Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 7 (32 miles via Every Days a Picnic Cafe, Hedenham)

Sportive 7,
Every days a Picnic,
Hedenham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00, Sun 10:00-16:00
Highly Recommended
Yesterday saw Cake Crusader Sportive number 7 take place. It was a 31 mile ride south from Norwich towards Bungay with a stop at top rated cafe; Every Days a Picnic (see Celebrity ride). The sportive had attract a large entrance of 5 (including two sportive débutantes) and started, as always, with 15 minutes of faffing about at race HQ. Water bottle filling, tyre pumping and GPS setting occupying the faffing slot. 
Sportive competitors showing good pre ride faffing about skills
The ride out was into the wind with the peleton being split up due to the large amount of chatting and lack of pedalling. New boy Dom was showing a worrying care free attitude. First I had to pull him up on his comment that 'the rain had stayed off so far'. This is always seen as a cycling faux pas as such remarks are sure to mean that it will soon start raining. However Dom wrongly believed that he was now of the age when he could throw caution to the wind and just come out and say these type things. I'm not sure I liked this gung-ho approach as it was risking a sportive soaking. I also noted he didn't have any form of cycle computer on his bike. So no way to know distance covered, average speed etc. I was therefore unclear on how he was going to fill in his cycling stats spreadsheet and produce his monthly cycling summary report (like I do). 

Despite this laissez faire attitude we successful made it to the Every Days a Picnic Cafe at Hedenham.
Outside back entrance of Every days a picnic
After locking the bikes, using a number of different security measures (including Alarmio), we selected our cakes from the cake menu mini blackboard. Barry ordered a sausage sandwich and as a sausage sandwich is clearly not a cake (or listed on the cake menu mini blackboard) he would take no further part in any cake related rating today.
Cake menu mini blackboard
When the cakes and drinks arrived I tried to facilitate the group in the critical activity of cafe cycle rating. It quickly became apparent that not everyone was fully engaged. Barry won't rate his coffee as it was too hot, (by the time it was at a temperature he was happy with we had moved on and I discounted his drinks comments). Ali, as he does at every cafe, complained his latte was in a vase rather than a cup and wanted to deduct a point from his guest drink quality score (this is against cafe rating rules so I ignored him) and Dom said 'well it's cake isn't it' once again demonstrating a far from acceptable cafe cycle rating attitude.
Cakes and drinks which all looked very good
I threatened to get out my whiteboard app to restore control and this brought the group to order. It soon became apparent that everyone thought the cakes and drinks were excellent and once I had sifted through all the feedback there was full agreement that Every Day's a Picnic Cafe was an excellent stop. In fact the sportive group had come up with the same overall cafe score as I did with Big George on my last visit thus keeping it's place in high up in my cafe or tea room league table.

The ride back had wind behind with some sportive competitors getting very excited about having to cross three fords (without any one falling off). I have since checked my ride data to discover that five fords is the current single route record. Fortunately the rain stayed away but if it hadn't we all know whose fault it would have been.

Ratings for Every days a picnic based on three visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.33
7.83
7.5
8.5
7.42
7.52
Todays route

Click on link to download 31 mile Norwich Hedenham loop GPX file for your GPS

Friday, 17 October 2014

Tractor News. (Muddy Boots cafe, Blickling Hall Car Park)

Muddy Boots Cafe,
Blickling Hall Car Park,
Open when they feel like it,
 Recommended
When it comes to tea rooms then the National Trust is the number one brand so I have been keen to check them out and see if they live up to their reputation. Earlier this year I had a failed attempt to test out the National Trust cafe in the car park at Blickling Hall (see the best laid plans..). As, despite stating otherwise on the Blickling Hall website, it was shut. I therefore didn't even bother to check out opening times today and decided to take today's guest Big George out to Blickling and hope for the best. 

On the ride out Big George had a rant about what was wrong with this country. Apparently too many men were watching Bake Off instead of doing more traditionally manly things like drinking beer and playing rugby. This was breaking down the traditional barriers of society leading to national chaos. "Before you know it some bloke will be posting pictures of cake on a blog", he said. 

As a fan of Bake Off I couldn't agree so to avoid further conflict I decided to change the subject. I asked him if he had managed to complete the hoovering before the start of today's ride. Apparently he had made a good start but still had got some to do. He was confident of finishing it before Mrs Big George's weekly dust inspection. He thanked me for my previous vacuum cleaner advice, on buying a ball based Dyson (other vacuum cleaners are available), as this had been a great improvement on his old machine. I told him that our Dyson kept breaking but unlike him I only ever got involved in fixing the hoover rather than using it.

As we continued to discuss urgent matters of the day the miles zoomed past and we soon arrived at the Muddy Boots cafe in the car park at Blickling Hall, which to my relief was open.
Outside Muddy Boots cafe at Blickling Hall, which was open
Inside was rather dark and I needed to use my phone flash to snap a see-able photo of the cake selection. On first glance it looked like a large selection but on closer examination it was just a well spread out cake and biscuit collection. There was only one sponge cake, several types of biscuits, Bakewell tart slice and scones. However probably enough choice to satisfy most people so I still awarded a reasonably good effective cake selection (ECS) rating. Big George went for Bakewell tart slice, which was going to be my choice as well. So as not to miss out and to get a proper cake review, I went for the Bakewell tart slice plus a cheese scone.
Cakes, biscuits and scones collection
There are two rooms of tables inside but as it was such a lovely day we decided to sit outside in the outside seating area where there was a stunning view of Blickling Hall. 

The hot chocolate was very big and nice. Big George said his drink was a very good cup of coffee, so thumbs up on the drinks front. As a National Trust staple I found the cheese scone was only fine especially as it had not been warmed up. I believe all cheese scones should always be lightly heated before serving (remember cheese scone hot, fruit scone not). However the Bakewell tart slice performed well and so overall I awarded a decent cake quality score.
Cakes, scone (sadly not warmed) and nice large drinks
As you would expect from the National Trust, the Muddy boots cafe in the Blickling Hall car park was a good stop. With warm scones and a larger cake selection it could move even nearer to the top of my ratings table.

Egg News dominated a lot of today's ride. Just outside Hevingham we found eggs for sale at the knock down price of £1.00 a dozen. Assuming you could have half a dozen for 50p this made them by far the cheapest I have found anywhere. However on closer inspection there were no eggs left in the egg container so I don't know if they actually have eggs or if it is just a marketing ploy to tempt you to buy the potatoes and onions that they did have.
No actual Eggs but two bags of onions and half a bag spuds were available for sale
When we got to Tuttingham we appeared to have stumbled on an egg price war. First we saw eggs at 80p per half dozen which was obviously a clear attempt to under cut the eggs at £1.00 for half dozen eggs just a few yards down the road.

To supplement the clear fall in sales of the overpriced eggs this house also had a tractor for sale. As I was taking a photo of this curious combination the tractor owner came out and assumed I was taking the photo as I was interested in buying his tractor. Rather than explain about the Egg News feature on the blog I felt it easier to go along and to fake interest in the tractor by discuss my ploughing experiences. As these were fairly limited it was not a long conversation but I cunningly said I was really looking for a blue one so was able to make my excuses and got back on the bike. I have decided against introducing a new feature about local tractors for sale (which I would have called Tractor News) and will stick with just eggs.


Eggs and tractor for sale. Big George was eyeing up the tractor
but was no help in engaging the tractor owner with tractor related questions.
The rest of the ride went smoothly giving Big George ample time to finish his housework. My National Trust cafe experience had been good so I look forward to trying other National Trust outlets in the coming months.

Ratings for Muddy Boots cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.5
7.5
6.0
7.0
8.5
7.30

The route was rather poor crossing Norwich and on several busy roads so I won't add it to my useful routes facility.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Special anniversary ride. (Dutch Barn Coffee shop, Blo Norton)

Dutch Barn Coffee Shop,
South Lopham,
Opening times Mon- Sat 10:00-17:00 (closed Tuesday),
Sun 11:00-16:00,

Highly Recommended 
It was a year ago that I went on my first cafe cycle and posted about it. To celebrate I thought I would take my first ever guest, Andrew (who has remained notoriously hard to please), on a special anniversary ride.

Andrew arrived on time but without an anniversary card, which I thought was very bad form even though I had forgotten to tell him it was a special anniversary ride. As it was foggy we took sometime deciding on clothing layers. I sensibly went for short and Andrew foolishly went long and regretted this when the sun came out later on the ride.

For the first hour the fog and mist restricted the view and we could have been anywhere in the world, that was also having a foggy day.
Somewhere in the world, probably Norfolk, having a foggy day
After that the sun came out and with my legs at the perfect temperature we made it to the Dutch Barn Coffee shop which is in the Dutch Barn Nurseries at Blo Norton (which is quite near Diss). On route we also saw eggs for sale but more Egg News later.
Outside the Dutch Barn Coffee shop by the entrance of
the Dutch Barn Nuseries
We headed inside to check out the cakes. There was a good selection of sponge cakes and some scones so I awarded a high effective cake selection rating. I chose chocolate and orange cake and Andrew chose carrot cake. Once again I was disappointed that Andrew had not brought with him any candles for the cakes, or party hats. He had turned out to be a very poor choice for special anniversary ride party guest.
Good selection of sponge cakes,
 I assumed the painted bunting was there to celebrate it being a special anniversary ride
Inside it was nice and cosy but we decided to make the most of the nice weather and sit at one of the tables spread amongst the garden centre plants, which was very pleasant. To avoid confusion we sat well away from the gnomes.

The cakes and drinks arrived and looked very good, other than my regular gripe of the cake being placed on the serviette rendering it useless for crumb removal purposes.
Good looking cakes and drinks, including jug of extra hot chocolate
My hot chocolate was a good one and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) even thought his cappuccino was a nice cup of coffee so both drinks scored well. In order to have an in depth cake review we had half a piece each. They were both good. The carrot cake was marginally the better cake which we both thought was a very fine example of it's type.

Although not part of the rating we also had toasties which were also very good. As we were enjoying these Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) asked me if I knew what really annoys him. I said I did because I have kept a long list of the things he has told me really annoy him on my phone. On this occasion it was grapes in the salad as he believes there is no place for fruit in savoury food. I said I was already aware of this from when we had raisins in the coleslaw on our last ride (see Indian summer)

The Dutch Barn Coffee shop proved a very good stop scoring well in each category putting it into my current top 10 cafes or tearooms.

For fans of Egg News it appears south Norfolk is the place to get your eggs. I found three free range egg outlets in the south Norfolk region (2 chicken and 1 duck). All of them were selling eggs at £1 a half dozen making them the cheapest I have found anywhere in Norfolk and a 30p saving on Tesco's. The best range was at Folly Farm Bungalow near New Buckingham although unlike Tesco you do have to return the egg box. 
Not only eggs but a fine selection of tomatoes and squashes were also available
(remember to return the egg boxes)
Hopefully the second year of the Norfolk Cafe Cyle blog will be even better than this year and I can add to the 57 local cafes I have been to so far. 

Ratings for Dutch Barn Coffee Shop
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
7.5
7.5
8.0
7.5
7.50
Route

click here to download 55 mile Norwich South Lopham loop GPX file for your GPS

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Only 79 days to Christmas. (The Green House Coffee shop, Moulton St Mary)

Green House Coffee Shop,
Moulton st Mary,
Opening times Mon- Sat 09:30-16:30,
Sun 10:00-15:45,
Recommended 
Despite the end of the nice weather and a poor forecast I thought it was worth risking a cafe cycle ride but I needed to find a guest. I quickly discovered that the usual suspects all had prior engagements. My last invitation was to Barry and Helen and their Tandem. Unfortunately Helen was currently having a bionic knee fitted so would be out of action for a few weeks. However Barry (without their Tandem) kindly made himself available so cafe cycle reviewing was on and I planned a route out towards Acle. As well as a cafe or tearoom review, I was hoping that I might find some eggs for sale for my first Egg News update.

I met Barry outside Sainsburys and we set off with wind behind, and once out of Norwich travelled along a lot of windy little country lanes. Good for cycling but not for egg sales. We soon arrived at today's destination The Greenhouse Coffee shop at the garden centre in Moulton St Mary.
Outside entrance to Moulton Nurseries where you can find the
 green house coffee shop
To get through to the coffee shop you have to work you way through the garden centre labyrinthine. The first area we entered was full of Christmas decorations with some of Santa's little helpers finishing off the display. This was obviously a big day for the residents of Moulton St Mary as many of them had gathered here as soon as the decorations had been laid out. It was standing room only around may of the displays with a group of elderly ladies discussing this years baubles selection and another younger group planning their 2014 tinsel needs. I was soon sucked into the excitement and after reviewing the stock I can report that gold and silver are Christmas 2014 colours (or is that every year?)
Christmas display being finished off one day after the end of our Indian summer
Barry had to drag me away from the musical Santas before we fought our way through the Christmas crowds until we finally found the Greenhouse Coffee shop. We made our way past the sheltered outdoor seating area and went inside. At the counter there was a fine display of cakes. I suspect there were even more cakes earlier in the day as some of the sponges only had a couple of slices left. I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Badly photographed cake selection, A few empty slots in cake tower
suggested an even better selection was available earlier in the day
I liked the look of a cake and asked what it was. They told me it was Raspberry and a fruit I quickly forgot cake, so I orderer it and Barry a cherry flapjack. He went for Cappuccino for his drink. As Barry doesn't always have a hot drink or cake on bike rides I was very pleased to see him taking his guest reviewer role seriously.

We sat inside in one of the spacious eating areas. I Iiked the fact that they had got local art for sale on the walls but was disappointed that they hadn't yet put up their Christmas decorations like the rest of the garden centre.
Drinks and cakes to review.
Both our drinks were nice but very very hot. Barry liked his cappuccino although he felt that he makes a better one with his new very expensive coffee machine in his kitchen. As I don't drink coffee I'll never know if this is true or if he was just showing off about his Barista skills and gadget.

Barry liked his flapjack and my cake was nice. I was hoping that I would be able to identify the other fruit in my Raspberry and a fruit I quickly forgot cake but it seemed to be mainly raspberry to me so then I wasn't sure if they had actually said there was another fruit in it or not. It was still a good cake and the Greenhouse Coffee shop was a nice stop.


We went back to the garden centre labyrinthine and after finding we couldn't get out the same way we came in we finally got back to our bikes and set off again for the return home.

When we got to Blofield Heath I spotted a sign for the Sheltered Horticultural Employment Scheme which amongst other things had free range eggs for sale. This was very exciting as it would be my first Egg News update. I can therefore report in Egg News that eggs here cost £1.25 per half dozen (which is a 5p saving from the equivalent cost at Tescos).This makes them the cheapest eggs I have so far found anywhere in Norfolk!

After this excitement it was a quick ride back. Once home I immediately began a Christmas decoration inventory and planning review so we don't miss out on this years must have decorations.

Score for the Green House Coffee shop
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
8.0
6.5
7.0
6.70
Route

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

Friday, 3 October 2014

Egg hunt. (Maxims tea room, Lenwade)

Maxims has closed

Today was forecast to be the last nice day of weather before the Autumn and then the Winter kick in. It would therefore probably be the last change to go out on my summer bike so I was pleased when I persuaded Big George to join me as today's guest on a ride.

When out on cafe cycle reviewing I often notice that there are many houses and small farms selling eggs and other garden produce via an honesty table by the side of the road at the bottom of their drives.or gardens. I have often thought that this gives me the opportunity to gather and pass on useful information as to where particularly good value eggs or unusual garden produce is available. I therefore plan to include a new occasional service in the blog updating all readers on theses matters. It will be called Egg News and I'm sure it will be both useful and informative for anyone needing half a dozen eggs, a fresh courgette or home-made strawberry jam. 

I wanted to get my first Egg News in today's blog so planned a 40 mile ride out to Lenwade where I was sure we would see lots of Eggs and garden produce. It would also be an opportunity to review Maxims tea room which I have driven past many times on the Fakenham road. However to my surprise we didn't come across anything for sale all the way out to Lenwade. We saw a number of tables but no garden produce and no sign of any eggs.

Outside Maxims tearoom and gift shop
We both agreed today's route was excellent (apart from a short bit down the Fakenham road) and there had some great views so we arrived at Maxims tea room and gift shop in good spirit. We parked our bikes and went inside. There was no outside seating area and inside was a bit dark and could probably have done with a coat of paint. The tables were arranged amongst the shelves of gifts. I'm afraid it didn't tick a lot of the ambiance boxes so I couldn't award a very high Ambiance and Atmosphere rating.

Unfortunately there were no cakes on display as they were all in the kitchen so we had to choose using the cake selection blackboard to award a virtual effective cake selection (ECS) rating. They had 4 different cakes on offer, I choose the chocolate fudge and Big George the lemon drizzle. 
Cakes and drinks ready to review
We waited at our table and discussed urgent matters of the day. Big George was very pleased to report that he had completed all the hoovering before we set off this morning. Our drinks and cakes arrived and we got stuck in. My hot chocolate was fine but Big George felt his filter coffee a little weak. However our cakes were both nice and scored well. Although not part of the review we also both had a cheese sandwich which I liked but Big George wasn't happy with his as he apparently doesn't like to have his cheese grated but prefers it sliced.

After cafe cycle reviewing was completed we headed off again to find something to report about in Egg News. On several occasions I saw for sale signs in the distance but unfortunately on each occasion it was the house rather than eggs that you could buy. Sadly we completed the ride with no Egg News. I suspect I may have started this new service at the wrong time of year but hopefully I will have some useful and informative Egg News for you in future posts.

Scores for Maxims Tearoom
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.5
4.5
5.0
7.0
4.0
5.20
Route
Click here to download 40 mile Norwich Lenwade loop GPX file for your gps

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Indian summer. (The Owl Tea Room, Holt.)

The Owl Tea room,
Holt,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:30-17:00,
Recommended 
As we have been having an Indian summer this year it has been disappointing that I have not been able to go on a cafe cycle ride for over a week. So I was glad that I had been able to round up two guests, Chris (Mrs Crusader) and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), for a ride today.

We met at Andrew's house in Aylsham where I had foolishly put Andrew in charge of the route. He planned for us to go to The Owl Tea Room in Holt but didn't yet know the route or how long it would take. His approach was to let these two things develop organicly as we went along. Fortunately my new bike GPS tracks the route so I should be able to share it once I can work out how that feature works.

Our first challenge was determining the number of layers to wear as these autumn days start cold and misty before they warm up. We didn't want to have too many 'hot top stops' which Chris is very fond of wanting. Fortunately we only needed the one and got to Holt at the required body temperature.

The Owl tea room has a small continental style outdoor seating area at the front and a lovely walled garden outdoor seating area at the back. To make the most of the sun we opted to sit round the back, which was extremely pleasant. In a desperate attempt at an image make over and to prove he is in fact 'extremely easy to satisfy' Andrew wanted to give a 10 rating for the Ambiance but then the sun went in and normal service was soon resumed.
Outside the Owl Tea Room.
 In the outdoor continental pavement style seating area
We went inside to check out the cakes and award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. The cakes were spread out throughout the store, with some in the counter area, some in the bakery area and others on random shelves. This made cake comparison difficult as you had to weigh up the options by going from one area to another.
Cakes on display behind a Victorian style window lattice
After much running around the tea room I settled on the nut fridge cake. I still don't know why it is called a fridge cake as it wasn't in the fridge, didn't look like a fridge and didn't taste of fridge. Chris went for a skinny mocha and chocolate sponge and Andrew cappuccino and coffee and walnut cake.

The nut fridge cake was very nice and the walnut coffee sponge was an excellent example of it's type. The chocolate sponge was not as good as the other cakes especially as the chocolate flake decoration, that had originally attracted Chris to the cake, turned out not to be authentic Cadburys which didn't go down well with her. 
Cakes and drinks ready for cafe cycle reviewing
Although not part of cycle cafe rating we had lunch at the Owl tea room as well as cake. We were all very impressed with the food and enjoyed excellent stilton quiche, pizza type thing and accompanying salads. Myself and Chris thought they were one of the best cafe stop lunches we had had (and we have now had a lot). Andrew (who remains notoriously hard to please) saw his attempted image make over crack further as he didn't like the number of rasins in his colesaw. Apparently there is no place for fruit in salad.

The Owl proved an excellent cafe cycle stop and even better if you want some lunch.

It is now nearly a year since I started the Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Blog and on the way back I shared with Andrew some of the new ideas I have for year two. He thought they were jolly exciting so I to hope to be announcing some of these new features soon.

Ratings for The Owl Cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
8.25
7.25
9.0
7.25
Route

Click here to download 32 Mile Alysham Holt loop GPX file for your GPS