Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cake Crusader Sportive 3. (36 Miles via the Hen House Wymondham)

Sportive 3,
Hen House,
Wymondham,
Tue-Sat 10:00-2:00,
Highly Recommended
Today saw the 3rd Cake Crusader Sportive. A nice day attracted 8 people to Race HQ for registration with two more joining on route. The route would be a 36 mile trip down to Old Buckingham, returning via Attleborough and Wymondham. Today's stop would be at the Hen House cafe (see Eggcellent find), currently rated in my top 10 cafes and tearooms. Hopefully it will live up to its previous positive comments and cope with a large group of cyclists.
Registered sportive cyclists about to set off from race HQ.
Sportive newbies Rachel and Steve had asked for a slightly shorter route as they had been off their bikes for a while. Demonstrating the flexibility of a Cake Crusader Sportive it was agreed they could meet the group at Hethel and leave again after the cafe stop thus eliminating the need to come to Race HQ and also knock a few miles off the route.
Flexible sportive riders waiting for remaining entrants to join the peloton
The ride went smoothly for the first few miles but then Rachel's lack of practice caught up with her and she started to flag. Unfortunately due to a miscommunication she believed we were going the other way round the route. i.e. 5 miles to cafe stop for her then 25 miles home for everyone else not the other way round. Fortunately Chris (Mrs Crusader) solved the problem by offering to share her drink and lying about how much further it was to the Hen House Cafe. This worked for a few miles until the lies wore off as the miles clocked up. 
The Peleton charging towards Old Buckingham
whilst convincing Rachel we were nearly at the Hen House Cafe
Like all good cycle groups we then each took our turn at lying to Rachel, with a continually more convincing 'we really are nearly there now' honest', until we safely arrived at the Hen House cafe. At this point Rachel sent husband Steve cycling home to pick up the car so Rachel could complete the journey in comfort, and have coffee and cake with the rest of the group.
Outside Hen House Cafe
On arrival I went to see if there was a wider selection of cakes than last time and was pleased to see there was. They were now not only in the box on the blue welsh dresser display unit but the counter as well.
3 varieties of cake in the box on the blue Welsh dresser display unit.
We had caused a bit of a queue at the counter and the barista serving explained she was new and only just getting up to speed with the coffee machine so it took a little time for all the sportive (except Steve as he was still fetching the car) to be served.

As well as a table inside, The Hen House Cafe provides an outdoor shed based seating area for you to sit in. Unfortunately all the sheds were in use so we used the outside picnic bench seating section instead, which was very pleasant.
The full sportive (except Steve) in the outdoor picnic bench seating area
Cafe rating had never been done on this scale before. To make matters worse I had to apply the "first time reviewer''s" coefficient to a number of the party plus include the 'notoriously hard to please Andrew' (NHTPA) factor, to come up with the right algorithm for rating the guest drink. The conclusion was that the coffees were good but needed to be a bit stronger. 
Drinks, cakes and macaroons on a tiny tray ready for reviewing
The cakes also proved hard to agree on as the orange and lemon cake was very good, the macaroons superb but the coffee, walnut and cardamom cake was not such a success. We all decided there was no place for cardamom in a sponge cake (except the banana and cardamom cake I had last time I was here which was very nice). Despite this the cakes were still rated highly.

Overall The Hen House moved its rating up very slightly and we all agreed it was a very nice stop, I only hope they will be able to cope with their growing popularity.

The ride home went smoothly and I believe Steve successfully rescued Rachel in their support car. 

Ratings of Hen House cafe based on two visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.25
8.25
6
7.75
8.75
7.80
Todays route
Click link to download 36 mile Norwich Attleborough loop GPX for your GPS 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Looking for Art. (Yaxham Waters Farm cafe revisted, Yaxham)

 Yaxham Waters Farm Cafe,
Yaxham,
Opening times Sun-Thur 7-7,
Fri-Sat 7-10
Recommended
Over the next two weeks the Norfolk open studio programme is running (nnopenstudios.org.uk). This is where artists from around Norfolk open their art studios to the public. This seemed a great opportunity to combine some cafe cycle reviewing with culture (cafture). So myself and today's guest Chris (wife) set off for a day of cafture by looking for Art. The plan was to head out towards Dereham, pop in to some studios and try some new cafes. The art part of the plan went well but not so the cafe bit.

Our first stop was in Wicklewood where we found Art in Kerry's very big shed in her garden. It was painted pictures plus some funny technique involving photo negatives and printing. Kerry explained the technique and I nodded a lot as I had no idea what she was talking about. Chris liked the moody dark pictures and I liked the bright twee ones. 
About to visit first studio and find some Art
Our next stop was Anne and Deborah in Hingham. Here we found Art in Anne's kitchen. It was mainly painted Art, some photographs and a nice collection of saucepans. Chris liked the black and white photos best and I liked the cooking utensils, although apparently they weren't art but washing up.

Further up the road in  Reymerston we found glass Art in Marie's out buildings. Chris saw some sun catchers she really liked and asked Marie to make her some similar ones of beach huts. This will mean that when they are made we will have Art in our porch.
About to go to Marie's glass making where we commissioned some glass Art
Next it was on to Yaxham for lunch at Yaxham Waters Farm cafe. I had been there previously with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) and had a very good visit. see (Young at Heart)
Outside Yaxham Waters Farm Cafe about to lock bikes with Alarmio
As it was a nice warm day we choose to sit in the outdoor seating patio pond area. Unfortunately we were next to a very loud table of families from Essex. One of the fathers obviously thought he was the king of comedy, shouting out comments and laughing at his own jokes. This did nothing for the atmosphere and ambiance ratings and gave me a headache.
Waiting for our food in the outdoor seating patio pond area
We ordered hot chocolate and skinny mocha plus a piece of lemon cake. The effective cake selection had not been good as there was only lemon cake, chocolate cake or scones on offer, although they did all look very nice.
Small but good looking cake selection
As it was very busy we had to wait a long time for our cake (and lunchtime salads) to arrive. 
Salad lunch with lemon cake in background
The drinks were not as good as last time I was here but the cake was very nice. Unfortunately with slightly reduced ratings Yaxham Waters Farm cafe dropped out of my top 10 cafe or tearoom list but on a quieter day it would still make a nice stop.

Now refreshed it was off to find more Art plus I had two more potential new cafes to visit. 

Next we found painted Art in Caroline's living room. This was the favourite Art of the day. Chris liked one dramatic landscape picture so much she arranged to buy it. I agreed on the condition the same amount of money could go to my new bike wheels fund. So we were both happy.
The landscape Art Chris brought. It cost half a new lightweight bike wheel
From here it was on to Dereham where we found printed Art in Stan's Garage. Stan hadn't been making Art for long which was probably just as well as his garage wasn't very big.

To continue the cafture we planned to have an afternoon tea at Tall Orders in Dereham but when we got there it was closed. I assume because it was a bank holiday. Never mind, I said, as I had a plan B and we went to South Green Park cafe in Matishall. Unfortunately this was also shut and there were now no more cafes on the remainder of the route so no afternoon refreshments or further cycle cafe reviewing would happen this day.

We found our last lot of Art in Ruthanne's extension. It was pottery Art and very nice but a bit out of our price range.
Pottery Art. I had my serious 'looking at Art' face on.
We were now out of both cafe and Art stops so made our way home culturally enriched but new cafe reviewing poor.
Scores for Yaxham Waters Farm Cafe based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.75
6.5
6.5
7
6
6.75
Route to follow shortly.

Click 59 mile Norwich Dereham loop to download GPX file of route for your GPS

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Get off my land. (Earsham Hall tearoom. Bungay)

Earsham Hall Tea room,
Bungay,
Open Mon-Sat 9-5.00, Sun 10-4.00
(under new management since post was published)
Yesterday I was due to go for my first cycle with Big George since my funny turn and near death experience. As always Big George had added a layer of logistical challenge. On this occasion he had double booked the day by also agreeing to go for a bike ride with his mate Andrew as well. Big George, being a master of the double booking, resolved the situation by inviting Andrew to join us for some cafe cycle reviewing. Therefore on a bright but windy morning I set off for Earsham Hall Tearooms with guests Big George (double booker) and Andrew (double bookee).

The ride was going well until I stopped to adjust my cycle speedo which had started to malfunction. By the time I had fixed it Big George and Andrew had disappeared up the road and gone past the requisite turning required to keep us on route. I chased after them and eventually caught them up about half a mile later. After my previous experience of going wrong and not turning back (see a long way round) I suggested we retraced our steps. However as proper men they couldn't face the indignity of such a retreating manoeuvre wishing to keep going forward until we could weave our way back to the proper route.

So we set off again only to find no suitable turns in the right direction were appearing on our road. Eventually we came to a little tarmac track with an 'unsuitable for motorised vehicles' sign. I checked my GPS and although the unsuitable road was not marked it was going in the right direction to get back on route. As we were not motorised we decided to take it.

Unfortunately the road soon ran out and turned into a muddy path, but it was still cyclable so we continued.
Muddy path. Although unsuitable for motorised
vehicles we could still cycle on it
A bit further on the muddy path became a field, we could no longer ride so had to walk our bikes instead. 
Unexpected cyclo cross training for when I take it up in the Autumn
After about 20 mins walking we came to a farmyard which we needed to go through to get back to the road. However the farmers boy stopped us and told us there were pigs. Apparently we were meant to understand why this was a problem but as townies we didn't know. He went off to find the farmer which gave us our opportunity to escape. How much damage can these pigs do to us, we thought, so hopped on our bikes and rode past the dangerous pigs (in their sty's) and down the farm drive.

Just as we felt we were in the clear we were stopped by the farmers wife who was out walking her dogs. She explained you cant go through areas of pigs without permission as you could spread pig based diseases this made sense and we felt very guilty of bringing our town ways out into the country. We promised 'subject to any further navigational issues' that we were not planning to go to any more pig farms on our ride so should be ok. We apologised to the farmers wife and quickly set off again. The  detour had added 4 miles and 1 hour to the ride as well as the possibility of a swine flu outbreak in Norfolk. Next time I go wrong I really will turn round.

We managed to get to Earsham Hall Tearooms without any further farm yard incidents and parked our bikes in the outside seating courtyard and decking area.
Outside Earsham Hall Tearooms by the outdoor seating patio area
Myself and Big George had previously rated the Earsham Hall Tearoom last year pre blog, so checking the previous scores on my iPhone spreadsheet it suggest the cake selection maybe light. This turned out still to be the case with only cupcakes and cheese or fruit scones available. Despite the fact they all looked nice I could only give a low effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cake selection which was very small although nicely covered

I went for hot chocolate and cheese scone. The Earsham Hall Tearooms have no coffee machine so could only offer filter coffee (although you could have it really milky and pretend it was a latte if you wanted). Big George and Andrew went for standard filter and cheese and fruit scone respectively.
Drinks and scones. My hot chocolate came with a jug of extra hot chocolate
and there were free top ups of the coffee.
There is a small indoor seating area but we choose the outdoor seating patio area which was very pleasant in it's court yard setting. 
Choosing our table in the outdoor seating patio area
We all found all our drinks to be pleasant enough (and you got free top ups with your coffee) and awarded an average drinks quality score. On my last visit here my hot chocolate had burnt my mouth and not tasted at all chocolatey so I was pleased that this one was a lot better. Mine and Big Georges cheese scones were quite good although we couldn't agree on the cake quality score as I felt although they tasted very cheesy they were a bit flat and slightly dry. Andrew, whose fruit scone had risen nicely, rated his scone highly but as he was new to cafe cycle reviewing I had to apply the 'new reviewer coefficient' to his score.

Overall the Earsham Hall Tearoom was a nice stop to pop into if you are passing that way but not for a special visit. (Since then it is under new management and much improved  See sportive 16 for details)

The return trip went smoothly as we made sure to avoid any further off-road sections, farm yards or pigs. Obviously on our return home we all showered in bleach, hosed down our bikes and burnt our clothes in case we came across livestock on our next cafe cycle adventure.

To avoid anyone else causing a potential farming crisis I won't be putting the route we took on the bottom of this post.

Scores for Earsham Hall Tearooms based on two visits. (note now under new management and much improved)
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
4.5
5.5
4.5
6.25
8
5.75

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

If it ain't broke don't fix it (Goodies food hall cafe, Pulham Market)

Goodies Food Hall Cafe,
Pulham Market,
Open Mon-Sat 9-4.00, Sun 9-3.30
Recommended
As yesterday was my birthday then what better way to celebrate, I thought, than a cafe cycle review. Therefore yesterday morning I set off, with guests Chris (wife) and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), to Goodies Food Hall Cafe near Pulham Market.

It was perfect weather, a clear blue sky and cooling breeze, as we set off down the pleasant lanes of the peaceful Norfolk country side. However it was not long before the peace was shattered by the start of a particularly annoying squeak emanating from Chris's bike. After a few minutes I could stand it no longer and insisted it was sorted. Last time she squeaked it was caused by brake rubbing on front wheel. Assuming the same problem I quickly tweaked the front brake and we set off again. Unfortunately, much to my annoyance, the squeak soon returned and after several more stops and various tweaks it still remained.

Another failed attempt to fix squeak.
To avoid being further stressed by the squeak I decided to leave Chris out of ear shot and cycle ahead with Andrew. This turned out to be no better as Andrew spent the whole time ranting about his disappointing experience on the 70 mile (or 80 mile in his case as he got lost) Bodiucca sportive we talked him into doing on Sunday. 

To get the birthday peace I was after I manoeuvred the group so that Andrew could whinge at Chris whilst she squeaked back and I dropped behind them out of ear shot. This worked well until we arrived at Goodies Food Hall Cafe.
Outside the welcoming entrance of Goodies Food Hall
We parked our bikes in the outside seating area where we could see them as with all the birthday excitement of opening presents and cards (to date consisting of 2 pairs socks, 1 bottle red wine, a loaf of bread and 6 packets of world cup stickers) I had forgotten to bring Alarmio to lock the bikes with.

We went inside and headed straight for the counter to look at the cake selection and award the effective cake selection (ECS) rating. There was a good selection and I need to make a couple of choices so I awarded a good ECS. 
Cake selection spread across counter and in display unit
Inside Goodies Food Hall Cafe there is an area of standard seating and outside there is a large field with a number of benches. Next to the indoor seating area is a sizable farm shop and crafts area which acts like a magnet to any passing OAP.
Unlocked bikes in Goodies Food Hall Cafe outdoor seating area
I ordered lemon slice cake with my hot chocolate. Chris went semi skinny mocha and coffee and walnut cake and Andrew (who was even harder to please than normal after his long Bodiucca rant) went cappuccino and egg and chips. As egg and chips is clearly not cake he took no further part in the cake rating part of the review.
Cakes and drinks ready for reviewing
My hot chocolate was exceptionally hot and once cooled was a reasonable good drink. Chris thought her Mocha was good and Andrew (who was even harder to please than normal after his long Bodiucca rant) found his cappuccino fairly good if a little weak (but he didn't like his chips). Myself and Chris both liked our cakes which scored well.

Overall Goodies Food Hall Cafe gave an all round consistent set of ratings and was a nice stop on an excellent route. The farm shop and crafts area had the added bonus that I could buy some cheese to go with my birthday loaf of bread for when I got home.

Whilst at Goodies Food Hall Cafe I had had a new idea on what the squeak on Chris's bike could be and after loosening off the back wheel the noise seemed to have gone. 

The return journey was much quieter as there was no squeak and Andrew (who was even harder to please than normal after his long Bodiucca rant) had calmed down and was now enjoying the views. Unfortunately half way back Chris decided to re tighten her front brake as loosening it had been a previously unnecessary failed attempt to fix the noise.To everyone's horror the squeak returned and despite further fixing attempts it would not go away again! 
View of typical peaceful Norfolk country side
to prove I'm not obsessed with just photographing cakes
With the next Norfolk Cafe Cycle Sportive on 31st May I'm now looking for volunteers to keep Chris and her squeak out of earshot.

Scores for Goodies Food Hall Cafe.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
7
6
7.5
6.5
6.70
Route

Click link 36 mile Norwich - Pulham Market loop to download GPX file for your GPS

Thursday, 15 May 2014

New shoes. (Brown Sugar Coffee Bar, Long Stratton)

Brown Sugar Coffee Bar,
Long Stratton,
Open Mon-Sat 9:30-4:30

This Sunday is the Boudicca sportive (currently a rather bigger affair than the Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour sportives) and as part of my recovery I'm planning to do the 40 mile route. In preparation I thought I needed to step up my mileage and therefore yesterday arranged to do a 25 mile ish ride with guests Chris (wife) and Barry and Helen and their tandem. My Long Stratton route seemed about the right distance and would also give us a chance to try the Brown Sugar Coffee Bar. I was also trying out a new pair of cycle shoes so was hoping the ride would be blister free.

On a cold but sunny day we arranged to meet up with Barry and Helen and their tandem at Caister St Edmunds.
Meeting Barry, Helen and their Tandem at Caister St Edmunds
As it was a cold but sunny day all my guests were faffing about with jackets coming on and off to make sure they were not too hot or cold. This required a few stops before they got their clothing requirements right. 
A stop for my guests to adjust their clothing layers
However once optimum clothing layers had been achieved we made it successfully down to Long Stratton and located the Brown Sugar Coffee Bar on the edge of the Co-op car park. I locked our bikes with Alarmio and accidentally set off the piercing car style alarm causing a disappointing lack of reaction from the Long Stratton co-operative shoppers. I suspect car crime must be a regular event in Long Stratton.
In the outside seating area at the Brown Sugar Coffee Bar.
Not only is there an outside seating area, which offers stunning views of both the Co-op and the car park, but an outside seating alley which is another first on a Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour.
Tables and chairs in the outside seating alley
The Brown Sugar Coffee Bar is nicely laid out with choice of sofas or bar stools plus another room with comfy chairs and tables. At the bar there was a cake selection consisting of scones, muffins or two types of cake. All looked nice but  I could only give a lowish effective cake selection (ECS) rating due to the small choice. We ordered our drinks and cakes and decided to sit in the comfy chairs and tables section.
The bar area at the Brown Sugar Coffee Bar
With my hot chocolate I had Coffee and Walnut cake, Chris and Helen went for skinny Mochas (plus carrot cake for Chris). Barry had a coke and therefore excluded himself from any further involvement in today's cafe rating.

The cakes and drinks arrived and both myself and Chris thought our cakes were excellent. This was the first really good coffee and walnut cake I had had on my Norfolk cafe cycle tour as they can often be a bit dry. My hot chocolate was nice and hot but could have been a bit stronger. Chris and Helen couldn't agree about the Mocha as one thought it too weak and one thought it was perfect strength. I got bored with their coffee related bickering so just averaged their individual marks to call a halt to it.
Drinks and cakes ready for rating
An added bonus was that the Brown Sugar Coffee bar operates a generous loyalty scheme requiring only 6 visits to qualify for a free drink. I have added the card to my recently introduced loyalty card library feature which you can see on the right of the blog. Not only is the scheme generous but the loyalty card is enormous being  postcard size making it the biggest I have seen. It is difficult to keep in your wallet but on the plus side very hard to loose.
The enormous post card size loyalty card with first cup signed
Despite the trip back being into the wind I got home not too tired and only needed a short kip which is an improvement on my last ride. I now feel ready to restart the Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour sportives with the next one planned for 31st May, so hope to see you there. The new cycle shoes fitted like a foot type glove and I remained blister free.

Scores for Brown Sugar Coffee Bar
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6
7.5
5
8
6
6.50
Map of route
Click here to download 27miles Norwich Long Stratton loop GPX file for your GPS