Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Monday, 31 March 2014

Sometimes need a plan B.

 Near Death Experience update (March 2014)

I had great plans for cafe cycle reviewing now that spring is here. I had a long list of suggestions of cafes to try, I had some requests from cafes to visit them, there was going to be the first ever European Cafe cycle reviews and the first steps on the marathon 'calorie neutral bike ride' world record attempt.

But why have I put this in the past tense. Well sadly last week I ended up in intensive care with a twisted bowel and have a lovely scar right up my tum to prove it. Apparently, although I was asleep at the time, I then went into something caused septic shock and my vital organs started to shut down. I have since been informed this is not a good thing and apparently once in this state you only have a 50% chance of pulling through. Fortunately due to all my cafe cycle riding I am fairly fit and thanks to this, and the healing power of cake, t I was able to wake up again a couple of days later and start on the road to recovery. 

Although now out of hosp I wont be able to get on a bike for several weeks and then several more weeks to build up long enough rides to include cafe stops.

However all is not lost as I have a plan B and in this case B is for Bus so for the time being the blog will become a bus cafe review blog. 

I'm not up to a bus ride yet but hopefully it wont be to long before Bus Cafe reviewing can start and could even become a regular feature for anyone, although I cant believe it would be the case, who doesn't like a nice bike ride before their hot chocolate and cake.


The Bus stop near my house where all Bus Cafe
reviewing is likely to start from or finish at

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Eggcellent find. (Hen House Cafe, Wymondham)

Hen House Cafe,
Wymondham,
Tue-Sat 10:00-2:00,
Highly Recommended
After returning from running the Barcelona Marathon at the weekend I was still having difficulty walking as I hopped on to my bike for some cafe cycle reviewing.  On my previous running race (the Wymondham 20 mile) I had noticed a sign for the Hen House Cafe which I had not spotted before. It looked interesting so I decided it would be worth a visit at the next suitable opportunity. 

So with achy thighs I gingerly set off with today's cycling guest Chris (wife). There was a strong south easterly wind so we struggled for the first part of the ride down to Attleborough, which was about half way and usual distance for having a stop. Unfortunately to date I haven't found or been recommended a good cafe or teashop in the Attleborough region so we cycled straight through. (Note :Since I wrote this I have been to the Coffee Lounge  and Baileys cafe in Attleborough which are both very nice so please ignore the last comment).
Attleborough where I am yet to see or hear of a cafe needing reviewing
With the wind now behind us we made good time on the rest of the ride to the Hen House Cafe which can be found up a little drive off the road near Wymondham Abbey. On arrival it was good to see that there was not only an outdoor seating area but also a shed based seating option (which was a first).
Outside the Hen House Cafe in the outdoor and shed based seating area.
We went inside and immediately came face to face with the cake selection displayed on a blue welsh dresser. There was a small but tempting cake selection plus a fresh batch of coconut and almond macaroons being baked behind the counter. The very friendly owner suggested we try a freshly baked coconut and almond macaroon and were glad we did as they were delicious.
Small but tempting cake selection including freshly
 baked coconut and almond macaroons in the tin.
At the drinks counter I was offered a choice of 4 different hot chocolate options (HCOs). This was a HCO record beating the previous best HCO from any cafe of 3. I went for a double chocolate which was half normal and half white chocolate. Chris opted for a semi skinny mocha.

In terms of cake I went for banana and cardamom and Chris choose the lemon drizzle. The Hen House cafe has a small and cosy indoor seating area but we took our drinks, cakes and macaroons outside so we could pick a shed to try in the outside shed based seating area.
Sitting in one of the shed based seating areas, although
I was slightly uncomfortable with the amount of soft furnishings in a shed.
I found the shed based seating area feature a master stroke as, like all men, there is nothing I like better than pottering about in a shed. My only criticism was that the decor was not quite to my tastes with too many soft furnishings and wall decorations (tea towels, posters etc) and not enough useless mechanical things to tinker with. I would rather have less cushions and more cogs, wheels, bits of string, random length screws, broken power tools etc. I'm not sure Chris necessarily agreed with my view as she was flickering through a magazine about chocolate and curtains from the magazine pile. 
Drinks and cakes (plus a half eaten very tasty macaroon)
 ready for reviewing.
Once settled in our shed we got down to reviewing business and found our drinks were eggtremely good and both got high scores. We also both very much enjoyed our cakes which were properly moist and came in nice big pieces.

Despite the small effective cake selection the Hen House cafe scored eggceptionally well and has gone straight into my top 5 reviewed cafes. It has only been open since October (same as my blog) and I really hope it is a big success (same as my blog) as I'm sure I will be making return visits. 

After a little while we reluctantly left our shed and got back on our bikes. Re-energised with our cake and with wind behind we made it home in an eggtraordinarily good time.

Ratings for the Hen House Cafe.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8
9
5
8
8.5
7.70
Map of route we took.


Click link to download 36 mile Norwich Attleborough loop GPX for your GPS

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Its a lovely day for it (Kemps Cabin, High Kelling)

Kemps Cabin,
High Kelling,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:00-15:45,
Sat 10:00-14:00
In 3 weeks time myself and today's guest, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) are off to Nice for some cycling in the foot hills of the Alps and hopefully some international cafe cycle reviewing. As we are meant to be cycling 200 miles in 3 days I thought that maybe we should get in a spot of training. I therefore turned up nice and early at Andrew's house for the training ride he had 'prepared'.

On arrival I discovered the so called 'route preparation' consisted of deciding which direction we would first go in. We were also on a strict schedule as Andrew had to get back in time for his dentists funeral. So we set off to who knows where, to visit a yet to be decided cafe with a tight deadline. Not the sort of preparation I would encourage any young cafe cycle reviewers to follow.

After about 2 hours and 30 miles we were somewhere in North Norfolk and it was agreed that it was about time we had our cafe stop. With the clock ticking Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) decided we should head for Holt as there were plenty of cafes there and he had recently seen a sign with Holt on it. I calculated that the time to get to Holt plus the time to get back from Holt to Andrew's house would only leave a few minutes for a cafe stop. This would not leave time for a proper review and I was far from happy. Fortunately luck was on our side as as soon as we set off towards Holt we came across the High Kelling post office which has Kemps Cabin cafe attached to it. If we were to stop here we would have time for a proper review and still get back in time. So we did.
Outside Kemps Cabin in potential outside seating area.
Kemps Cabin has a patio with a pile of tables and chairs outside. As the tables and chairs didn't appear to be for sale I assumed the patio area becomes an outdoor seating area when required. However today was not one of those days so we went inside.

On entering Kemps Cabin I went straight to the counter were there was a small cake selection which seemed to major on scones, but did have a nice looking coffee and walnut cake. I therefore awarded an average effective cake selection score.
Cake selection with serving lady making copious
 notes from my cafe based feedback
I ordered a cheese scone with my hot chocolate. Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) refused to order coffee as they didn't have a proper coffee machine (just a percolator) and went for a cup of tea instead. However to my surprise he was prepared to have the coffee cake despite not knowing the provenance of the coffee used in it.

For a basic CDM powder type hot chocolate it was about as good as it could be as was Andrews cup of tea but there is a ceiling of how high these drinks can be rated. They did both come with a little biscuit which was a nice touch. My cheese scone was not one of the best but Andrew thought his cake to be very good so we averaged out the cake quality score.
Drinks and cakes about to be reviewed
Overall Kemps Cabin was a pleasant stop, but best used as an emergency cafe, especially if you are in hurry to get back to your dentists funeral when it is particularly good.

On the way back we met two fellow cyclists dressed up in their best Lycra who informed us that it was a lovely day for it. We both agreed with them, despite neither of us knowing what 'it' actually was a lovely day for. So we compiled a potential 'it' list as we raced back to Alysham getting there just in time for Andrew to meet his deadline.

Unfortunately as I have no idea of the route we took, because it was made up as we went along, there will be no routes feature with this post.

Ratings for Kemps Cabin
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6
6
5
6
5.5
5.70

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The best laid plans...(Food lovers cafe deli. Aylsham)

Food Lovers Cafe Deli,
Aylsham,
Open Mon-Sat 8:30-5.00,
 Recommended
On some rides everything goes to plan and on others it doesn't. Yesterday's was definitely the latter. All started off well as we set off under a clear blue sky, the first time I can remember this since cafe cycle reviewing began last October.
For those who cant remember what one looks like
 then this is the clear blue sky we set off under
The plan for today's ride was to go, with today's guests Chris (wife) and Barry and Helen and their Tandem, to the National Trust Muddy Boots cafe at Blickling Hall . The strap line for the cafe is: "you'll always find good coffee and a warm welcome here". Please note the use of the word 'always'.

We were due to meet up at 10:15 at the start of the Marroits Way. As the first stretch was going to be off-road myself and Chris chose to use our hybrid bikes. This led to lots of last minute pre ride preparation re pumping up tyres, setting up GPS etc. As a result of all this faffing we needed to pedal frantically in order to get to the start on time.
Start of Marriots Way but with 50% of participants missing
Our extra exertion appeared to have been for nothing as on arrival there was no sign of Barry or Helen, (or their tandem). Some texting and phoning revealed that their tandem had punctured and they would be delayed until 11.00. We spent a happy 45 minutes counting clouds, twiddling thumbs and watching grass grow. This delay would also mean that there would not be time for a beer stop after our cycle cafe reviewing!
My hybrid bike waiting patiently for Barry and Helen (and their tandem)
at the start of the Marriots way
When Barry and Helen and their tandem did arrive I had to break the news that we would not be having the planned beer stop. This is is apparently a must for tandem cyclists and there was much whinging and mumbling but I held firm that cafe cycle reviewing must take priority. I suggested that they could always start a cycle pub review blog but this didn't seem to help.

We set off down the Marriots Way but it was very muddy and slippery so we needed lots of concentration to stay on the bikes. By the time we got to Drayton, Barry and Helen (and their tandem) had become totally rebellious and were now refusing to go any further off-road. To maintain good relationships with half of today's guest reviewers (remember it's one bike one vote for guest reviewers) I agreed we could continue off route and on-road despite having to go up some unnecessary hills and down the busy Fakenham road.

Once back on route we continued without further incident to Blickling Hall National Trust car park, the location of the Muddy Boots cafe. On arrival I saw that the car park was full with lots of National Trust type people. Worried the cafe would be busy and the National Trust type people would have scoffed all the cake we quickly locked up our bikes and went to get some food and drink. 

However it transpired that  "you WON'T always find good coffee and a warm welcome here" 
or in fact any quality of coffee or any type of welcome as the Muddy Boots cafe was shut. To make matters worse I was accused by my guests of making a basic cycle cafe reviewer school boy error by not first checking that the cafe would be open before we set off. I had assumed that on a beautiful day with a packed car park of National Trust type people, eager for cake, that the National Trust would not be wanting to miss out by having a closed cafe. I foolishly admitted to my guests that I had indeed not checked the website. However when I got home and went on-line the Blickling Hall site clearly implied that the cafe would be open. I should have kept quiet and saved face.

I will of course be writing to the National Trust, and anyone I know connected with them, to complain about the inaccurate website and insist that their cafe strap line is changed. How about "when we can be bothered to open you will find potentially good coffee (subject to review) and a warm welcome here".

I ignored suggestions from the Barry and Helen and their tandem that we could go to the pub instead and decided to head to Alysham to find a cafe to review. Which we did and quickly came across the Food Lovers Cafe Deli. Unfortunately it had no outside seating area but Chris had been here once before and said it was good.
Outside Food Lovers Cafe Deli. Sadly no outside seating area
The cake selection was mainly brownie, flapjack and biscuit based but did have an Orange and carrot cake. I therefore couldn't give it a very high effective cake selection score (ECS).
Cake selection which was mainly flapjack, Brownie and biscuit based.
I had hot chocolate and orange and carrot cake. Chris had skinny mocha and soup (which is not a cake!). Barry and Helen and their tandem were still sulking about the lack of beer so just had soup and no drinks. I made it clear they would therefore play no further part in cycle cafe reviewing of the Food Lovers Cafe Deli, which rather undermined their role as a guest reviewer.

The hot chocolate was excellent (choice of dark or white) and Chris thought her skinny mocha very good too. As the only cake reviewer it was left to me to rate the orange and carrot cake which I thought was very nice.
Orange and carrot cake which was very nice and not soup.
The Food Lovers Cafe Deli was a good cycle cafe stop although just missed out on the current cafe top 10 due to it's edge of town location and need for a larger cake selection. It would score very highly in the 'not being closed on a lovely day' category, if I had one.

Due to our diversion into Alysham and not having the beer stop, we went off-route several times on the way back and ended up on some busy roads. As a result of not really knowing where we went the normal routes feature wont be included at the end of this post.

Ratings for Food Lovers Cafe Deli
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.5
8.0
5.5
7.5
6.0
7.10

The fry up inspector has been here too. Click here for his review

Monday, 3 March 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 2. (28 miles via Tabnabs Tearoom Mattishall)

Sportive 2,
Tabnabs,
Mattishall,
Open Mon-Sat 9-4.00,
Highly Recommended
Saturday saw the second Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive. This is a group ride to one of the current top 10 rated cafes or tearooms. Collectively the group act as my guest rater to help keep the scores up to date and make sure top 10 standards are being maintained. 

Today's choice was Tabnabs tearoom in Mattishall. The sportive had had an original entry of 8 but due to illness and teenager apathy this had been reduced by half. However despite the drizzly conditions the group set off in high spirits.
Setting GPS and cycle computers before setting off from race HQ.
The ride out took longer than planned as we had a high puncture count. I foolishly felt very smug when we stopped for Ali's early puncture as I had just purchased new 'bomb proof' tyres. They may have been 'bomb proof' but certainly were not puncture proof as I managed to get a front and back wheel puncture before we arrived eventually at Tabnabs tearoom.
Mending first of the 4 punctures got on the ride.
Last time I visited Tabnabs my review (Going up the league) said I was disappointed that there was no outside seating area and that there had been a lot of local chit-a-chatter in the inside seating area. Mrs Tabnabs had contacted me to kindly point out that they do have outside seating in the summer (when people actually use it) and if I wanted to then they would happily supply me with a table and chair to take outside. She also asked if I had noticed they have a more relaxed upstairs seating area available for those to use who like less natter with their refresments. I had to confess I had not noticed it which was very poor reviewing on my part. Today was an opportunity to test these things out


Outside Tabnabs holding wheel with latest puncture
On arrival I went inside and checked out the relaxed upstairs area, which looked very relaxing and also had comfy sofas. However despite my warning of potential village gossiping the rest of the group wanted to sit downstairs and it was therefore our group that generated the majority of chatter. I also checked up on the outside seating area and Mrs Tabnabs confirmed I could take a table and chair outside if I wanted. The rest of the group seemed rather keen for me to fully test this out and sit in the courtyard by myself. I appreciated their keenness to help me avoid any further reviewing errors but was happy to accept a theoretic outdoor seating possibility and decided to stay in the warmth so they could enjoy my company.

As before the cake selection was excellent and it was very difficult to make a choice. There were 3 different root vegtable based cakes alone (carrot, beetroot and chocolate, and parsnip and ginger). Collectively we went for beetroot and chocolate cake, carrot cake and a honeycomb type cheesecake thing. A very high effective cake selection (ECS) score was awarded. 
Cakes and coffees ready for rating. All were exceptional
In terms of drinks we had hot chocolate, skinny mocha and lattes. Everyone thought their drinks were very good and I can't remember having a better hot chocolate. As for the cakes they were superb and all got an unprecedented 9.5 out of 10. 

Tabnabs tearoom had not disappointed the sportive crew and improved its ratings further and I look forward to my next visit. 

Despite getting my 3rd puncture on the way home the sportive was a great success and hopefully we will have even more riders for the next one at the end of the month.

Ratings for Tabnabs tearoom based on 3 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.33
8.17
8.67
9.17
6.5
8.17
Map of route

Download GPX file of route to load onto a GPS 28 mile Norwich - Mattishall loop