Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

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

No. 28 cafe,
Holt,
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
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.5
6.0
6.0
6.5
7.0
6.20
Route

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,
Wroxham,
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.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.5
8.0
7.0
6.0
4.5
6.20
Route


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

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sick note. (Art House Cafe, Cromer)

Art House Cafe,
Cromer,
Opening times Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00,
Sun 11:00-15:00
Recommended 
You may remember that Mrs Crusader had recently got a new bike. Sadly it still hasn't made it out on to the road as she is yet to find a cycling outfit that matches it's colour. However today looked like being the day that the rubber would finally hit the tarmac as I had arranged a ride with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) to visit Cromer which is one of her favourite destinations.

Unfortunately when we awoke this morning it was a bit rainy. After peering out of the window Mrs Crusader didn't look keen on coming along in these conditions and I was soon presented with a note from her mother saying she had tummy ache and should be let off cycling today. I was a little suspicious but before I could remind her that her mother lived over 200 miles away and had actually died several years ago she had headed back to bed. 

I decided it was best to leave her there while I headed off to meet Andrew at Hard to Please House for the start of the ride.

It was a dull and raining day and after we had cycled for a few miles we were a bit cold and wet. I decided to take a photo to show blog readers the tough conditions I'm prepared to battle through in the search for cake. 
Cold and wet conditions
I looked at the photo and decided it would be better if I was in it, so I passed my phone to Andrew and asked if he could take the picture for me. I got into position and waited to be snapped. Andrew lifted the phone to his eye before turning white as he froze whilst staring at the screen. I asked him what was wrong and he said I had become invisible. This seemed unlikely so I asked him to have another go. He tried again but apparently I was still missing from the screen when he pointed the phone at me. I then realised he was actually looking at the photo I had just taken and hadn't put the phone into camera mode yet, which was a great disappointment as I had always hoped that I had some wizard blood in me.
Cold and wet conditions plus me
We set off again and continued to pedal through the drizzly rain until we arrived at the Art House Cafe in Cromer where we locked our bikes and went inside to the gallery style coffee shop. 
Inside the Art House cafe featuring an Art installation called 'wet cycling old man'
There was a nice selection of cakes so I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) mark. Andrew asked if there was any savoury offerings but there was only toasted crumpet with marmite available in that department so he went for a portuguese tart instead. I stayed traditional with my choice of Victoria sponge.
Good cake selection
As this was only a cake and coffee outlet there were no sausage rolls available so I couldn't add to my search for Sausage Roll of the Year or SROTY (pronounced sroty).

We sat by the window surrounded by very pleasant local seaside based art in the driftwood and seagulls corner. Our drinks and cakes soon arrived and were of a high quality leading to good cake and drinks marks. Andrew thought his portuguese tart was nice but wasn't as good as the one he had had on a recent trip to Lisbon, which I think he only said so he could remind me about his recent trip to Lisbon. 
Good quality cakes and drinks
The Art House Cafe was a good stop with nice cakes and drinks and just what we needed to refuel us on such a cold and wet day (unlike the weather you get in Lisbon, I was informed). I recommend a visit, especially for fans of seaside based art.

I was still disappointed not to have a new entry for SROTY but fortunately the rules of the competition say that a sausage roll can come from any establishment that I was either visiting or had previously visited meaning that I was able to pop into the nearby Rocket House cafe to pick a couple of sausage rolls up which I could review when I got home.
Outside Rocket House cafe
It was raining a bit harder on the return trip so we spent most of the time trying not to get wet. Much to Andrews excitement we agreed that our next ride would be to his favourite destination, Holt, where we would not only try a new cafe but hover up the local sausage rolls from all my previously visited cafes there. 

On my return home Mrs Crusader suddenly made a miraculous recovery as she volunteered to help with SROTY judging of the Rocket House cafe's offering.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.25
7.0
6.5
7.0
7.5
7.05
Route

Click here to download 27 mile Alysham Cromer loop GPX file for your gps

Friday, 27 January 2017

The mystery of the disappearing overshoe (In-a-spin, Loddon)

In-a-Spin,
Loddon,
Opening times Tue-Fri 10:00-17:00,
Sat 09:00-17:00, Sun 09:00-14:00
Highly Recommended 
Recently Mrs Crusader decided it was about time she had a new bike as her current one was dirty and no longer matched her favourite cycling outfit. It was hard to argue against her rationale so I was tasked with getting her a suitable replacement that matched her criteria (clean and blue).

I had been very happy with my last new bike purchase which I had got from In-a spin near Loddon so we set off their to see if they could satisfy her demanding spec. Not only did they have just the right bike but I discovered they were now doing hot drinks and cake as well. I promised I would return on another day for a cafe cycle ride to do a proper review.

Well, today was that day and I was joined by cycling guest Big George for the trip. Once again it was a cold one, so we layered up before we set off. We hadn't gone far before Big George started to have cleat problems as his shoe kept slipping out of his pedal. I was keen to bring Big George up to speed with details from the recent Marathon that I ran in Gran Canaria and the pedal issues were distracting him from my story. At first I suspected he may have been making up the problem but when he insisted on stopping and removing both his overshoe and shoe, in this weather, I knew it was for real. 

After much huffing, puffing and fiddling we were good to go again and I could at last continue my mile by mile update (restarting from mile 7). I felt I now had his full attention until I got to the bit about the excellent water bottle snatch I performed at the half way drinks station as he suddenly announced that one of his feet was now much colder than the other. On closer inspection it appeared that this was because one foot no longer had an overshoe to help keep the heat in. Despite his claims that he clearly remembered putting it back on the evidence suggested that he must have left it while fiddling with his shoes earlier.

With mismatching feet, temperature wise, we continued to In-a-spin and got there just as I completed telling him about the final mile of my race.
At In-a Spin with equally warm feet
Once inside I immediately headed for the cakes and was impressed by both the number and quality of those on offer so awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark. I went for coffee and walnut cake with my hot chocolate and Big George had an Americano and fruit scone (with raspberry jam).
Excellent cake selection
We sat down in the window seating area and awaited our refreshments. Owner Simon clearly felt obliged to ask how the marathon had gone as I may have mentioned that I was doing it (several times) during the recent bike purchasing activity. Big George went pale at the thought of hearing about it again so immediately suggested he gave a summary while I went to look at the bikes on display.

On my return the cakes and drinks had arrived, the coffee and walnut cake had expertly been placed the correct distance from my serviette, almost as if to make a point. I was lapping up the cycling chat whilst enjoying the bike based atmosphere and ambiance so completely forgot to take the obligatory drinks and cake photograph. It wasn't until I had finished my cake and drink that I noticed my gaff so this was all that was left when I eventually got round to taking a picture.
What was left of cakes and drinks when I finally remembered to take a photo

The drinks were very good with my hot chocolate being a proper Italian one. The coffee and walnut cake was a triumph, just a shame there's no photo. I thoroughly enjoyed my stop at In-a-Spin and would highly recommend a visit especially if you like bicycles or want to see what the cake actually looks like.

It was an uneventful ride back but once I got home I received a text from Big George saying that he had found his missing overshoe which led to today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 59. If you have to remove your overshoe during a ride and want to keep both feet equally warm then remember to replace it on the shoe without an overshoe and not on top of the foot that already has one.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
7.0
7.5
8.0
8.0
7.50
Route
Click here to download Loddon - Norwich loop GPX file to load on to your GPS

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Arctic expedition (White House Stores, Neatishead)

White House Store,
Neatishead,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:30-17:00,
Sun 8:30-13:00
Due to the recent bad weather, poorly cycling guests and a trip to Gran Canaria (to run a marathon) it has meant that cafe cycle riding has been rather thin on the ground so far this year. Worse still the hunt for sausage roll of the year has got off to a very slow start.

Things were not looking good when I awoke this morning to see a frost on the ground and a freezing fog in the air. Fortunately I knew that I had got today's cycling guest, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), well trained as to not call off a ride and sure enough he turned up right on time. As expected there was much whinging about how cold it was and how far I had planned for us to ride. At these times I find it best to resort to the gift of the lie by telling him that we would take a short cut (we didn't) and that the weather forecast said it was due to warm up (it wasn't) so he agreed that the ride could go ahead.

As predicted, by the real weather forecast, the fog and cold air stayed with us for the whole ride so it was not a surprise that within a few minutes, despite double socking and gloving, we could not feel any of our extremities. This combination made our mid-ride comfort break almost impossible to undertake successfully. 
Fog and dark skies were with us all ride
To make matters worse the poor weather led to some slow cautious riding meaning that by the time we eventually got to our planned cafe stop at the Neatishead White House Store (community village shop and coffee house) we felt less like Tour de France cyclists and more like arctic explorers, but without the sled, huskies and Igloos.

Andrew reluctantly took the requisite cafe photo as this meant removing his gloves increasing the imminent threat of finger frost bite amputation further. With picture captured we dashed inside, past the outdoor seating patio area, hoping to warm up.
Outside the White House Stores
We were greeted by two extremely friendly volunteer shop assistants eager to make us some hot drinks, chocolate for me and cappuccino for Andrew. 
Our very welcome hot drinks
They explained that cake and sandwiches were in short supply in the middle of January as only complete idiots would cycle into the middle of Broadland at the this time of year but if we could wait to the Spring there would be a much bigger choice. As we couldn't wait that long Andrew opted for the last bit of chocolate and orange cake and me a blueberry muffin.
Rather sparse cake selection as we visited in the middle of winter
It was better news on the sausage roll front as they had plenty of them and more than happy to heat one up for me. 
Second sausage roll of the year
The hot drinks were just what we needed with my hot chocolate tasting particularly good. The chocolate orange cake was extremely nice and got very high cake taste quality marks. 
Today's cakes
Neatishead community shop and coffee stop was just what we needed and worth a visit although I suggest you go during the summer season.

Now warm again we returned to our bikes and started the process of getting really cold again we which, like Captain Oats but without the dying bit, we successfully achieved before arriving home. 

Finally must give a big thanks to the inventors of the hot water bottle and blanket without whom I would still not have warmed up several hours later.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
5.0
4.0
8.0
7.0
6.20
Route

Click here to download 41 mile Norwich Horning loop GPX file to your GPS

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Anyone for tennis (Eaton Park Cafe, Norwich)

Eaton Park Cafe,
Norwich,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00,
Sat-Sun 8:30-6:00
Recommended 
You may recall that regular cycling guests Barry and Helen had recently got a new tandem (see So long old friend) so I had arranged a short ride so that I could see it in action. We had arranged to meet up at the Casitor St Edmunds crossroads with Chris (Mrs Crusader) as my other cycling guest for the day. I made sure we got there early so that I could take a picture of them arriving on their new machine.

As I saw them approaching I got my phone ready clicked away. But what was this, they had turned up on the same old tandem they had always used. I was very disappointed and nearly called the ride off there and then but I was curious to know why the new tandem wasn't making an appearance. Barry explained that his new tandem (or possible him) was a bit of a fair weather tart and didn't want to come out in the winter incase it got it's shiny new paint a bit dirty. He promised that it would make an appearance on the first nice spring day we have. I am begining to suspect they havent got a new tandem at all but time will tell.
Barry and Helen on their old tandem
Barry has always been very sniffy about reviewing cake and deliberately chooses to have a sausage roll on all of our cafe cycle rides so that he doesn't have to get involved in any of 'the cake rating nonsense'. In 2017 I was confident I had got around this issue and proudly told Barry that this year was the year of the sausage roll so he could be fully involved in finding the best one (see thing of the year). I was expecting Barry to be pleased and enthusiastic about this year's competition but I should have known better. He just said there was no point in doing the competition as he had already found the best sausage roll ever which was at a service station on the M5 in Gloucestershire. So that was that, the search for sausage roll of the year 2017 was over before it had really begun. Then I remembered that the rules state that you have to be able to cycle to the cafe to get the sausage roll and you can't cycle on a motorway. The search for sausage roll of the year 2017 was back on again.

Today's cafe came right at the end of our ride but the miles flew by as we continued to debate sausage roll rating criteria and in no time we were at the Eaton Park cafe in Eaton Park in Norwich.
Outside the Eaton Park cafe
The cafe is situated in the old victorian pavilion by the bandstand. I was worried it wouldn't be open at this time of year so was surprised that not only was it open seven days a week all year round but was also very busy today. The whole setup was very welcoming so I awarded a high atmosphere and ambiance mark.

There is also an outdoor seating area overlooking the tennis courts but we decided it was a bit cold to sit there today especially as there was no tennis action to enjoy.
Outdoor seating area overlooks the tennis courts
I checked out the cake selection but the only things on display were  scones and pastries. You had to rely on the cake selection blackboard to pick one of three cakes on offer,. This obviously impacted the effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Scones, pastries and cake selection blackboard
Much to mine and Barry's disappointment there were no sausage rolls on the menu so I went for chocolate and almond cake. Chris opted for orange and almond cake while Barry and Helen and their tandem just had coffee to avoid getting involved in any of 'the cake rating nonsense'.

Our drinks soon arrived in a nice selection of mugs and cups. For once Barry actually liked his cappuccino but Chris and Helen thought their Mocha's were not hot enough for really high marks. My hot chocolate was nice but didn't perform well on the hot part of the drink either.
Nice selection of drinks but could have been a bit hotter
I thought both our almond base cakes were excellent with the orange one being particularly good and I awarded a high cake taste quality (CTQ) rating.
Almond based cakes
Despite the lack of sausage rolls the Eaton Park cafe was a good relaxing stop and I recommend a visit especially for tennis fans.

Hopefully next time Barry and Helen join me as cycling guests they will be provide a new tandem and I'll provide the sausage rolls then we will all be happy. 

Scores 
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
5.0
8.0
8.0
6.60
Route

Click here to dowload 25 mile Norwich Poringland loop GPX file for your GPS