Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Is Lavender cake really a thing? (Norfolk Lavender Cafe)

Norfolk Lavender Cafe,
Heacham,
Opening times Every day 9-5,
Recommended 
Yesterday myself and Mrs Crusader drove up to Great Massingham to meet up with Cycling guests Barry and Helen and their New Tandem for some cafe cycle action in North West Norfolk.

Our first stop was the Norfolk Lavender Cafe near Heacham. 

In the outdoor seating area at Norfolk Lavender Cafe
It is a very large cafe with an outdoor seating area, sofa based seating area and larger standard indoor seating area able to cope with coach parties. We choose to sit outside and admire the gardens and lavender bushes. It was very pleasant so we awarded a good atmosphere and ambiance score.

As usual Barry refused to have anything to eat or drink claiming he was still full after his large breakfast although I knew it was really because he didn't want to get involved in any cake reviewing nonsense.

There was an excellent cake selection which covered all the bases. Not surprisingly there were also cakes and scones that included Lavender. I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Part of a substantial cake selection
Chris insisted that I had the Lavender sponge cake to go with my hot chocolate while she had coffee cake as accompaniment for her americano. There were also sausage rolls which I took away to check out later as part of my sausage roll of the year hunt. #SROTY
Sausage rolls to take back to Crusader towers for tasting
Note: they were excellent sausage rolls and made it into my current top 10 for the end of year sausage roll off. It could mean a very long bike ride from Norwich to collect them in December.

My hot chocolate could have been a bit stronger but Chris thought her coffee was very good. The pink lavender cake was definitely a marmite experience as we all tried a bit and it wasn't to everyone's taste. The coffee cake was very nice so I based the cake taste quality (CTQ) mark on that alone as I don't think Lavender cake is really a thing.
Cakes and drinks including the Lavender cake
The Norfolk Lavender cafe was a good stop especially for one that is part of an attraction. I would definitely recommend a visit, especially for fans of Lavender.
Sandpit action from stop at Creake abbey cafe
On the next part of the ride we returned to the Creake Abbey cafe to collect some sausage rolls for #SROTY. I also updated my ratings table and it still ranked very highly. Check out my original review with updated scores (Ruined Abbey Off).

It was another successful cafe cycle ride and helped to fill in an empty part of my cafe locations map. While on the route I spotted several more cafes that need to be checked out so my work is still far from done.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6
8
7.5
7.25
8.0
7.35
Route to be published shortly

Friday, 12 May 2017

Cut backs. (Waxham Barn Waxham)

Waxham Barn Cafe,
Waxham,
Opening times 10:30-17:00 except Wednesdays,

April-October
With the summer here I'm finding it difficult to keep the blog up to date with the latest cafe reviews. Therefore rather than take a break I have decided that I will limit the next few posts to a quick up date of the latest cafe I have visited without all the exciting other news from each ride.

To start with this week I took cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) on a ride to Waxham Barn which can be found on the Coast road south of Sea Palling. 

The cafe is also the entrance for the exhibit which appears to be a big barn. In the courtyard there is a large outdoor seating area which we enjoyed on a sunny and windy day.
In the courtyard at Waxham Barn
The cake selection was rather slight although as we are out of season maybe it gets bigger in the height of summer. I could only award a low effective cake selection.
Rather small selection of cakes
Along with my Banana and caramel cake I had a hot chocolate but disappointingly it was of the Cadbury's variety so by default, rather poor. Andrew had lemon cake with a cappuccino.
Drinks and cakes
Andrew found his drink to be rather too milky for his liking. The cakes were both nice but not the most exciting I have had.

I was able to get some sausage rolls to take home to test out for #SROTY which again were good but didn't make it into my list for the end of year sausage roll off.
Sausage rolls packed up for ride home
We both agreed that Waxham Barn made for a very pleasant refreshment stop on our ride although we wouldn't go there just for the drinks and food. And for barn lovers don't forget to check out the barn (I'm not so I didn't).

Scores (based on 2 visits)
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
3.5
3.5
5.75
6.0
7.75
5.30
route to be published shortly

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Dilemma (Art Gallery tearoom, Acle)

Studio and Art Gallery Tearoom,
Acle,
Mon- Fri 10:00-16:00, Sat and Sun 10:00- 14:00,
Recommended 
I recently had to buy a new bike after reading in a magazine that any serious cyclist always needs to have n+1 bikes and I only had n. As with any new bike it needs the odd tweak to get it running perfectly and, after its first couple of rides, mine was no exception .

I therefore planned a cafe cycle ride to first visit a new cafe before going past the bike shop; In-a-spin where I could get the tune up done. Mrs Crusader was going to be my cycling guest for the day.

I foolishly told her that for the first stop we would be going to the recently opened Studio Art Gallery and Tearoom in Acle. From the name she quickly deduced that they sell paintings which was worrying as she has been known to make art purchases on such occasions. I had a difficult dilemma to wrestle with. Do I make sure that no credit cards were taken on the ride, which would stop more art turning up, or do I take the credit card for any necessary bike accessory purchases I might need to make? 

On reflection I decided it would be a cash only trip and after a quick body search we set off for the Studio Art Gallery and Tearoom which we found on the high street in Acle.
Outside the tearoom
There were indoor and outdoor seating areas available but we chose a nice table by the door. The cake selection was a very good one so I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark. As a bonus there were sausage rolls available too. I bought a couple to be tested later for my sausage roll of the year competition #SROTY. (Note, they turned out to be very good ones).
Excellent cake selection
The only slight disappointment was that both my hot chocolate and Mrs Crusader's Mocha were a little week but on the plus side the cakes were very good indeed and my choice of the unusually sounding walnut and courgette was well worth the risk. I therefore gave high cake taste quality marks.
Excellent cakes made up for the weak drinks
The Studio Art Gallery and Tearoom was a good stop and has the added bonus that you can look at (or buy) some paintings as you enjoy your refreshments. 

From here me set off to Loddon meaning a trip on the Reedham ferry, which is always a treat, especially as we had the whole ship to ourselves.
Boarding the HMS Reedham ferry
By the time we got to In-a-spin the slight rubbing noise that I had been worried about had gone away which rather defeated the point of the ride but we popped in anyway so I could start planning my next purchase as I now only have n bikes again. 

With all objectives now complete, and no bike or Art purchases made, we complete the ride safely home.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.0
5.5
8.5
8.0
7.5
6.90
Route to be published shortly


Monday, 1 May 2017

Madness. (Norfolk Deli, Hunstanton)

Norfolk Deli,
Hunstanton,
Mon- Sat 08:30-5:00, Sun 10:00- 4:00,
Recommended 
I felt it was time I visited some tea rooms up in North West Norfolk as it is a bit of a hole on my locations map. To do this I have two options as it is a long way to go from Norwich. Option 1 is to drive part of the way while option 2 is do it as a two day ride. I had plumped for option 2 and when word got out another eight cycling guests asked if they could come along too. It was pure madness but I was up for the challenge so a large group of lycra clad cyclists descended on Crusader Towers ready for the 120 mile round trip.
Ready for the off
On the way I planned to visit some other cafes I had previously been to so that I could recheck their ratings as part of my on going cafe ratings audit program.

We left a few minutes late and collected the rest of the peloton at a couple of meeting points en-route. The last of these was Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) but he kept everyone waiting for nearly a minute until he eventually turned up at the Fox and Hounds pub at Lyng. 

With all 9 of the team now on board it was on to our first stop which was Hamptons at Stanfield. I have been here before (see Is it really there?) and knew that it was good stop.
First stop at Hamptons
There would only be time for two stops today, this one at about 11:00 and one in the Hunstanton area mid afternoon. Regular readers will know I like my meal times correctly segregated into their proper breakfast, lunch and supper slots, with only cake to be consumed between. As we would not be stopping in the requisite 12-2pm lunch period I reluctantly agreed that my cycling guest could select from the breakfast or brunch menu available, which they did. 
The cake options which were primarily rejected in favour of fried things
I obviously focused my meal choice on hot chocolate and cake, which on this occasion was a brownie. Mrs Crusader is well trained in these matters and also had some cake (coffee) but of the remaining seven only Tom had cake as well. It is sad to see the way breakfast creep is destroying the tradition of elevenses that helped make this country great.
Excellent hot drinks a Hamptons
As Cake Crusader rules dictate, Hamptons was rerated and it's mark averaged with the scores from the previous visit. We were all very impressed with the hot drinks which helped increase its overall mark moving it up my ratings table. Despite not being interested everyone insisted on telling me that their breakfasts and brunch items were excellent (all but Andrew that is, but he is notoriously hard to please so it was only to be expected).

From here we headed north west for another 30 miles towards the seaside town of Hunstanton with the only drama being our only puncture of the day. 
First puncture of the trip
I had a few options recommended to me in the area but as my punters were starting to whinge about needing a stop we decided to go for the earliest choice which was the Norfolk Deli.

I lined up for the traditional pre cafe photo only to find Barry and Helens new Tandem photo bombed the picture. This was appalling behaviour and something their old Tandem would never have done. I have asked that it be giving a good talking to but I suspect Barry had encouraged it in the first place.
Barry 'trying' to stop his new Tandem photo bombing the traditional cafe picture but it was too late
An advantage of this venue choice was that we could buy take away drinks and cakes before taking them to the seafront to enjoy. This negated the need for bicycle security as not everyone had come prepared with a lock.
Part of a large take away cake selection at The Norfolk Deli
Once again my cycling guest's disappointed me with their reviewing participation. This morning had been lack of cake, as they wanted to eat fried things and now it was lack of hot drinks as they claimed to be thirsty after cycling for nearly sixty miles and wanted a cold drink. I made a note to only invite committed cycling guest on future long distance rides. Fortunately regular cycling guest Andrew knew the drill and ordered a fancy coffee and Portuguese tart. Mrs Crusader also understands what's good for her so had a mocha and scone, although this may have been because I was in charge of getting her refreshments whilst she minded the bikes. 
Trying drinks and cakes on Hunstanton sea front
We went down to the seafront to have our refreshments where I started with an excellent looking sausage roll to test for #SROTY. I have to admit it was one of the best so far this year and could well make it into the sausage roll off at the end of the year. 
One of the best sausage rolls so far this year #SROTY
Chris and Andrew thought their coffees very good although the short walk to the seafront meant they were not super hot like they prefer. Sadly my hot chocolate was of the Cadbury variety and although it was very well made could not score well as Cadbury's hot chocolate barely tastes of chocolate at all.

The cakes were good with the brownie and Portuguese tart being the stars. I was still too cross to pay any attention to the other cake feedback I received as I didn't want to encourage my cycling guests in thinking they could mix and match what they fed back on. I believe that you should either do a proper hot drink and cake job (like me) or just don't bother.

The Norfolk Deli does have an indoor seating area as well and I would definitely recommend a visit, especially for sausage roll fans.
Cycling out of Hunstanton along the prom
From here we had another twenty miles, via Sandringham, to our overnight stop at the luxurious Kings Lynn Premier inn. The highlight of this part of the trip was passing some sheep dog trials. I felt the dog should have got off but the jury found him guilty. (boom tish)
Sheep dog action
After a good nights sleep the party regrouped for a 50 mile return trip to Norwich but this time with the added challenge of a 20 mph head wind for the whole journey.

Ready for the off on day 2
I had hoped for an uneventful, one cafe stop ride but the strong wind and several punctures made it into a very long day with the peloton stretched out over several miles of Norfolk lanes.
Some of my cycling guests riding through Norfolk
So there was much relief when I allowed us to stop at Penny's tearoom in Saham Toney which I last visited 18 months ago (see Back on track). The staff today were some of the friendliest I can remember which was a plus as my cycling guests helped me with the ratings audit.
A selection of the items being scored today
After a good rest we then struggled on further towards home. It was not long before Barry and Helen's Tandem got its first ever puncture which I felt was justice for yesterday's photo bombing incident. 
Barry trying to mend his new tandems puncture while I tried to put them off by tickling it
Once on the way again my cycling guests demanded an extra stop as they didn't think they could make it back without another break.It was a chance for me to prove how valuable my cafe research has been as I consulted my list of the 208 cafes I have now reviewed and suggested that the four seasons coffee shop at the Wymondham Garden centre (see Where are the cake based bargains) would be the best option.
Preparing to enter our final tea room
The scones here looked very good and proved a popular choice. They were just what was needed although the cheese scone was served cold (remember it's cheese scone hot, fruit scone not). 
It was mainly tea and scones for our final stop
On the road again there was just time for one last puncture before we made it home. Back at Crusader Towers I prepared the feedback form for my cycling guests to complete before I remembered that I wasn't really interested in their opinions so just filled in one myself. Once analysed the feedback clearly said that it was an excellent trip, the tour leader was very good and that their should be another overnight ride next year. So well done me.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.0
7.5
7.5
7.5
8.000
7.10
route to be published shortly

Friday, 21 April 2017

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

Stour Space Cafe,
Stratford,
Every day from 08:00-5:00,
Recommended 
and
Berwick Tearooms,
Dagenham,
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
7.50
7.5
5.00
7.5
8.00
7.10
Scores for Berwick Tearoom
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.5
6.00
7.25
7.00
6.55
Route to be published shortly