Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

Friday, 2 December 2016

South of the Border. (The Granary, Snape)

The Granary Tearooms,
Snape,
Opening times Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00, 
Sun 10:00-16:30
As I have now visited over 200 cafes and tearooms it's not surprising that I'm beginning to run out of easy pickings and now need to go further afield on my cafe cycle rides in order to find new places to review. Therefore today I decided it was time to grab my passport and go over the border into Suffolk. An early start was needed to make the most of the available daylight which put today's cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) into a particularly bad mood as he had had to set off an hour earlier than me in order to drive to Crusader Towers. Once he arrived we loaded the bikes into my car and set off to the border.

An hour later we had sucessful got through security and customs on the way to our start point which was the small village of Walpole on Sustrans cycle route 42. I was already exhausted as on the drive down Andrew ranted about the latest national and international news stories and there was a lot to cover. Normally if I get overwhelmed by his outbursts I can cycle off but this isn't an option in the car where I was a captive rantee.

It was nice to be on different roads for a change and we first headed off to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast where we went down to the beach to take the ubiquitous photo. Over the years I have taken the same photo many times and had started to notice that there is always exactly the same aesthetically pleasing red boat in everyone.  I now suspect that it is not a real boat but one placed there by the Suffolk tourist board to attract unsuspecting visitors like me. This sort of cheap scam would never happen in Cromer I thought.
Standard  Dunwich beach photo with pretend red boat
You may remember that as well as being the self appointed number one cycle cafe reviewer (in the Norfolk area) I'm also a great fan of ruined Abbeys and have a spreadsheet of ratings to prove it (see ruined Abbey off). I was therefore very excited when we went past Leiston ruined Abbey as I could add it to my growing list (currently standing at 3) of ruined Abbeys I have cycled past. I have to admit that this was my least favourite ruined Abbey to date as the ruins weren't symmetrical enough for my tastes, although nothing my sledge hammer couldn't resolve if English Heritage want to give me a ring.
Leiston ruined Abbey which needs some better symmetry to move up my ruined Abbey league table
From here it was down to Snape Maltings to review today's cycle cafe; The Granary Tea rooms. Snape Maltings is famous for having a concert hall in the middle of nowhere and as a result a whole collection of shops, galleries and restaurants have grown up around it.
Lots of  shops, galleries, restaurants and a concert hall can be found at Snape Maltings
The Granary tea room is one such outlet and could be found right at the end through a tiny door.
Outside the Granary tearooms before trying to squeeze in through the tiny white door
Cycling guest cycling top tip no 57. If going into a tearoom based in an old building with tiny doors consider keeping your bicycle helmet on to avoid a nasty bump on the head.

Unfortunately I had failed to follow cycling guest cycling top tip no 57 and was still in a bit of a daze as I went to check out the cakes so that I could award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. The selection appeared good on quantity but a lot of it was slice and biscuit based with a lack of big sponge cakes which added up to a good, if not outstanding, ECS mark. 
Cake selection but only two sponge cakes
I opted for carrot cake and Andrew went for Bakewell slice with his capuchino. We then selected seats in the large indoor seating area as it was too cold to sit outside.
Large indoor seating area
Andrew was in his most hard to please mood as he wasn't happy with his coffee (too weak) or Bakewell slice which he felt had seen better days. I, on the other hand, thought my hot chocolate was a good one and my carrot cake was nice as well.
Cakes and drinks
Overall The Granary tearooms had performed reasonable well although I think the tearoom is aimed more at people visiting the whole Maltings complex as their primary destination and not the other way round. 

From here we returned to Walpole on Sustrans route 41 and both agreed it had been an excellent route and, subject to obtaining visas, we should come back to Suffolk more often. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
5.0
6.5
6.5
7.0
6.40
Route
Click here to download 37 mile Walpole Snape loop gpx file to your gps

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

So long old friend. (Salhouse Barn, Salhouse)

Salhouse Barn Tearooms,
Salhouse,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:30-16:30, 
Sun 10:00-15:45
The weather man on the telly had told me that today would be the first proper cold day of the winter and when I looked out of the window this morning it was clear that Jack Frost had indeed been busy overnight. Fortunately it was just cold and not icey so the conditions would not impact my planned cafe cycle ride with Chris (Mrs Crusader) plus Barry and Helen and their Tandem. It would be the last time that Barry and Helen's Tandem would be coming on a ride with me as they pick up a new young bike from the Tandem breeders just before Christmas. I asked Barry what would be happening to the current Tandem and he mumbled something about a sack, bricks and the river. Remember Tandems are for life not just Christmas.

Despite double socking and gloving my extremities were all very cold as we set off to our meeting point and they didn't fully recover until we got back home, as despite the clear blue sunny skies the temperature never warmed up.
It may have looked like a warm day but it was freezing
Today's ride would be a shortish one visiting the Salhouse Barn tearooms at the Salhouse Garden centre. On the way there we went past the Olive Tree Cafe in Tunstead. Their facebook page had said that they were temporarily closed for staff training although they have been since the end of July. I was keen to see if they had reopened as by now the staff would be some of the best trained in the world and this would surely up their already good Atmosphere and Ambiance rating. Sadly as we cycled past there were For Sale signs up, clearly they had spent too much time and money on staff training and the business had now gone under. I will therefore be removing it from the blog and adding it to the closed cafe archive so as not to confuse future cafe cyclists.

Still cold we continued the ride to Salhouse Garden centre and the Salhouse Barn Tearooms. There is both an indoor and outdoor seating area available with plenty of room but only one hardy customer had opted for outdoors and we decided not to join them and headed inside.
Outside the entrance to Salhouse Garden centre and tearooms
It was clearly a very popular destination as it was packed with people spending their grey pound on hot food on a cold Tuesday lunchtime. 
Busy indoor seating area
However I was more interested in the cakes so first checked out the range in order to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was a pretty good selection so I awarded a pretty good ECS before joining the back of the food queue.
Good cake selection
I went for Cherry and Almond cake with my hot chocolate whilst Chris and Helen both went for Mochas, one with chocolate and one with coffee cake. For once Barry had a coffee (cappuccino) and hadn't gone for his normal sausage roll but a cornish pasty instead. As a cornish pasty still isn't cake Barry played no further part in any cake rating activity. As Barry and Helen mercilessly tucked into their cake and pasty their Tandem said it was too sad to be able to eat anything on it's last ever cafe cycle ride so patiently waited for us by the Christmas trees.

Our drinks performed very well on the 'being really hot on a really cold day' front but not so well on the strength side as they were all a bit milky. The cakes were reasonably good but just the wrong side of the dry to moist continuum.
Cakes and drinks
I also tried some of the Salhouse Barn tearooms flapjack which was very good indeed. You will have to wait for another week to see if it made it onto my final short list for the flapjack of the year flapjack off next month (see flapjack news).

As we left the cafe the old folk were still queuing up to get in so the Salhouse Barn seems to be doing a lot of things right and I don't expect that I'll need to be adding it to my closed cafe archive anytime soon.

We finished the last few miles of our ride before Barry and Helen and their Tandem turned off for home. Before they left I said a last good bye to Tandem, and with a tear in my eye we took a moment to remember the many enjoyable rides we had been on together. However age eventually catches up with us all and there is no way for anyone to avoid ending up in that great bike rack in the sky (or possibly rusting at the bottom of a river) just Barry and Helen's Tandem will be going there sooner than it realises.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.20
Route
Click here to down load 26 mile Norwich Tunstead loop GPX file for your GPS

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Where are the Cake Based Bargains? (Four Seasons Coffee Shop, Wymondham)

Four Seasons Coffee Shop,
Wymondham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-16:00, Sun 10:00-15:00,
Recommended 
Todays cycling guest, Big George, nearly always introduces a time constraint on our rides, normally for urgent housework, which results in having to cycle to a strict deadline that inevitably leads to panic towards the end of a trip. However today he had managed to have his urgent appointment, this time the dentist, before we set off so we would not be leaving until mid morning. To avoid any issues from the short daylight hours I had opted for a quick ride to the newly opened Four Seasons Coffee shop at the Wymondham garden centre.

As I waited patiently for Big George to appear I received one of his normal excuses texts to inform me that the dentist was running 15 minutes and therefore so was he. After a further hour I was beginning to worry that something had cropped up as there was still no sign of him. It is not uncommon for some urgent hoovering or dusting to distract him, but when he did eventually arrive he blamed the traffic although there was a tell tale smell of Mr Sheen in the air.

Today was also Black Friday, despite the sun being out and a clear blue sky, so I was hoping for some excellent cake based bargains (CBBs) on this special day. I worried in case there would be ugly scenes at Wymondham Garden centre as people battle for the last piece of Victoria sponge on special offer, although I felt that with Big George delaying our start all the best CBB's would have gone anyway. 

As it was a shortish ride and we had the wind with us most of the way we made good progress to our target destination
outside Wymondham Garden centre wher the Four Seasons cafe can be found
The four seasons coffee shop is not only a nice cafe but has an educational name as well helping you remember how many seasons there are during the year. By the look of things at the Wymondham garden centre one of the years longest seasons is Christmas. Most of the indoor area was dedicated to it and it took all my powers of persuasion to get Big George past Mechanical Santa who was currently reading a story. I promised to give him a sweet if he came straight to the coffee shop and handed over a humbug from my pocket.
Mechanical Santa reading a story to an empty audience
The Four Seasons coffee house is located on the side of the garden centre but only has an indoor seating area although I suspect they may have outdoor seating in the three warmer seasons.

As I suspected we had arrived too late in the day and must have missed any CBBs that may have been available as there was no sign of any special offers however there was an excellent cake selections with some exciting looking offerings so I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) score. 
Very good cake selection
I choose Walnut Latte cake as I didn't know that Walnut Latte was a thing until now. Big George had an americano coffee and a scone. In the queue he told me he couldn't decide between cheese or fruit scone but then out of left field at the last second went for the cherry ones.

Our food and drinks soon arrived and were a mixed bunch. All of it good but my hot chocolate was a bit too weak for top marks and we didn't get the hit of cherry we were expecting from the scone. However Big George thought his coffee was top notch as I did with my cake. As an aside the sausage roll and cheese sandwich we had for our lunch were both excellent although as a sausage roll and cheese sandwich are clearly not cake they played no part in the overall cafe rating.
Cakes and drinks
The Four Seasons coffee house was a very good stop especially if you wanted some lunch or christmas decorations as well, so I recommend a visit.

As we left I craftily went a different way out of the shop so that Big George wouldn't be distracted by Mechanical Santa and we set off back home. This time we were into a strong wind which fortunately meant I couldn't really hear anything as Big George shared news of his Black Friday Vacuum cleaner research.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
8.0
7.5
8.0
6.0
7.10
Map of route

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

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Winters on its way. (Grey Seal Cafe, Blakeney)

Grey Seal Cafe,
Blakeney,
Opening times Every day 09:00-16:00
Recommended 
It has been a couple of weeks since I had been able to get out on a cafe cycle ride and in that time the weather has really changed. From mild Autumn days it is now looking very wet and windy. Therefore yesterday the time had come to change to winter clothes and bikes. With reduced daylight as well then rides would also have to be a bit shorter.

For the ride I was off to meet up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House in Alysham. He too had dusted down his steel winter steed and would be out on in for the first time since he put it away last Spring.

I had put Andrew in charge of route and destination but in order to keep the ride with in acceptable boundaries I had given him a choice of 3 cafes and strict instructions to keep the distance between 30 and 40 miles. He had chosen my Blakeney cafe option on the North Norfolk coast as he felt it looked like the poshest one and he is not only hard to please but a bit of a snob too. 

With mud, water and wet leaves making the roads rather slippery then some care was needed as we set off towards the coast. It was therefore no surprise when we had to stop for a puncture although it was the first one I had had for several months (my cycling data spreadsheet says 17th July) so I couldn't complain.
My first puncture since July
I don't mind getting a puncture as when I return home I get to hang up the inner tube on my 'tubes to be repaired hook' (TTBRH). Then on Christmas Eve, like many others, I will sit down with my pile of punctured tubes, a bowl of lukewarm water, glue, patches and mince pies. Then, while listening to Christmas songs and carols, I will start to repair them all. After all nothing says Christmas more than a full set of mending punctures and a tidy inner tube shelf, except perhaps foxes on a trampoline. 

There were no further incidents and we soon arrived at our target cafe. However despite both me and Andrew checking the details on the cafe website, with no mention of the fact that it was closed for the winter, we found that it was closed for the winter.

Fortunately I knew of a second untried cafe in Blakeney so using the gift of Google maps we found our way to the Grey Seal cafe. It was quite hard to find as there was no big signage and it was next to the fishmongers which is unusual for a coffee shop.
Grey Seal Cafe next to fish mongers
Grey Seal is also a coffee roaster supplying several cafes in the area, so it sells ground coffee to the public as well. As a result there were not many tables and chairs supplied for cafe customers (I counted 3) but at this time of year there were not many people about either and we were the only ones currently there making it rather too quiet. This may surprise regular readers who have heard me complain when cafes are too noisy, especially with mothers and toddlers, but remember the customer is always right. 
Rather empty inside the cafe today
With reduced winter trade it wasn't a surprise that the cake selection was rather small with only pastries and custard tarts on display although on further questioning I discovered that there was carrot cake and brownies available too, which upped the effective cake selection (ECS) score a bit.
The part of the cake selection on display
As it was a proper coffee cafe they had some extra choices so Andrew went for a Cortado (which is a milky espresso popular in Spain, apparently) and a tart, which although not a pretentious one seemed an appropriate choice for him. I went for a more down to earth Hot chocolate and carrot cake.

When our cakes and drinks arrived I was disappointed to see a partial cake serviette covering but I was able to rescue enough of it for latter crumb wiping use. Remember #keepcakesoffserviettes, even partial ones.
Part of serviette covered by the cake!!!!!!
Andrew thought his Cortado was very good and scored well whereas my hot chocolate was good but a bit weak. Tarts and cakes were both excellent so scored well making the Grey Seal cafe a nice, if slightly quiet, stop.
Excellent cakes and drinks
We set off again and after a while we were overtaken by man on an electric bike. As cycling fans this brought back memories of this summers Rio Olympics velodrome events. I decided it was too good an opportunity and we decided to reenact the Keirin final (the one when they chase the motorbike), which we did for several miles until the derny bike rider eventually managed to shake us off.
Andrew taking on the role of Jason Kenny whilst reenacting the 2016 Olympic Keirin final
After another successful day of cycle cafe reviewing I returned home where I hung the punctured inner tube on my TTBRH which is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
8.0
5.0
8.25
6.0
6.75
Route

Click here to download 38 mile Alysham Blakeney loop gpx file for your gps

Friday, 4 November 2016

What no rain. (Marchelles, Wymondham)

Marchelles,
Wymondham,
Opening times Mon-Sat from 09:30-16:00
It was raining heavily when Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) arrived at Crusader Towers for today's potential cafe cycle ride. I was already changed and ready to go but he was still in his civvies and wanted to know if we were still going as he had just had his hair done and didn't want to mess it up.

Speaking as a man with virtual no hair I didn't understand what the problem was and anyway my weather app, Inaccuweather, assured me there was a dry window for the next 2 to 3 hours. He reluctantly agreed and dashed to the car to retrieve his cycle kit while trying to avoid getting his hair wet.

Cycling guest top cycling tip no 52. If you want to avoid being forced to go on a cycle ride in the rain (and potential mess up your new hair do) then send a text saying you are not coming as once you turn up in person you will be going.

By the time he was changed and had stopped faffing about then, as predicted, it had stopped raining and we set off to Wymondham via Attleborough. Despite it being a dark threatening sky the rain stayed away and we made it to Marchelles in Wymondham still dry.
Outside Marchelles by the outdoor seating area
There were a couple of tables available in the outdoor seating alley area but despite my no rain prediction we decided to play it safe and sit in the dimly lit indoor seating area. 

I checked the cakes on the counter which was a rather small section although on further questioning there was also some carrot and lemon cake available but not out on display, which was a shame as they were probably good looking cakes. With the inclusion of these cakes I awarded a reasonable effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Cake selection minus the two missing ones in the kitchen
I ordered the as yet unseen carrot cake and Andrew chocolate cake to go with his cappuccino. Our drinks arrived first and were both reasonable offerings.
Reasonable drinks
Our cakes then arrived. Mine on an oval plate but Andrew's chocolate cake had come on a triangular plate. 
Cakes arrived on different shaped plates
This was fine when his cake was placed on it in its upright triangle slice way up. However when placed on its side then elementary geometry teaches us that the cake now becomes rectangular and will therefore no longer fit on a triangular plate. 
Chocolate cake the way it fits on the plate
Andrew was frozen with indecision and just stared at his cake for some time unable to decide how to over come his geometric challenge. In the end I took the the plunge for him and pushed it over knocking the ill fitting piece off which, fortunately, he caught on his fork before it hit the table and the issue was averted. 
Cake no longer fitting on plate when on its side
I now had yet another cake serving challenge (CSC) to add to the list of such issues that I keep a log of (ref CSC 7.2.1). Obviously CSC 7.2.1 pales into insignificance when compared with the #keepcakeoffserviettes problem which fortunately wasn't in play here.

Despite the presence of CSC 7.2.1 the cakes were actually really, really good; moist and nicely iced, and we both agreed they should get a very high cake taste quality (CTQ) mark.

All in all Marchelles proved a good solid stop with decent drinks and very good cake, if only a small selection of it.

As we had covered most of the route on the way out and it still wasn't raining, I was confident we would get home dry, which we did. However as Andrew loaded his bike back into his car ready for the return trip to Hard to Please House he complained about how dirty his bike now was and would need to decide if to wash it before his next ride. It was turning into a very stressful, if dry, day for him. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
5.0
8.25
6.0
6.25
Map of route

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


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Rest. (Coffee House, Ketteringhall)

The Coffee House,
Kenninghall,
Opening times Mon-Fri from 08:00-17:00

Sat-Sun 09:00-16:00
After a busy year of running, cycling and triathloning I decided it would be wise to take a couple of weeks off before starting training again for next years endurance challenges (which I'm sure everybody is looking forward to hearing about). However after 3 days of this resting nonsense I decided that a quick cafe cycle ride wouldn't do any harm so arranged to sneak out on the bike, with regular cycling guest Big George, but decided to keep it quiet from my legs and hoped they won't notice.

Due to the number of other cycling activities I had been doing recently then I hadn't seen Big George for a while so as soon as we set off it was time for a catch up. I told him all about the fun I had been having fixing the problems on my new computer while he told me all about the latest housework he had been doing and some particularly challenging washing up. 

With such fascinating topics being covered time flew by as we arrived at the Coffee House in Ketteringhall.
Standing by the outside seating area at the Coffee House Kenninghall
There was a nicely positioned outdoor seating area from which you could watch all the action in Ketteringhall unfold including a particularly good view of the movements in and out of the Ketteringhall village stores and post office on the other side of the road.

But we had no time for local people watching as there was cafe reviewing to be done so it was straight inside to check out the cakes. It seemed like quite a small cake selection with only Victoria sponge, rhubarb and custard cake and bananoff muffins available. However as I chose between them it was clearly a very effective selection so got the highest effective cake selection (ECS) mark that that few cakes could get.
Small but effective cake selection
I went for the rhubarb and custard cake with my hot chocolate, whilst Big George went for a filter coffee and bacon sandwich. He clearly saw my disappointment at him not caking and so ordered a toasted tea cake. This of course did not help as I have stated on many occasions that, despite having the word cake in it, a toasted tea cake is clearly not a cake but a bread with added raisins, plus its toasted and you should never try and toast cake. Therefore Big George's contribution would only be to rate his hot drink.
Big Georges Coffee, Bacon Sandwich and toasted tea cake, non of which are cakes
I thought my hot chocolate was a nice one and scored well as did my cake, however Big George seemed to be in a sulk and didn't rate his coffee that highly.
My Hot Chocolate and actual cake
Despite this I thought that the Coffee House in Kenninghall had proved to be a nice stop and fills a big gap for cafes in that area on my locations map.

As we set off on the ride home Big George still seemed to be in a strop. I questioned him further on his problem and eventually got to the bottom of it. It wasn't, as I had assumed, that he had been told off for not caking properly but that the nice lady who had served us hadn't asked him how far he had cycled today and he always likes to be asked. I therefore promised I would make it clear in my post that we had cycled nearly 44 miles and that he had done very well, which seemed to cheer him up.

When I got home my legs didn't seem to have noticed their outing so tomorrow I will continue my exercise downtime by sneaking out again for another quick cafe cycle ride, which is my type of resting. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.5
5.5
4.5
7.0
6.0
6.10
Route
Click here to download 44 mile Norwich Kenninghall loop gpx file to your gps