Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Thursday, 26 February 2015

100 not out (Art Cafe, Glandford)

Art Cafe
Glandford, North Norfolk
Open Mon-Sun 10-4
Highly Recommended
Today was a red letter day for the Cake Crusader as I planned to review my 100th cafe. For such an occasion I had chosen Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) to be my 100th cafe reviewed celebration cycling guest as he was also my first. Last year he had proved to be a very poor guest on my special 1st anniversary cafe cycle ride as he had not bought a card, balloons or candles (see Special anniversary ride). Unfortunately today he again turned out to be an equally useless and grumpy 100th cafe reviewed celebration cycling guest.

When I checked the weather forecast this morning it did not look good as it showed heavy rain. I was therefore not surprised to receive a text from Andrew saying that he would rather stay dry than go on today's ride. I decided the best approach to this was to ignore the text and just turn up on his door step at the allotted meeting time, which I did. On arrival I pointed out what a momentous ride this was and that if he had read the forecast in detail, and not just looked at the pictures, he would have known that it actually said there would be some showers between dry spells which didn't sound too bad. Added to this today's venue was the Art cafe at Glandford which, like Andrew, is vegetarian based. He therefore reluctantly agreed to come along and as a compromise I said we could go the direct route rather than the pretty way.

The weather forecast proved to be 50% correct as it got the rain part right but the bit about dry spells in between appeared inaccurate. This wasn't altogether surprising as I had made that bit up in order to encourage Andrew to come along so we soon found ourselves extremely wet.

Things got no better when Andrew got a puncture, which by the time he had finished fixing meant he could no longer feel his fingers. From here there was no more cheerful banter exchanged for the rest of the way out to the Art cafe.
Andrew fixing puncture whilst losing the feeling in his hands
The roads were now starting to turn into rivers and we even met some bloke called Noah who was out in the rain building what can only be described as a sort of ark. 
Roads turning into rivers
However as we approached Glandford things started to look up as I pointed out that the cows in the adjacent field were now standing up so they obviously knew it was going to shortly stop raining. Andrew didn't seem convinced as we arrived at the Art Cafe.

Out side the Art cafe looking warm and happy
With one of those weird coincidences the Art cafe is next door to an actual Art gallery! It has a nice outdoor seating area but despite the positive sign from the cows Andrew was keen that we went inside. This was a good plan as we were quickly directed to a table by the log burner to warm up and dry off. The Art cafe has a crafty type shop bit at the front and a large seating area at the back. There is also a selection of Art on the walls. The staff were extremely friendly so overall I awarded a very high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score.
Inside the Art Cafe
I then went to check out the cake selection. It had a good, if not massive, selection of cakes but they were extremely effective as there were a number of ones I would have chosen to try. I therefore awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating. I choose Brooklyn Blackout (chocolate cake) and Andrew a date slice flapjack. I also had a mandatory cheese scone as part of my scone serving temperature research. For the first time this year I was asked if I wanted it warm or cold rather than just being presented with a temperature outcome of the cafes choice. As I hope you all know by now it has to be warmed so full marks.
Very effective cake selection
It was now on to drinks, I ordered my hot chocolate and was given a choice of sweetness, another first. I like a stronger bitter drink so plumped for the dark hot chocolate. Andrew was given a choice of 4 different coffee beans to choose from plus a choice of ways it could be brewed. This was the Art cafe's only mistake of the day as Andrew is not only notoriously hard to please but does not respond well to being given choices. It sent him into options meltdown and he was unable to function. I had to step in and randomly order Nicaragua beans aero pressed or we would still be there now.
The choice of coffee beans available
While we waited for the cakes and drinks I asked Andrew if he had brought me a card, balloons or candles to mark the 100th cafe review occasion. He had not and even came up with the rather pathetic excuse that he didn't know as I hadn't told him. Typical lack of pre ride research I thought, so I made a note to look for a better guest for my next special occasion ride.

When the drinks and cakes arrived I must say we were blown away. First we thought both our drinks were superb with excellent strength and flavour. My chocolate cake was the best this year and Andrew, who is not only notoriously hard to please but considers himself a bit of a date slice expert, said he couldn't find any fault with his flapjack. The only slight disappointment was the cheese scone which was nice but I thought needed to be a bit more cheesy. However I still awarded a very high cake taste quality (CTQ) score and added both cakes to the 2015 cake of the year short list.
Excellent cakes ready for tasting
With such good scores I excitedly entered the ratings into my cafe rating spreadsheet only to find that my 100th cafe was also one of the best ones. I suspect it will prove very hard to dislodge from near the top of my table and I highly recommend a visit.

Still shaking with excitement I paid the bill and helped myself to an Art Cafe loyalty card to add to my loyalty card picture library section on the blog.

We went outside to discover that the local cows clearly didn't know what they were mooing about as it was still pouring with rain. I popped my helmet back on and got a nasty soaking from the soggy comfort sponges inside. On the return ride to Alysham we continued to get wetter in the persistent rain however there was still time to round the ride off nicely with one last puncture until it eventually stopped raining just as we arrived back at Hard to Please House. 
Fixing one last puncture this time on my bike
Before I left after this tremendous day Andrew gave me his cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no. 17. If you want to avoid getting soaking wet and freezing cold on a bike ride then don't ignore the weather forecast when it includes words like heavy, persistent, down pour and rain.

Fortunately we hadn't followed this tip or I wouldn't have a new top rated cafe.

Scores for Art Cafe based on 3 visits (last visit Oct 2016)
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.17
8.17
7.5
8.67
8.58
8.22
Route

Click here to download 37 mile Alysham Wiveton loop gpx file for your GPS

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Special Detox ride (Cafe Warings, Norwich)

Cafe Warings
Norwich
Open Mon-Fri 7:30 - 6:30, Sat 9 - 5:30
Recommended
Having just returned from a weeks snowboarding I was regretting the amount of choc au pain, pizza and beer that I had consumed and was desperate to get back out on the bike to lose some weight by eating cake. As Chris (Mrs Crusader) had also had a similar holiday experience she was keen to join me as today's special detox ride cycling guest. As an added detox step she had also decided that she should drink more water which led to today's cycling guest top cycling tip.

Cycling guest top cycling top no 16. To avoid the need for a comfort break within a few miles of starting your cafe cycle ride then don't drink a pint of water just before you set off.

Today's route was a 26 mile loop south of Norwich returning through the city and stopping at Cafe Warings.

The ride went smoothly until just after we had crossed the ford, via the foot bridge, near Shotsham. Here Chris pointed to her back wheel in a 'fix my puncture' sort of way. I dutifully set to work while she got out here I-phone for some 'urgent' texting. I then spent some time arguing with an annoying inner tube before persuading it round to my way of thinking thus enabling us to be able to continue on our special detox way.
Shotsham ford near puncture repair corner.
We arrived at Cafe Warings which is on the ground floor of Warings at Home, a furniture and home furnishings (FAHF) store.
Outside Cafe Warings in Norwich
I'm a big fan of cafes and cake and Chris loves her FAHF so this seemed an ideal venue for us. I must admit I have never seen the attraction of FAHF as every nest of tables, fragrant candle and scatter cushion just diverts our funds away from important things like extra slick tyres, aerodynamic water bottle holders and light weight saddles. Even so I couldn't begrudge her a quick look, mainly because I was safe in the knowledge that we had left our credit cards at home. As a result of today's added FAHF Chris was keen to give a high Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) rating. 
Cafe Warings is on the ground floor with FAFH on the other floors,
A nice bright and open space.
I was more interested in the cake selection which wasn't the biggest but had some good offerings. I choose coffee and walnut and Chris went for lemon curd sponge. As part of my cheese scone serving temperature research I also had a mandatory cheese scone.
Part of cake selection, sweet tarts and scones also available.
For drinks I had a hot chocolate and Chris a skinny mocha. Both our drinks were very good being hot and strong so scored well.
Excellent drinks
It was not a good day for my cheese scone serving temperature campaign (remember cheese scone hot, fruit scone not) as my scone came cold meaning I have now had 4 Hot and 4 Cold cheese scones so far this year. It was also bad news when it came to my 'keep cake off serviettes' crusade as sadly both cake slices arrived served on their napkins thus rendering them useless for future crumb removal purposes. 
'Keep cake off Serviettes'
Despite this our cake was good and I thought the coffee and walnut cake was one of the best I had had. It is difficult not to let your coffee and walnut cake become too dry but this was certainly not the case at Warings and I have put it on the contenders list for this years cake of the year. However the very generous size of the piece did nothing for my special detox ride.
Cakes and cheese scone. Featuring huge chunk of excellent coffee and walnut cake
Warnings was a very nice stop, had a good standard of both cakes and drinks and added FAHF for those of you that like that sort of thing.

On the way out I had door opening difficulty with a problem that I have encountered on many occasions. The door handle was shaped in a way that would clearly encourage you to want to pull the door open which I obviously attempted to do. This proved unsuccessful as I was in fact meant to push in order to make an exit. Granted there was a sign saying push but I have never been big on reading instructions before starting on a task so it didn't really help. This is an on going problem and I can see a door opening campaign, with blog, on the horizon. Door manufacturers you have been warned!
Door handle clearly shaped for pulling but fixed on the push side.
On our return home we agreed our special detox ride had been far more successful on the ride part rather than the detox side but a cycle ride without cake isn't really a cycle ride so we will just have to find a different detox approach.

Scores for Cafe Warings
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
7.5
6.0
7.5
7.5
7.10
Route
click here to down load 25 Mile South Norwich loop GPX file for your GPS

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Mad. (51 Fifty One, Southwold)

51 | Fifty One
Southwold, Suffolk
Open Mon-Sat 8 - 5, Sun 8 - 4
Recommended


Yesterday I arranged for a cafe cycle ride with Big George, as it had been in our diaries for sometime. After some very recent calm weather I had checked the forecast and noted that strong winds from the south were foretasted for the day. I therefore came up with a cunning plan to cut out the majority of riding into the wind by catching the train to Lowestoft and going to Southwold from there before returning to Norwich with wind behind. 
Arriving at the bustling Lowestoft station ready for our ride.
One important thing to do when planning a ride is to make sure your cafe cycle stop comes at least halfway through and preferably nearer the end than the beginning of your route. This is to make sure you don't run out of steam towards the end of your trip. But today our planned stop would be less than a quarter of the way into the journey, rule book meet the waste paper bin. This, combined with doing the ride on Friday 13th, just showed how mad and crazy I can be but that's just my carefree unregulated approach to life. I was, however, slightly annoyed with Big George's faffing about at Lowestoft station causing us to set off 3 minutes behind schedule.

With the wind into our face for the first few miles down to Southwold it was certainly hard work and despite it not being a long way we were quiet puffed out when we arrived at 
51 Fifty One Southwold. 51 Fifty One Southwold cater for both those who like their cafe names to be numeric or alphanumeric. As a numbers man I felt at home as did Big George who is more fond of letters.
Outside 51 Fifty one.
There is no outside seating area available but inside is bright and light and with the friendly staff I awarded a good atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score.
Inside 51 Fifty One is bright and light
After selecting our table I went to check out the cake selection which was fairly small and disappointingly had no cheese scones. 
Small but good looking cake selection
To make up for the lack of cheese scones I had a sausage roll to go with my chocolate Brownie. On the other hand Big George was very pleased with the lack of cheese scones as he is always tempted by them and it is not until he starts eating them he remembers he doesn't really like cheese scones. Fortunately he was free of this problem for today and was much happier having a sausage roll and some Apricot and Almond cake (gluten free).  
Drinks, cakes and sausage rolls
My Hot chocolate and Big George's cappuccino were both nice if not exceptional and I awarded appropriate drinks ratings. However we both though our cakes were excellent. Despite the lack of gluten Big George raved about his Apricot and Almond cake and insisted I put it down as a contender for this years Cake Crusader cake of the year 2015. Which I did.

Although not cake and therefore not part of my cafe rating system, the sausage rolls were very good indeed and Big George kept going on about how nice his sausage roll was all the way home (which I assumed wasn't an innuendo).

Overall it was certainly worth the trip down to 51 Fifty One and I recommend a visit if you are out that way.

Today was also the start of a new cafe project. I have noted the modern trend of naming cafes after their street number. As a lover of all things numerical, plus my need for putting things in order, I have decided to try and visit 100 cafes named 1 - 100 and then re order them into best to worst. As well as 51 my collection already contains 7 (see close to home) so only 98 cafes to go on this particular mission (suggestions welcomed).

We now had a long ride back to Norwich albeit with the wind behind but unfortunately my carefree craziness proved costly as Big George bonked (cycle speak for ran out of steam) with a few miles to go and we had to crawl along for the last few miles. Time to retrieve the rule book from the bin I'm afraid.

Scores for 51 Fifty one
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
6.5
5.5
8.5
7.5
6.90
Route
Click here to download 50 mile Lowestoft Norwich via Southwold GPX file to your GPS

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Literation (Egg 'n' Easel, Harleston)

Egg 'n' Easel
Harleston, Norfolk
Open Mon-Fri 10-14, Sat 9.30- 3.30
Recommended

With little wind or prospect of any rain then yesterday again proved to be a good winter weather day for a cafe cycle ride so I was pleased to round up a guest, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), for a ride south down to Harleston.

It was an uneventful ride down so Andrew gave me his cycling guest top cycling tip for the day.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 15. Lumberjacks beware. Doing an hour of log chopping every day for a week is not a good way of preparing for a cycle ride.

We arrived at Harleston and successfully negotiated the one way system to find the Egg 'n' Easel cafe at the start of the high street. I was curious about the name and wasn't clear why they had chosen to replace the word "and" with 'n' as 'n' has the same number of characters as "and" but is a lot fiddlier to type. May I suggest to the Egg 'n' Easel marketing and branding department they think about using an ampersand instead.


Outside there is a small continental style outdoor pavement seating area but despite it being free we choose to go inside to see if we could work out the origin of the name. It was clear where the Easel part of the cafe name came from as there was art on display on all the walls but no sign of the Egg.
Art on display, paintings on the wall plus
an Art instillation entitled 'notoriously hard to please cyclist'
The cafe had a warm and friendly feel and we both agreed on a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score. I went to check out the cake selection only to discover that there were no actual cakes (or eggs) on display just a cake selection blackboard so you had to use your cake knowledge and imagination to make your choice. It did look like a good range of traditional cake standards so I awarded a reasonable effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cake selection blackboard.
I ordered a cheese scone plus the chocolate flake cake and Andrew the Bakewell tart. Andrew clearly picked up on my uncomfortableness on why the cafe had Egg in it's name so to make me feel better ordered poached egg and spinach on toast but it didn't help.
Drinks and cakes
When our drinks arrived (Hot chocolate and Cappuccino) they were very hot but unfortunately we both found them a bit weak in the coffee and chocolate department. My scone was nicely warmed and tasted good as did my chocolate flake cake. Andrew thought his Bakewell tart was excellent so a good cake taste quality (CTQ) score. Andrew also said if it had been relevant and I rated food as well as cakes then his egg, spinach and toast would get a 10 but as I don't it wasn't.

We both enjoyed our visit to the Egg 'n' Easel and could have easily stayed longer as we were quite settled however we needed to get back so reluctantly went out out into the cold for our return trip. I was still none the wiser where the Egg name came from and decided it was just an attempt at a bit of literation to combine food and art. On the way home we made up some alternatives which I'm happy for anyone planning to open an art based cafe to use. How about Cake and Canvas or Buns and Brushes or, my favourite, Pot of tea for two and Paint.

Ratings for Egg 'n' Easel Cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.0
6.0
7.5
8.0
6.70
Map of route


Click here to down load 43 mile Norwich Harleston loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Day of records. (Olive Branch, Tunstead)

Olive Branch is now closed down
The last week has been cold, icy and windy and therefore not conducive to cycle cafe reviewing. All my planned trips had failed their pitch inspections so my blog post and metaphor cupboard was bare. I was therefore excited when I woke up this morning with conditions set fair for today's planned ride. For today's guests I had Chris (Mrs Crusader) and Barry and Helen and their Tandem to accompany me.

Barry and Helen and their Tandem had just returned from a bird watching holiday in Mexico so I was excited to tell them that I too had been bird watching on my recent cafe cycle ride to Cley marshes (see Pink Footed Geese). I told them they could read about it on the blog. Helen said she had already got up to date with the posts but Barry, who has never been a blog fan, reminded me that he couldn't see the point of my blog or indeed any blog (except for the one by the fry up inspector as knowing where he could get a good fried breakfast was useful to him) so had no intention of reading about it and if I wanted him to know about my bird watching then just tell him. Barry and Helen's tandem promised to catch up on the blog as soon as he had learnt how to read but he always says this and never does. I decided to ask them about their bird watching holiday instead.

Today's ride was out to the Olive Branch at Tunstead and this meant we had to cross the river at Wroxham. Which we did.
River crossing at Wroxham
Soon after crossing the bridge I spotted a large sign, in the shape of a teapot, pointing to the Olive Branch. I was a little surprised to see it at this point in the ride as I knew it was still some way to go so I decided to measure how far the sign was from the tea room.

It was 4.3 miles later that we arrived at the Olive Branch which I have noted down as a new sign to cafe differential record.
Outside the Olive Branch by the wooden bench outside seating area
Outside the Olive Branch there are a number of wooden benches forming a pleasant outside seating area, however it was too cold for these today so we went inside. I was very impressed with the indoor decor as they had set up a cycling corner with flags, posters and jerseys which, as we were cyclists, we made use of. This made sure of a high Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) rating.
Cycling corner
I went to check out the cake selection so I could award the effective cake selection (ECS) rating. There were only 3 types of cake available, as well as the promise of scones, so I awarded a moderate ECS.
Rather small cake selection
I ordered cherry and almond loaf and a cheese scone, Chris some chocolate cake and fruit scone. Helen went for a toasted tea cake. Despite having cake in the name a toasted tea cake is clearly not a cake so Helen played no further part in any further cake reviewing. As always Barry refused to engage in cake tasting antics and ordered a sausage roll.

While we waited for our drinks and cakes to arrive Barry gave me his cycling guest top cycling tip for the ride.

Cycling Guest Top Cycling tip No. 14. When out on a cycle ride don't waste your's and everyone else's time by photographing every thing you see for a pointless cake based blog, unless the blog is about fried breakfast.

The cakes, scones and drinks arrived and all looked very appetising. One of my goals for the year is to discourage cafes and tearooms from serving their cake on top of the serviette as it renders it useless for later use. Sadly, for the first time this year, I must report this rule had been broken. Therefore as soon as I had taken the cakes and drinks photo I quickly whipped away the paper napkins and just managed to salvage some serviette for later crumb wiping use. Not a good start but fortunately things soon got better.
Drinks with cakes and scones served on their serviettes
My guests all thought their coffees were excellent, both hot and strong although my hot chocolate wasn't as good and I found it a little too weak.

I couldn't help notice that my cheese scone was triangular in shape rather than the more traditional circular and I wasn't sure how I felt about this. Once I had tasted it I was converted to different geometrically shaped bakes as it was a very fine scone and easily the best I have had this year making it an early contender for Cake Crusader cheese scone of the year 2015. Chris's fruit scone was also very nice as was my cherry and almond loaf although the chocolate cake was not as good and slightly dry. However overall I awarded a high Cake Taste Quality (CTQ) rating.

I found the Olive Branch to be a very good stop, especially for cycling fans, and I would recommended a visit.

I was expecting an uneventful ride back to Norwich but the excitement had not ended as we went over 3 level crossings, 2 of which were unmanned, during the ride. Having checked my records this is the most level crossings traversed on a single ride, so quite a day for records.
Completing our 3rd crossing of a railway line on a single ride
and thus setting a new record
Ratings 
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
8.0
5.75
8.0
8.0
7.15
Route
Click here to down load 26 mile Norwich Tunstead loop GPX file for your GPS

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Norfolk cafe cycle tour sportive 10, 50th birthday special. (28 miles via Tabnabs, Mattishall)

Sportive 10
Tabnabs,
Mattishall,
Open Mon-Sat 9-4.00,
Highly Recommended
Yesterday saw the first sportive of the year which also doubled up as Chris's (Mrs Crusader) 50th birthday sportive saving me the need of organising a party. For this special occasion a bumper entry of 13 had turned up at race HQ for the ride out to a Cake Crusader favourite, Tabnabs at Mattishall. With so many riders it was important to put safety first so I stood on the wall and gave a full briefing. You could tell it was a safety brief as I had my hi-viz health and safety gilet on. 
Delivering a full safety briefing in correct safety gear
As there was such a big field it was also important that our team Doctor, Dr Hans, was amongst us today. He takes his roll very seriously so he first checked that the first aid kit was up to standard, and had gauze. Then, like any good cycling team doctor he insisted on giving everyone one of his 'special' pills, no questions asked, to help optimise our peformance. With all health and safety matters now dealt with we were ready to set off.

During the ride out to Mattishall the peleton split up with many break away attempts. The highlight was my bid to be King of the Mountains (KoM) as I shot off up the biggest climb of the day Col du Barnham Broom. To my horror George (son) went passed me half way up the hill to try and claim the polka dot jersey but then slowed down when we reached the top thinking he had won. Fortunately he had made the school boy error of not realising that I decide where the imaginary finishing line is and today it happened to be just past the point I overtook him again and I was therefore able to claim my KoM crown.
The peleton streamed out on the way to Mattishall
Still telling each member of the peleton about my fantastic KoM win we pulled into Tabnabs.
Tabnabs was very busy and another large group of cyclists had beaten us there and had filled up the downstairs indoor seating area. They appeared to be sneering at us from their seats. Probably as a result of taking Dr Hans 'special' pills some of the peleton reckoned that we should have them but before there was an unsavoury incident Mrs Tabnabs came out to save the day.
Chaos in Tabnabs car park as it was full of rival cyclists inside . 
She kindly said we could sit in the conservatory of her house which was next door, and have the birthday party there. This seemed like an excellent solution and armed with outdoor chairs we marched over and squeezed inside. 
Inside Mrs Tabnabs conservatory
Inside the conservatory we were joined by two other 'riders' who had called off from the cycling part of the sportive as they thought it was too cold for cycling and had come by car instead. They did however offer a non cycling guest top non cycling tip.

Non Cycling Guest top non cycling tip No 13. To avoid people crying off from your 50th Birthday cycling sportive party try being born in the summer.

We ordered our take away drinks which were delivered to the conservatory along with a chocolate and beetroot birthday cake that Mrs Tabnabs had made for the occasion.
Drinks in special takeaway containers
I decided that a full cafe rating was not appropriate due to: there now being 14 guests (12 on bikes, 2 not), that everyone was having the same cake and that we were in Mrs Tabnabs conservatory rather than her cafe. I did however do some random quality rating spot checks (RQRSC's) to make sure the normal high standards of Tabnabs had been maintained. All the drinks were highly rated with the hot chocolate coming in for special praise. The chocolate and beetroot birthday cake was superb and is already an early entry for Cake Crusader cake of the year 2015.
Chris showing excellent candle extinguishing skills
 by blowing out all 5 candles (each one representing 10 years) in a single breath
The RQRSC's showed that, as usual, Tabnabs had performed very well and remains in my top 3 cafes and tea rooms.

We returned home, and thanks to my safety briefing, had no further incident. Despite the potential seating shortage problems it was agreed that the sportive had been a great success. To make sure we don't have venue issues next time I'm about to book Tabnabs function room for Chris's hundredth birthday sportive in 2065.

Map of route

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