Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

Friday, 21 April 2017

Registration ride 2017. (Stour Space cafe, Stratford and Berwick Tearooms, Dagenham)

Stour Space Cafe,
Every day from 08:00-5:00,
Berwick Tearooms,
Opening times Every day 10:00-4:00 
One thing I enjoy as much as cycling and cake is running races so I'm obviously pleased to be taking part in the London Marathon again this year as it is a jolly big running race. One thing you have to do before taking part, other than the training, is to register at the Excel centre in London.

This gives the ideal opportunity to combine cycling, cake and marathon preparations into a single days activity. To do this I planned to cycle to registration and review a couple of cafes en-route. I obviously won't be cycling all the way from Norwich, I'm not mad, so yesterday myself, with cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), drove to Epping Forest to start a 53 mile cafe cycle marathon registration ride.
About to set off from Epping Forest car park
Most of the first part of the ride went along canals down to the Olympic stadium in Stratford. Although the tracks aren't the smoothest it is traffic free and remarkable that you can go all that way virtually traffic free.
Cycling by the canals
Once at Stratford it was time for first cafe review of the day at Stour Space Gallery Cafe bar. 
Outside Stour Space Gallery Cafe Bar
It was a very bohemian style cafe where the local hipsters hang out. All the other clientele seemed to be doing pointless things on their laptops. While they did that I got out my phone to record the Stour Space Cafe ratings.
View from outside seating terrace area
The cake selection was small but interesting although I noticed the food menu was completely breakfast based, even the sandwiches came in croissants. This is the worst case I have found so far of breakfast time leakage. As far as I'm concerned breakfast should be done and dusted by 9.00am, possibly 9:30am on Sundays, after which all thoughts of fry ups, cereal or pastries should be banished as the mealtime agenda needs to move on to lunch or possibly elevenses and don't get me started or the abomination of Brunch. 
Small but effective cake selection
Despite it being past mid day all the hipsters were having fry up's or bacon butties (in croissants) but I wanted some proper lunch and the best I could manage was a goats cheese croissant and some banana bread, as did Andrew. I had still barely calmed down from the breakfast based menu fiasco when our food arrived; SERVED ON IT'S SERVIETTE!! This problem is more widespread than I thought and my work is clearly not done. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes.
Banana bread and croissant sandwich served on its serviette
However the food, especially the banana cake, was excellent. Our drinks looked really good and had excellent flavour but heat wise could only be described as tepid at best meaning reduced hot drinks marks.
Nice looking and tasting but not very hot drinks
Surprisingly even with these cafe faux pas's I still found Stour Space Gallery cafe bar a pleasant stop. With a less breakfast based menu, cakes and serviettes kept well apart and drinks made with boiling water it would have been one of the best. I just hope these are not cafe trends that will make there way out of London to Norfolk when we catch up in about 5 years time.

Our journey next continued across less interesting terrain as we cycled through London to the Thames where we found the Excel centre. I quickly popped in for London marathon registration process and collected my running number.
After successful marathon registration
Once completed we headed further East towards Dagenham and Romford. It was mainly on cycle paths including a stretch along cycling superhighway three which was all the more enjoyable as cars were in a long queue beside us.
Andrew cycling on a superhighway
As we reached the countryside we made it to our next stop, The Berwick Tea room which appeared to be about 400 miles too far south. 
Outside the Berwick tearoom
It was a fairly small brick building with a terrace outside. I noticed that inside it was packed with ladies having afternoon tea. Like a scene from a wild west salon, as we entered the chit chat immediately stopped and the ladies all glared at us. We got the feeling that men were not meant to enter the tea room area. We tried to order some cake and drinks but the lady refused to take our order and ushered us out to the terrace area where she said she would come and see us shortly. It was clear she was trying to save our embarrassment as we had broken all their rules by being in the ladies afternoon tea area uninvited and our place to eat and drink was outside. As we left there was a great deal of tutting before the chitter chatter picked up again. 
The 'ladies only tea and chatter' seating area
We sat outside and the lady came to take our order. I think we were a bit of a novelty as every few minutes a different lady came out of the kitchen with some excuse to see us. I don't think many men had ever braved the Berwick Tea rooms before and we obviously were a bit of a novelty.
The terrace area where the ladies seem to prefer the men to sit
The only coffee option on the menu was frothy coffee so Andrew went for tea. On the cake front we went for traditional coffee cake and chocolate cake. Not surprisingly our drinks came in china cups and saucers.
Drinks in an eclectic selection of china
The drinks were hotter than this morning's but not quite as nice. The cake was very nice with the coffee cake being the better of the two.
Chocolate and coffee cakes
The Berwick tearoom was definitely at the far end of the tearoom continuum (which is fine with me) and targeted more at a natterer than a cyclist as we had finished our refreshments before any of the ladies inside had left. However everyone was very friendly and we enjoyed our break.

The last few miles were fairly hilly and my legs questioned me as to if this was good marathon preparation.I told them I wasn't sure and would let them know sometime on Sunday which seemed to keep them happy. 

Scores for Stour Space Cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Scores for Berwick Tearoom
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Route to be published shortly

Friday, 14 April 2017

Raptor Alert. (The moorings, Blakeney)

The Moorings,
Tues-Sun from 10:30,
It was time for another double header cafe cycle ride. I have taken to combining my search for sausage roll of the year #SROTY with a new cafe review. In this way I'm hoping to get round all the recommended sausage roll cafes suggested to me. On this occasion I was going to sausage roll at the Walsingham Cafe before trying out the Moorings in Blakeney. I knew that The Walsingham cafe is famous for it's pies and as a sausage roll is basically a rolled up meat pie I expected they would be good too.

I met up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House in Aylsham for the start of our ride.

Much to his disgust I had planned the route myself rather than let him take control. This was to make sure it was of a reasonable length and we didn't end up in Holt, again. Andrew tends to make the route up as we go along which often adds many miles to his estimated distance. He wasn't happy to have me telling him which way to go while on 'his cycling manor' so there was much tutting and disagreement as to the best way to go as we reached each junction.

It was a windy day and we were struggling as we headed directly into it. On one long stretch Andrew sarcastically pointed out I had selected the 'best' road to cycle down if the wind is from the West as we met the full force of it head on for several miles.

When we arrived at the Walsingham Cafe I popped in to get some sausage rolls while Andrew continued to sulk in the car park. 
Collecting sausage rolls from the Walsingham cafe
Note: The sausage rolls were tested back in my secret underground bicycle workshop back at Crusader Towers and they were as good as they looked so went into my current top ten sausage rolls for the end of year sausage roll off.
Fabulous sausage rolls
On the next part of the ride we came across a curious sign saying this was a Raptor viewing point. As the only Raptors I was aware of were dinosaurs I assumed Norfolk was now at the centre of some Jurassic Park style experiment so I excitedly suggested we stop in the hope of seeing a T-rex or the like.
I though I would be seeing some proper dinosaurs
Andrew told me that raptor was in fact the correct term for birds of prey and is derived from the Latin word rapere, meaning to take by force, as that is the way the grab their prey. (Everyday's a school day when you read this blog.)

Disappointed by the lack of dinosaur action we set off again to the coast where we found The Moorings on Blakeney High Street.
The moorings at Blakeney
There is no outdoor seating area so we went inside and checked out the cakes. The Moorings does lunches and evening meals as well as coffee and cake (but sadly not sausage rolls). The cake selection looked good, although not large in number, the key cake bases were covered and all looked tempting. It was therefore a very effective selection attracting a good effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Good looking cakes in selection
I went for Coffee and Walnut while Andrew had carrot cake on the condition we swapped some of each so we could try both.

As it was lunchtime I also had a sausage sandwich whilst Andrew (who is not only notoriously hard to please but a vegetarian too) had avocado on toast. As we waited for our stuff to arrive I was subjected to a long rant about how it wasn't right that his avocado on toast cost more than my sausage sandwich as avocados are cheaper than sausages. I reminded him that we were on the North Norfolk coast where people expect to pay more for posh nosh such as avocado, so it was just the natural order of things.

We then got down to business as we rated our drinks and cakes. My hot chocolate was nice but Andrew thought his cappuccino needed to be a bit stronger. 
Hot chocolate rated higher than the coffee
The cakes were both excellent and some of the best so far this year. Strangely I prefered his carrot cake and Andrew my coffee and walnut one.
Some of the best cakes this year
Overall the Moorings was a very enjoyable stop and I would recommend a visit if you our out that way, especially if you like good cake.

On the way back we now had the wind behind and the Sun came out. We also saw a herd of raptors as apparently there were five buzzards flying above us. This was an impressive site but I would have rather seen a real dinosaur. 

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
route to be published

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Letter posting. (New Flavours, Dereham)

New Flavours,
Everyday 08:00-22:00,
I require certain things from my cafe cycle stops, the most important being cake. On the other hand Big George is not a big fan of sweet treats so doesn't always approve of my quaint tea room choices. I was therefore a bit nervous when he asked if he could pick the destination for today's ride. Big George is one of my most reliable cycling guests and as I am keen to keep him onside I reluctantly agreed. He said he knew of an excellent Portuguese cafe in Dereham so on a beautiful Spring morning we headed off there.
Beautiful Spring conditions we experienced today
The only jeopardy today was an urgent letter I had been given by Mrs Crusader which she asked me to post during the ride. I had put it in my back pocket and despite being reminded "don't forget to post the letter" just before we left I found it was still in my cycle top when I was looking for my bike lock key outside Big George's cafe of choice, New Flavours, just off the high street in Dereham.
Outside New Flavours cafe/restaurant in Dereham
I decided there must be post boxes in Dereham so would post it after our break and we went inside.

New Flavours is open for Breakfast all the way through to evening meals and does take away as well so I was worried it might be a Jack of all trades (but it wasn't). It has a very Portuguese feel with Portuguese TV on show (sound off but with subtitles, in Portuguese, so you still knew what was going on in Portugal), Portuguese newspapers, Portuguese posters but most importantly, in the cake selection, authentic Portuguese tarts.
Interesting selection of cakes but mainly Portuguese tarts
I love Portuguese tarts but as they are rather small I pointed at the other item I liked the look of and asked what it was. Apparently it was "normal cake" as it seems they only have the one type in Portugal as most people just eat the tarts, so I had a piece of that as well.

True to form Big George didn't go with cake but ordered a fried egg sandwich to go with his cappuccino.

Everything was looking good until my cake and tart turned up. They had only gone and served them on the serviette rending it useless. I added Portugal to the growing list of countries I will have to sort out once I have eradicated the problem here in the UK.
Cake and tart on serviette. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes
Big Georges egg sandwich also arrived in the same style but he didn't seem bothered as he claimed it was the best egg sandwich he had had anywhere in Norfolk. I photoed it to add to my Big Georges egg sandwich album which I hope to publish in a retrospective collection one day.
Fabulous double egg egg sandwich
Our drinks were very large, very hot and pretty good in taste. The normal cake was excellent but the highlight was the Portuguese tart which was fabulous. It was clear that New Flavours delivered a high quality product and if there were more types of cake in Portugal they would have rated even higher. Its well worth a visit.
Cakes and drinks
As it was Big George's turn to pay it became clear why he had requested we came here as our drinks, cakes and egg sandwich only came to £7.20 which is about half our normal bill. I decided that I wouldn't invite him when I cycle to have tea at the Ritz, if I ever do.

On the way back we discussed the various garden projects we were planning as it is traditional to think about doing gardening at Easter even if progress rarely gets past the compulsory visit to the Garden centre.

When I got home Mrs Crusader asked if I had remembered to post her urgent letter. "Of course I had" I said as I hurriedly headed back out to the Pillar Box at the end of our street.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click link to download 37 mile Norwich Dereham loop GPX file for your GPS 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sausage roll of the year update. (#SROTY)

SROTY update
As we reach the quarter point of the year I decided to focus today's cafe cycle ride on Sausage Roll of the year (SROTY) and give an update on where things stand including my current 10 finalists. For the ride I returned to two previously reviewed cafes which people had recommended to me as places where I could expect to find excellent sausage rolls.

I was joined by cycling guests Mrs Crusader, Barry and Helen and their new tandem. Barry is a well renowned sausage roll expert so I was pleased to have him on board.

We set off on a 32 mile loop via Loddon and headed for the Gardeners Kitchen at Green Pastures garden Centre in Burgh Apton (see Puncture repairs for previous review). It came 22 miles into the route which caused my guests to repeatedly ask "are we were nearly there yet" once we had past half way mark.

On arrival, despite a strong wind, Barry and Helen insisted we sit in the outdoor seating patio area which had to be opened by the friendly staff especially for us. 
Waiting for Sausage rolls in a windy outdoor seating patio area
The sausage rolls looked excellent and were delivered to us nicely warmed. In fact they were so tempting that we had eaten them all before I remembered to take a photo. I'm sure you can imagine what a very big sausage roll looks like as I have published enough photos of them recently, including one later in this post.

It scored very highly with the only debate being around the flakiness of the pastry. I like it very flakey so gave a high pastry rating but Barry was not happy that his pastry crumbs kept blowing of his plate. I didn't deduct any marks as it was him who wanted us to sit out in a gale in the first place.

The SROTY score easily put it into my current list of finalist, although it's still early days so who knows if it will still be there by the end of the year.

From Burgh Apton it was only a short ride to collect some more sausage rolls from Little Pigs cafe (see Spooky for previous review) in greater Poringland. 
Collecting sausage rolls from the Little pigs
I took these ones home to test with Mrs Crusader as an afternoon snack. Again the recommendation I had been given proved to be a good one as they also went into my current top ten.
Little Pigs sausage rolls about to be warmed
I have included a quick reminder of the rules for SROTY through this informative set of frequently asked questions.

Q. What is the scoring criteria for a sausage roll?
A. I shall be using the internationally recognised sausage roll rating system which rates meat, pastry, roll aesthetics and overall taste. The first 3 categories are out of 10 with overall taste being out of 20 to give a total mark out of 50. If my cycling guests have a sausage roll too then I tell them that I take the average score between all of us (although in reality I just ignore them).

Q. Surely a sausage roll isn't cake so why has it been selected for 2017 thing of the year?
A. Although sausage rolls will never be part of any self respecting cafe cake quality rating system I have noticed that many of my cycling guests prefer them to cake so as an equal opportunity blog I felt I needed to recognise this as part of my diversity programme. Although I will still insist on having a cake, scone or traybake at every cafe review I undertake.   

Q. Do vegetarian sausage rolls count?
A. Although several of my cycling guest are vegetarian and the Cake Crusader is an equal opportunity blog, with a diversity programme, there is a limit. So no.

Q. How does a sausage roll qualify for the competition? Can it only be from a cafe you are reviewing that day?
A. No. Any sausage roll bought from a cafe or tearoom will qualify but I must cycle there to pick it up. I don't have to stop for a cake or hot drink if I have previously reviewed the establishment. I plan to do some rides to take in several cafes to pick up a clutch of highly recommended sausage rolls. I will be testing some live at the cafes and some back in my secret underground bicycle workshop at Crusader Towers.

Q. Do all sausage rolls need to be eaten warm?
A. No although I will always go for warmed if offered and may warm them up if I take them back for testing, it is not compulsory.

Q. Are accompaniments such as pickle, chutney or mustard taken into account in the scoring.

Q. How will the winning sausage roll be decided?

A. Over the year the sausage roll's score will be added to my Sausage Roll of the Year mobile spreadsheet. Then in December 2017 I will revisit the cafes (by bike of course) that provided the best 10 sausage rolls and purchase some more. I will then hold two semi finals before the final sausage roll off to decide the winner.

Q. Is it the maker of the sausage roll or the cafe that sold it who will win the prize?
A. I am only interested in cafes so if you want to start awarding manufacturers prizes I suggest you start your own butchers based blog.

Q. What is the prize?
A. The winner will receive one of my coveted home made cake crusaders winner certificates which they can put on display (or in the bin) forever. 

So far this year I have had checked out 20 Sausage rolls for SROTY but I hope to get through about 100 before holding the Sausage roll off finals. The current leading ten cafes (in no particular order) are:

1. Little Pigs, Poringland
2. Gardeners Kitchen, Burgh Apton
3. Goodies, Pulham Market
4. Cley visitors centre, Cley
5. Itteringham community shop and cafe, Itteringham
6. Wymondham Garden centre, Wymondham
7. Byfords, Holt
8. Horatio's, Holt
9. East Hills Cafe, Brundall
10. Rocket Cafe, Cromer

I will give my next update mid year.

Todays route

Click here to download Loddon - Norwich loop GPX file to load on to your GPS

Friday, 24 March 2017

Diet tips. (Horsey Mill, Horsey)

Horsey Mill,

Everyday 10:30-16:00 
It was very windy again today so I thought it would be appropriate to go to a cafe by a windmill. The nearest one that I could think of was the National Trust owned Horsey Mill. It would mean a nearly 60-mile round trip (half of which would be into the wind) but I was sure it would be worth it.

When today's cycling guest, Big George, arrived I told him of my plan. He was very excited to be going to a real windmill and readily agreed. Maybe I should have mentioned the 60-mile round trip part of the plan as well but I thought it best he didn't know about that bit as he may not have been so keen. 

On the way there Big George informed me he had decided to lose some weight and had installed a calorie counting app on his phone. He said he had already lost a few kilograms in the first couple of weeks. I know when someone tells you this you are meant to say 'oh, I thought it looked like you had lost a bit of weight' which I did, although it didn't.

Big George was very pleased so spent sometime telling me about his calorie counting strategy. After awhile he requested that I didn't tell anyone about our diet based chat as it wasn't in keeping with his hardman, beer drinking, rugby based image. I promised I would never speak of our conversation again.

After a long slog into the wind we arrived at the National Trust owned Horsey Mill. On arrival we discovered that the mill was having major repairs with little of it left and no sails. Big George was very disappointed to have come all this way without being able to go into the mill. I pointed out that he would have burnt a lot of calories getting here so at least his new calorie counting app would be happy.
Horsey Mill not looking very windmill like
However the tea room was in full working order so Horsey Mill currently just has a National Trust tea room as the only attraction there to visit. 
Outside the only attraction left that was the tea room
After locking our bikes and going inside we were greeted with more bad news as they only had a limited winter menu available so no cake or scones but only a few tray bakes and toasted teacakes available. The nice lady explained they only got a few visitors a day during the winter so it wasn't worth having things that go stale. This seemed fair enough although maybe if they had a proper attraction, like a working mill, then a few more people might turn up. I therefore decided to make a small donation to speed the work up.
Part of the limited winter cake selection
I had a toasted tea cake and some brownie. After Big George had checked his calorie counting app he decided he could have a toasted teacake with his coffee as long as he cycled another 30 miles today. Despite a toasted teacake having the word cake in it it is not a cake but a fruit based bread so does not qualify to be rated in may cake taste quality (CTQ) category.
Toasted tea cakes that are not actually cake
As with most NT properties these days our drinks were served in paper cups notwithstanding this our drinks were both good and scored well. 
Good drinks shame about the cups
The Brownie was excellent and I gave a good CTQ mark. But it wasn't all good news as it came served on it's serviette rendering it useless for crumb wiping purposes. I expected better from the National Trust and I will be writing to their staff training department shortly. Remember #Keepcakeoffserviettes.
Apart from no attraction, no cakes or scones, drinks in paper cups and cake on serviettes it was actually a very pleasant stop and worth the long ride. Although I suggest you might like to wait for the mill to be repaired and the in-season menu to be in operation before you go.

On the way back Big George gave me today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling Guest Cycling top tip No 61. If you want to complete a 60 mile bike ride without running out of energy then make sure you have more than just a toasted teacake at your mid ride refreshment stop.

Big George was clearly starting to fade but fortunately I always carry some spare energy gels for just such emergencies and kindly let Big George have one (for only £5). He was reluctant as the extra calories were not part of today's calorie plan but needs must and he told his calorie counting app that he would go without an evening meal instead.

With his energy supply topped up and wind behind we soon got home. Big George was pleased as he would now have time to update his new 'Big George's Diet Tips for hardmen, beer drinking, rugby fans ' blog with today's update.

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click here to download 56 mile Norwich Sea Palling loop Gpx file for your gps