-Sun 10-4:00,
Recommended 
It was the first frosty morning of the year so I had to dig out all my warm layers for today's cafe cycle ride. I was joined by Big George as my cycling guest. Despite the cold we decided to head North today and would be going up to Alby which is beyond the Wall so hoped to avoid any white walkers. Winter is coming.

The leaves on the trees were all on the way out as we were treated to a magnificent display of autumn colours. Big George was so excited that he put on his orange cycle top in order to blend him. Can you spot him in the photo?
Fabulous winter colours and Big George
To keep warm we cycled hard so the 25 miles up to the Alby tea rooms flew past.

Alby tea rooms is part of the craft centre and gardens. It has a nice court yard outdoor seating area but it was too cold for that so we headed inside.
Outside Alby Tea Rooms in the outdoor seating couurt yard area
I was impressed with the cake selection which had a good range of interesting sponge cakes. I opted for Pistaccio as I can't resist green cake.
Good selection of sponge cakes
There were also some good looking sausage rolls which we tried for #SROTY and agreed that they could well find themselves in the sausage roll off in a few weeks time.
Potential finalist for #SROTY
We sat at a large table and I noticed that the tea rooms had been decorated with old vinyl records, singles and albums, in and out of their covers. Vinyl record decoration is clearly very 2017 as it is the second tea room I have been to decorated in this way in the last week. I wonder what 2018 will bring.

When our refreshments arrived Big George's cappuchino had the most froth I have ever seen but he said it was still a nice one. My hot chocolate wasn't as good but performed very well on the hot part as I burnt my mouth on the first sip.
Cakes and drinks ready for testing
The pistachio cake was nice and I'm sure Big George would have enjoyed his cake too if he could have been bothered to have one.

The Alby tea rooms was a very good stop on such a cold day and I recommend a visit.

As this was my third ride with Big George in the last two weeks we had long since run out of things to talk about so I made sure we returned at just a fast enough speed to make conversation difficult and therefore weren't embarrassed by the silence. I have decided not to ride with Big George again for at least a month by which time we hopefully would have done some new things to talk about.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5
7
8
7
7.2
6.84
route to be published shortly

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cheese scone hot or not? (Piano tearooms, Wymondham)

Piano Tea Rooms,
Ketteringham
Opening times Wed-Sun 10-4:00,
Highly Recommended 
I had been trying for sometime to organise a ride to the recently opened Piano Tea Rooms at Ketteringham Hall but a combination of cycling guest availability and opening times had delayed my visit.

When golfing friend Tim mentioned he was keen to get back to cycling after a several year gap then it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a new cafe with a new cycling guest.

Tim has been going cycling mad over the last year but only at indoor spin cycle classes as he hasn't got a proper bike. As a man with a number of bikes (although I always have one less than I need) I was happy to lend him one for our 30 mile loop. 

After his cycling break I I was impressed how well Tim got going, it was just like riding a bike for him. It is always hard to judge what speed to go with a new cycling guest so my normal tactic is to go faster and faster until they can't keep up and then I know what pace to stay within. I had forgotten that in the world of indoor spin you must never show a weakness so no matter how fast I went Tim was determined to keep up meaning we made it to the Piano Tea Rooms in record time, although completed knackered.

The tea room is situated in the orangery on the side of Ketteringham hall. Outside there are lots of tables over looking the grounds. For a newly opened tea room on a Wednesday in mid November I was surprised how busy it was, which was a good sign.
In the outside seating area at the Piano Tea Room at Ketteringham Hall
The cake selection was very good, mainly big sponge cakes, and I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark. 
Good selection of sponge cakes
Owner Kim is a keen follower of the blog and knows my view on cheese scones in that I believe they are best served warm but she challenged me to try one of hers at room temperature, which I was happy to do along with a piece of toffee apple cake.

As a new cycling guest Tim clearly wanted to fit in and must have thought it was normal to order two items (or maybe he's just greedy) so he had apricot flapjack and coffee and walnut cake.

As it was busy inside and a mild day we opted for one of the outside tables to have our refreshments delivered to.

The drinks arrived first and my hot chocolate was a good one with a proper chocolate taste. Tim thought the flavour of his latte coffee was good but it wasn't hot enough for him to give top guest hot drink quality marks.

The cakes were superb, having good generous slices, with my toffee apple cake being the best cake I can remember enjoying this much for ages (and I have had a lot of cake). Tim also raved about his apricot flapjack as well. 
Cakes and drinks, although Tim had finished his coffee before I had a chance to snap it
But the question we all wanted answering was if the cheese scone could successfully operate at ambient temperature and I must say I felt it did easily carry it off being both light and cheesey although I still think it would have been even better if warmed.

I told Tim how lucky he was that we had gone to a top notch venue for his first ride and not to think all cafes and tearooms have views, cake and flapjack this good. As such I highly recommend a visit.

On the way back Tim said he had enjoyed the ride so much he was thinking of getting a new bike and doing more cycling outside in future, although if he always has two pieces of cake at his cafe stops he'll need to.

Ratings
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.1
6.5
8
9.2
8.2
8.00
Map of route


Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Attleborough loop gpx file for your GPS