Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

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.


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route to be published shortly

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Race to the top. (The Tea Room @Corner House, West Runton)

The Tea Room @Corner House,
West Runton,
Opening times Tue-Sun 10:30-16:00
As the search for Sausage roll of the year #SROTY continues it is important I also keep up with the day job of checking out as many cycle cafes as possible for the blog. For todays ride I would be doing both along with today's cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please).

We set off early from Hard to Please House in Alysham and headed North out to the bird spotting centre at Cley Next the Sea. I had been told that they did a mean sausage roll so wanted to collect one to check out later. It was my second visit there as Andrew had previously taken me to the centre to try and teach me the way of the twitcher (see Pink footed geese). On that trip I had discovered that bird spotting is not a sport and there are no winners so I couldn't see the point of it and have not done any bird watching since. Fortunately Sausage Roll tasting is a sport so I was happy to return today.
Collecting Sausage rolls from Cley Marshes
I put the sausage roll in my saddle bag for tasting later in my secret underground bicycle workshop underneath Crusader Towers (btw it turned out to be an excellent one). In the meantime it was time to head a long the coast road to today's cafe destination, the Tea Room @Corner House in West runton.
Outside the Tea Room @Corner House
Although out of season the Tea Room was very busy and we were lucky to get a table, which was a nice window one. We weren't far from the cakes so I was able to check them out without moving too far. It wasn't the biggest selection but it had several I liked the look of so very effective and I awarded a good Effective Cake selection (ECS) mark.
Cake Selection
I ordered Blueberry cake with my Hot Chocolate and Andrew the Lemon Drizzle cake with his cappuccino. When they brought our order the very nice staff engaged us on today's cycling exploits and correctly massaged our egos by pretending to be impressed about how far we had gone and the fact we were about to ride up the very big hill over the Cromer ridge.
Our drinks
My hot chocolate was a nice one as was Andrews cappuccino although he did say he was worried that he was getting harder to please these days. I assured him that that wasn't possible and not to worry. The cakes were excellent with the Blueberry one being one of the best so far this year. 
Excellent cakes
The Tea Room @ Corner house was a very good stop and the sandwiches we had for lunch were very nice too, so I recommend a visit.

Our next challenge was to get up the long hill which started right outside the Tea Rooms door. I was surprised when Andrew had left his change as a tip but now realised it was to lower his weight for the climb.
Halfway up the hill over the cromer ridge
Half way up I decided to take a photo of the hill and this allowed Andrew to get ahead. I didn't want him to beat me to the top but failed to catch him up as every time a car went past I had to stop them to explain that Andrew was only further ahead of me as I had stopped for a photo. Next time I will prepare some leaflets.
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Click here to download 40 mile Alysham Cley loop GPX file to your GPS

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Blustery (The Apiary Cake and Coffee House, Harleston)

The Apiary Cake and Coffee House,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:30-16:30 
The weather forecast suggested that wind might be an issue today but this warning was quickly forgotten as I looked up to a clear blue Norfolk sky during preparation for todays cafe cycle ride. It looked like perfect conditions to me.
Blue sky like the one above Norfolk today
I was to be joined by Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as today's cycling guest for a ride down to The Apiary Cake and Coffee House in Harleston which was a new cafe I had heard about.

As we set off Andrew told me he had already been on a ride this week and gone to his current favourite cafe, the highly rated Black Apollo, which can be found, not surprisingly, in Holt. Whilst there he had had a nice chat with Mrs Apollo which caused her to ask why he was notoriously hard to please. He claimed not to know the reason but if she had spent the morning with me listening to him rant on a serious of obscure topics she would have soon known.

With some wind assistance, and plenty of hot air, we soon arrived at Harleston and found The Apiary Cake and Coffee House on the high street. Andrew took some time taking the cafe photo as there was a lot of traffic, both motorised and pedestrian, that got in the way and he was not pleased.
Eventual photo from today's stop
The Apiary Cake and Coffee House had some cleverly designed outdoor seats but due to the wind we felt it would be safer to go inside. The decor obviously had a bee and honey theme because as everyone knows an apiary is a collection of beehives (at least thats what google said). 

I headed to the counter to check out the cake selection and it looked a good one. I was also pleased to see sausage rolls available, which I would check out later on my search for sausage roll of the year #SROTY.
Good cake selection
To keep with the bee theme I choose to have some honey and cherry cake with my hot chocolate. Andrew was less on message and must have thought the cafe was called 'The Warren' as he opted for carrot cake and a cappuccino.
Cakes and drinks, one on message one not
My hot chocolate was nice but could have been hotter while Andrews cappuccino was hot but could have been nicer once again showing how notoriously hard to please he is, especially when it comes to coffee. 

On the way home not only were we now into the wind but it had picked up in strength as well. This made it a real struggle and at times we seemed to be pedaling to stand still. I took a photo to show how strong the wind was although in hindsight, the wind can't really be seen, what with it being invisible. 
Just look at the strength of the wind
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Map of route

Click here to down load 43 mile Norwich Harleston loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spring has sprung (East Hills Cafe and Bistro, Brundall)

East Hills Café and Bistro,
Opening times Mon-Wed 09:30-16:00,
Thur-Sat 9:30-23:00, Sun 9:30-18:00
Highly Recommended 
After two weeks of wet and windy weather I was delighted to be woken this morning by both the alarm clock and actual sunshine pouring through the window.This was good news as not only was the alarm clock clearly working but I had arranged a cafe cycle ride and didn't want to have to call another one off due to inclement conditions.

Better still, the sun had remained out, although it was still a bit raw temperature wise, as myself and Mrs Crusader mounted our bikes to set off to meet Barry and Helen and their new tandem at their house. When we arrived they were both sitting on their shiny new bike, all ready to go. I asked how my good friend 'old tandem' was but they were rather evasive and I got no response. I am worried there may be a more sinister explanation for their sudden need for a new patio.

One thing for sure was that their new tandem was a lot faster and, with the help of a friendly wind we bombed along the lanes all the way out to Acle. Once here we turned back into the wind where, hindered by a number of unnecessary hills, progress became markedly slower. As tiredness set in, my cycling guests started to repeatedly question how far it was to todays target stop, The East Hills cafe and Bistro at Brundall. I refused to answer as I consider this is bad for cycling morale and I didn't know.

When we arrived in Brundall we turned off the main road and down to the river to find the cafe on the edge of the boat yard.
Outside today's destination
I had been planning to visit here last year only to discover that there had been a fire and the cafe had been shut for about 6 months for repairs. It had only been reopened for a couple of weeks but this didn't seem to have put the punters off as the place was packed, so we opted to sit in the very pleasant outdoor balcony seating area. 
Enjoying the views of the boat yard from the outdoor seating balcony
I had sensibly brought my own fire extinguisher, just incase, and left it with my cycling guests as I went inside to check out the cakes and place our order. There was a good selection of cakes including two of my favourites, pear and chocolate plus baked cheesecake, so I ordered a slice of each which I would kindly share some of with Mrs Crusader despite the fact she had wanted a cheese scone. I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Part of today's cake selection
I was also pleased to see that their were four sausage rolls available which meant all my cycling guests could join in with rating them for sausage roll of the year #SROTY. My only concern was that it was shaped the wrong way with pastry running top to bottom rather than side to side. I obviously checked the SROTY rules but there was no mention of this being an issue so we were able to continue with our test.
Sausage roll with pastry going wrong way
The consensus was that it was the best sausage roll so far this year and looks certain to make it to the SROTY sausage roll off at the end of the year.

My hot chocolate and the selection of cycling guest hot drinks all scored well too. I was also impressed by the baked cheesecake which led to a high cake taste quality (CTQ) score.
Cakes and drinks
The East Hills cafe had proved to be an excellent start of Spring stop and I would highly recommend a visit (subject to it not burning down again) during the forthcoming cafe cycle season.

Hopefully Spring is now with us proper, as I have gambled on arranging two more rides this week. Although I expect it will now snow.

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Click her to download 35 mile Norwich Acle loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Cycle cafe project time. (Cafe No. 28, Holt)

No. 28 cafe,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:30-16:00

For today's cafe cycle ride I was targeting two of my current cafe cycle projects:
  1. The destination was Cafe No. 28 in Holt, which as a numbered cafe, would add to my attempt to go to all numbered named cafes from 1 to 100. 
  2. Holt is a destination where I have visited a lot of cafes, as given the opportunity Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) will always take me there if I offer him a free hand to arrange a route. This meant that today there would potentially be several Holt cafes I could pick up sausage rolls from as part of my search for Sausage Roll Of The Year (SROTY). 
So I arranged to meet Andrew, at Hard to Please House in Alysham, for a ride to Holt to tackle these two objectives. As a bonus, Chris (Mrs Crusader) came along as she continued to get used to her new bike.

The ride from Alysham to Holt goes through some lovely peaceful Norfolk countryside. However today the peace was shattered. First Andrew was ranting about how; since I gave him the notoriously hard to please tag he had to rant even more as people now expected it.(So he did). But the main peace breaker was from Mrs Crusaders new bike that had developed an annoying mystery squeak, the source of which still remains elusive despite much investigation during the ride. ( Although I remain confident that some WD40 and my big hammer will get it fixed back in my secret bike workshop under Crusader Towers).

With my head throbbing, we arrived at Holt and I went to pick up my first sausage roll from the Owl Tearooms. But disaster as it was shut for refurbishment as it is moving under new management.
What no sausage roll
Undeterred it was off to the main event at No. 28 on the high street. When we arrived the very friendly staff told us a good place to park our bikes which we did, before going through the two table outdoor seating area into the cafe. 
In the outdoor seating area at No.28 before going to lock the bikes
Inside was a very modern interior where we selected a table near the window. The cake selection was a reasonable one with several sponge cakes, slices and scones, so I awarded a reasonable effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
The sponge cake part of the cake selection
I was pleased to see sausage rolls on the menu so I would be able to get my Holt SROTY search underway but before I could the people in front of us bought the last ones. I was beginning to worry that the SROTY part of today's mission would be a waste of time. 

Our drinks (Hot Chocolate, Mocha and Cappuccino) soon arrived which were all nice but we felt needed to be a bit stronger for top marks. 
Hot drink selection
These were followed by a good selection of the sponge cakes (Victoria, Lemon and carrot) which my cycling guests let me try all of before I decided my choice of Victoria sponge was the best.
The three sponge cakes on offer
With the cafe visit complete I added No. 28 to my numbered named cafe album only to find I already had a No. 28 from the Cotswolds that I had visited on my ride across Great Britain a couple of years ago. I therefore now have a No. 28 swap that I'm happy to exchange with other numbered named cafe collectors who have a spare numbered cafe visit as well.

On the SROTY front I was relieved to find that Byfords had plenty and I was also able to snap up the last one at Horatio's before we left Holt again for our ride back.
Collecting Holt based sausage rolls
Back home I tested out the sausage rolls which were two of the best I have tried so far and could well make it all the way to the SROTY sausage roll off at the end of the year. 
The Byfords and Horatio's sausage rolls
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Click here to download 32 Mile Alysham Holt loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Too short. (The Pantry Wroxham Barns, Wroxham)

The Pantry Wroxham Barns,
Opening times Mon-Sun 10:00-17:00 
As it was Valentines day, I thought what better way to celebrate than with a romantic cafe cycle ride, after all I love my bike. To make up the numbers I also invited Chris (Mrs Crusader) and Barry and Helen and a tandem.

Regular readers may remember that Barry and Helen got themselves a shiny new tandem in December but as yet it hadn't made it out of the garage and I was beginning to think it may only exist in their imaginations. The main excuse for its lack of appearance was that they didn't want to get it dirty in the current wintery conditions. With today being near perfect for cycling, I was optimistic that I would finally get to see it in action. So as we arrived at the meeting point would the new tandem be waiting there?

Once again it was a resounding NO! Apparently Barry still wasn't happy to take it out as he didn't feel he had attached his bell at the right angle yet and it needed further adjustments before he could safely hit the road, so I would just have to be patient.

Recently the weather has been freezing and there has been much whinging and whining from my cycling guests.

Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 60When cycling in cold conditions you can avoid frozen extremities by making sure your cycling host has not made the route too long.

I consider myself to be an excellent cycling host so had taken on board cycling gust cycling top tip No. 60 by making todays ride a short one. This meant that it wasn't long before we got to today's destination The Pantry at Wroxham Barns.

However today was not particularly cold and there was a warm sun in the clear blue sky. To my disbelief my cycling guests all complained that we hadn't gone very far on such a lovely day and asked if we could go a bit further. As a man known for my dynamic and flexible approach I would have loved to follow up on this suggestion but February's cafe visit planning spreadsheet clearly said that this was to be today's cafe destination and I didn't want to spend the afternoon filling in the necessary forms to authorise a cafe venue change request review (CVCRR), so I had to insist we stuck to the plan.
The Pantry at Wroxham Barns
As it was half term I was dismayed to see how full the Wroxham Barns car park was and expected to have difficulty getting a space in the cafe. Fortunately we had timed things well for once and got inside just before the lunchtime rush. In fact five minutes after we sat down the empty cafe was suddenly full of half termees. As the cafe filled up with fun loving toddlers Barry kept requesting that the atmosphere and ambiance score be reduced, which I obviously ignored.
A very full pantry with its target age group
There was a reasonable cake selection but best of all there were sausage rolls available for me to test out in sausage roll of the year (SROTY).
A reasonable cake selection plus scones plus sausage rolls
We all had sausage rolls while I also had some marble cake and Chris a chocolate cup cake muffin thing. On the drinks front my cycling guests had mochas and cappuccino.
Cakes, drinks and sausage rolls
I wasn't overly impressed with my hot chocolate, although it was a solid enough example, so was astounded when all the coffee drinkers said their coffees were really good attracting a very high guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) score.

Our cakes were ok but a little dry for high marks. Barry, who considers himself a bit of a sausage roll authority, gave todays example the thumbs up as I added our ratings to the SROTY spreadsheet on my phone.

On reviewing my cafe ratings table I was interested to notice that The Pantry had scored in line with a number of other cafes I have been to at local attractions so was pleased to see both the consistency of my rating system and the improved standard of attraction catering when compared with experiences from my youth.
Junior farm timetable
Before we set off Barry pointed to the Junior farm timetable on the wall and asked if he could go and cuddle a rabbit. Sadly the queue of 5 year olds was a bit too long so I suggested he came back on a quieter day, which he reluctantly agreed to do as we returned to our bikes for the short ride home. Hopefully he can spend the time he saved by adjusting his bicycle bell on the mythical new tandem so that we can actually get to see it in action on our next ride.

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Click here to down load 26 mile Norwich Tunstead loop GPX file for your GPS