Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Cake Crusader Sportive 18. (43 miles Mettingham (nr Bungay) via TallyHo tearooms)

Sportive 18,
Tally Ho Tearooms,
Mettingham (nr Bungay),
Opening times Tue-Sat 10:00-17:00,
Sun 11:00-17:00,
 Recommended
Yesterday's Cake Crusader sportive was always going to be high risk as you never know what the weather will be like at this time of year. As a rule winter sportives have a 30 mile ceiling but for this trip I wanted to go a bit further, push it out to over the 40 mile mark and hope the weather would be kind to us. As a result I seemed to have scared off all but the most committed sportive riders and therefore a field of just 5 line up on the start line at race HQ.
Hard core riders
I thought it would be good to go somewhere a bit different and therefore had opted for a return to the Victorian themed Tally Ho tearooms near Bungay. I last went there 2 years ago (see a matter of taste) with Big George who had not really got his head round the whole Victorian theme set up seeming to believe we really had gone back in time. He took several months to recover from the experience so I was keen to see how today's set of cyclists would react.

The weather on the way down was good. A bit chilly, a slight wind but at least the sun was out meaning we were rewarded with some fantastically typical Norfolk views and sky's. Despite a few moans of "how much further" we made pretty good progress and arrived at the Tally Ho Victorian themed tea rooms bang on mid day. 
Sorting out bike security outside the Tally H Tearooms
I had clearly not realised that today was international 'eat out at a Victorian themed venue' day as the tea room was packed. The only space still available to us were the comfy sofas in the jams and chutney area but we were more than happy to take them and get out of the cold.

I checked out the cake selection which had a solid offering of traditional sponge cakes. There was a coffee cake so it was good that Mick (Coffee and Walnut specialist) was one of today's riders so we could get his expert opinion. 
Selection of traditional sponge cakes
As it was lunchtime and we were hungry after our ride we all selected sandwiches or soup but disappointingly two of the group seemed to believe that this meant they didn't need to have cake. I made my displeasure known by disqualifying them from any part in cake reviewing activity today. After punishment that severe I don't thing they will be refusing to cake on future rides. I, on the other hand, stepped up to the plate (pardon the pun) and had both carrot cake and a cheese scone as part of my cheese scone serving temperature research. Sadly despite the olde rhyme 'cheese scone hot, fruit scone not', which I believe the first recorded use was during Queen Victoria's reign, it came cold.

While we waited for our drinks and cakes to arrive we discussed the atmosphere and ambiance rating. There was a wide range of opinions depending if you liked themed things but it came as no surprise that Dom (old school cyclist and wannabe Victorian) really rated it, he especially liked seeing all drinks served in proper China cups and that real children were being used to clean the chimney. 
Drinks in proper china cups
My hot chocolate was excellent, strong, thick and hot and just what was wanted on a cold winters day. Not surprisingly this meant the Mochas also scored well so it was thumbs up for the Victorian drinks. Our cakes were nice too although Mike prefers his coffee cake to include walnuts as well and felt a bit short changed that this one didn't. I pointed out walnuts were not invented until 1927 so it was actually authentic for the time.
Nice selection of Victorian food
The Victorian waiter asked how far we had to go to cycle home. We told him about 25 miles expecting him to be impressed but he wasn't as he said he often did 100 mile rides, which was all the more impressive as I assume this would be on a penny farthing. Those Victorians are well hard.

Despite it being a different group of people to the ones on my last visit here it was good that today's set of ratings were very similar showing good consistency of both my excellent scoring system and the Tally Ho tearoom, which I recommend you try if you like something different or are Victorian.

Sadly the weather started to worsen for our pathetically short 25 mile return ride as it rained and the wind started to gust so we were all pleased to get home to warm up, which I did by getting in my tin bath in front of the coal fire. 

Scores for Tally Ho Tea rooms based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.75
6.5
7.0
7.25
5.75
7.05
Route

Click here to download 43 miles Norwich - Bungay loop  GPX file for your gps

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Cheese Scone of the year update

Cheese Scone of the Year 2015 update

Last week I announce the 10 short listed entrants in my search for the Cake Crusader cheese scone of the year 2015. 

With the excitement only just beginning to die down it's time for further details.

The plan for the scone off is as follows
1. Revisit all the cheese scone short listed venues, by bike of course, and purchase two cheese scones to take away.
2. The scones will be collected over two rides on the 9th and 10th December. Unfortunately the scones are too far apart to do on a single trip at this time of year.
3. Back at Crusader Towers I will correctly reheat all 20 scones ready for tasting
4. Myself and any fellow judges will then blind taste the scones and rank them purely on our tasting experience
5. Winning scone will be announced and awarded a coveted Cake Crusaders winners certificate in time for Christmas.

The 10 shortlisted scones can be found at the following venues, with the date and approx time I hope to be there to purchase the scones:

Café or Tearoom
Collection day
Approx arrival time
Market Row Café, Beccles
Wednesday 9th December
09:30
Jesters, Bungay
Wednesday 9th December
10:30
Earsham Hall, Earsham
Wednesday 9th December
10:50
Coco Mamas, Eye
Wednesday 9th December
12:30
Pennoyer Centre, Pulham st Mary
Wednesday 9th December
13:30
Garden Tearooms, Wymondham
Wednesday 9th December
14:40
Pandoras, Norwich
Wednesday 9th December
15:40
Heydon Tearoom, Heydon *
Thursday 10th December
10:00
Old Railway Station, Reepham
Thursday 10th December
11:00
Walsingham Café, Great Walsingham
Thursday 10th December
12:15
Byfords, Holt
Thursday 10th December
14:00

On Wednesday 9th December I will be catching an early train to Beccles and cycling from there to purchase the first seven sets of scones (subject to availability) using the following route.

The route for day two is in the hands of Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as North Norfolk is his domain and he has kindly agreed to accompany on this part of the mission. * * *Since speaking to Andrew he has insisted we also go to his favourite tea room at Heydon so we will be popping in to get a couple of scones from there as well.

The next challenge is to work out how to carry all the scones on my road bike, especially if it rains, so I'm off to the shed to test out a few prototypes. Look out for further updates next week and most importantly of all remember #cheesesconehot.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Spontaneous. (Coffee Corner, Norwich)

 Café Corner,
Norwich,
Opening times 
Mon-Sat 08:00-16:00, Sun 10-15:00,
Recommended 
As a free spirit one thing I love is being spontaneous so I was excited to see that I had selected today to be one of the four days of spontaneity (DoS) that I allow myself each year and schedule accordingly on my wall planner. Therefore today the rule book would be spending the day with the waste paper basket, but don't panic as I always empty the bins on a Tuesday I knew I would be able to get it out again tomorrow.

To start this mad day I asked today's cafe cycle guest, Big George, to turn up at 9:30ish instead of our normal 9:00 sharp. Next I wouldn't be following a route from my cycling GPS or even be taking a map, however to avoid any danger of getting lost I spent last night memorising the way we would go, fun doesn't have to be irresponsible. Finally instead of stopping at a cafe half way round the route I opted to go completely off piste and picked a cafe to visit at the end of the trip. I know your thinking he's gone absolutely spontaneous crazy but that's the way I roll (4 times a year).

When Big George arrived promptly at 9:30 we set off on my spontaneous 32.37 mile memorised loop. It was tough going into a strong wind but we made good progress. After a few miles I was surprised when we came across a well kept milestone on a tiny country road in the middle of nowhere. It said LONDON 100 miles. I was puzzled why this was here as I couldn't believe anyone would ever include this particular road when heading for the capital. Even if they did there are surely far too many route options from here to know which one was the right one to be exactly 100 miles. However as I was having a planned DoS I would have to wait until tomorrow before checking on Google maps to see if it was really possible to find an exactly 100 mile way there before writing to the council.
I s it really possibly to find a route to London from here which is 100 miles
The rest of the ride went smoothly before we finished our loop at today's venue of the coffee corner.
Outside the Coffee Corner
Coincidently the Coffee Corner is at the vertex (look it up on Google) of two roads and has a small outdoor seating area which despite the crazy mood I was in I decided was too cold to use today so we went inside to a small but very cosy indoor scatter cushion based seating area.
Indoor scatter cushion based seating area
As the Coffee Corner is a very small cafe it only had a very small cake selection with just the one cake although it had some very impressive icing.
Only cake in selection
I ordered a slice and a hot chocolate. I was very excited and pleased when a big jar of real chocolate chips (milk or dark) was got down from the shelf and knew this was going to be an excellent proper chocolate drink and not one made with cheap sugary powder I too frequently come across.

Big George ordered a filter coffee and bacon sandwich. Although it was a DoS ride there are some lines which cannot be crossed and cycle cafe reviewing rules is one such line so as a bacon sandwich is not cake Big George would play no part in any cake related reviewing today. However, I was prepared to rate things in a different order from normal and asked for his coffee rating before I had scored my hot chocolate.
Drinks, featuring superb looking hot chocolate, and cake
The hot chocolate was unsurprisingly excellent and scored very highly. Big George was also impressed by the quality of his coffee. Finally my cake not only looked good but was very tasty as well so top marks on the food and drink front.

Overall the Coffee Corner was a very good stop for the end of a cycle ride and, especially for hot chocolate lovers, I would recommend a visit.

We left and cycled the short distance home. I thought my final DoS of the year had gone very well and has inspired me to make sure I plan next years four days of spontaneity to coincide with cafe cycle rides as well.
Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.5
7.5
3.0
7.5
6.75
6.65
Spontaneous memorised route

Click here to download 35 mile Norwich Hingham loop gpx file for your gps

Thursday, 19 November 2015

How long is a piece of string. (Folly Tearoom, Holt.)

Folly Tearoom,
Holt,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00,
Highly Recommended 
Despite the excitement and social media frenzy surrounding my cheese scone of the year news (see cheese scone news) I thought it was important to continue with business as usual and undertake my 82nd cafe visit for the year to date. 

I had arranged to meet Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at his house and foolishly agreed that we could go on one of his 'dynamic' rides rather than one of my meticulously planned ones. For regular readers you will know this could only mean one thing, that we were going to Holt.

The weather forecast had predicted that today would be the last 'warm' day before the big freeze hits us tomorrow but there had also been a lot of rain so conditions weren't ideal for a ride, we therefore agreed to limit the ride to 30 miles.

I asked Andrew how he would know that this was going to be a 30 mile ride. He said he had no modern GPS based tools like me and would use the old school method of a map and a piece of string. I had never heard of this method but I assumed he was going to tie one end of a 30 mile piece of string to his bike and the other end to our start point and then when the string becomes taught we would have done 30 miles. However it seemed a bit dangerous to me and I wasn't sure where you would get a 30 mile piece of string from. I told him not to bother with the string and that I would keep him informed of miles completed on my GPS so that he could adjust the route accordingly.

I was glad to have chosen to go on my winter bike, with it's disc brakes, as it was rather slippery and there were a few manic drivers speeding along what should have been quite country lanes. However despite nearly ending up in the hedge on a couple of occasions we arrived in Holt safely with 20 of our target 30 miles completed.

Fortunately Holt has the largest number of tearooms per capita of anywhere in the world so there were still plenty of new venues to try. Today we selected the Folly Tearooms and gardens. 
Outside The Folly Tearoom
We parked our bikes in the very pleasant outdoor garden seating area which I imagine would be exceptionally pleasant to sit in on a lovely summer's day. Sadly today was a drizzly late autumn day so we headed inside
Bikes in lovely outdoor garden seating area
Once inside I was surrounded by cake which was on the counter, in a glass tower and tucked away on shelves. I obviously awarded a very high rating effective cake selection rating.
Part of the impressive cake selection
It was waitress service so we picked a table and waited to be served. The tables were neatly laid out with china plates, napkins (in holders) and best of all a cake fork. There was also a lot of china on display with cups and plates adorning the walls. This was clearly a proper tearoom. Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) thought it was all 'a bit too Holt' for him which I found rather rich seeing of his insistence to come to Holt on every opportunity.
Table layout including cake fork
I ordered hot chocolate, a cheese scone (as part of my on going cheese scone serving temperature research #cheesesconehot) and chocolate cake. Andrew ordered a pot of tea and a cheese sandwich, he said he would order a cake later. I knew that he would not and he didn't. 

Our food and drinks arrived and it was clear the Folly tearoom was china mad as unusually my hot chocolate came in a cup and saucer, the scones on a china plate with butter on its own china dish and best of all Andrew's crisps for his sandwich in a china pot.
Crisps served in china pot
The quality of the food and drinks was very good, and I was particularly pleased that the excellent cheese scones were served hot, so high drinks and cake quality scores all round. 
Food and drink had much china involved
The Folly tearooms and garden was the most tearoomy tearoom I have been to although we felt a little out of place in our cycle gear as everyone else had come in their tea room garb. I would highly recommend it especially after a cycle ride on a hot summers day when you can make use of the garden and not scare the other non cycling punters who seemed to find Lycra a bit frightening. 

With 20 of our 30 miles used up Andrew was under pressure to design a route of just 10 miles for the return to Alysham. I was relieved we had not used Andrew's original route measuring approach as we ended up doing 32 miles and would have therefore run out of string before we got back. Welcome to the 21st century.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.5
7.0
9.0
7.5
7.0
7.60

Route

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

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Cheese Scone News

Finding the Cheese Scone of the Year 2015

Its time for my final mission this year of the three I set myself at the start of the year. 

First there was my trip to find the best cafe anywhere across Great Britain, literally (see St Davids to Lowestoft Day 1)

Next came my successfully attempt to set a world record for the number of cafes visited on a calorie neutral bike ride (see Is it a record?)

My final challenge has been going on all year and is cheese scone based with my campaign to make sure cheese scones are always served correctly warmed and never cold (remember cheese scone hot, fruit scone not).

So far this year I have had 46 cheese scones at different cafes or tea rooms. Of these 27 have come correctly warmed while 19 sadly came cold. In order to help gain more publicity to get more cafes offering the warm cheese scone I will be revisiting 10 of the best scones I've had this year in order to crown the 2015 cheese scone of the year.

The plan for the scone off is as follows
1. Revisit all the cheese scone short listed venues, by bike of course, and purchase two cheese scones to take away.
2. The scones will be collected over two rides on the 9th and 10th December. Unfortunately the scones are too far apart to do on a single trip at this time of year.
3. Back at Crusader Towers I will correctly reheat all 20 scones ready for tasting
4. Myself and fellow judges will then blind taste the scones and rank them purely on our tasting experience
5. Winning scone will be announced and awarded a coveted Cake Crusaders winners certificate in time for Christmas.

I have gone through my detailed records and notes from this years cafe cycle reviews and have found 13 cheese scones of note. To get down to my final 10 I have had to eliminate 3 purely based on if I could get to them on a bike ride which I can complete in daylight (yes I have heard of cars but that's not the point) so I have had to miss some potentially good ones out.

Over the next few days I will announce my 10 short listed cheese scones on twitter and Facebook before publishing the route and full list on the blog next week.

The world of cheese scones doesn't get better than this!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Storm after the Lull. (St Georges Distillery coffee shop, Larling)

St Georges Distillery Coffee Shop,
Larling,
Opening times Mon-Sun 10:00-17:30,
Recommended 
Looking out of the window yesterday morning the weather appeared to be very much like the perfect conditions of the day before with a bright clear blue sky. But once outside it became obvious that things were different as it was not only much colder but there was a serious wind. I checked the BBC weather app that told me it was indeed going to be very windy but worse still there would be a heavy rain shower late morning.

I had arranged to be joined by Big George as my cycling guest and had told him we would decide on route options when the weather conditions were clear. Using the ones predicted by the BBC weather app I opted for route option 2 which was a 48 mile round trip to the coffee shop at St Georges whisky distillery. This was a good option as:
  1. We would be into the wind on way there and, as the seriousness of the wind picked up, would have it behind on way home
  2. We should be in the coffee shop during the forecasted heavy rain shower
  3. As both Big George and whisky are Scottish he would be the ideal guest to take to a whisky distillery. 
Point two was time critical so when Big George texted me with this weeks excuse as to why he would be late I knew we would get wet. However it was a good excuse as he claimed his bike tyre had mysteriously exploded when he got his bike out.

We eventually set off half an hour late and were soon struggling into a very strong wind. You can tell it is a strong wind when you are having to pedal really hard on the down hills and come to a virtual stop on the up hills. Not only that but the clear blue sky's we set off with had now become black and rain was in the air.
Rapidly deteriorating weather conditions
Exactly half an hour from the cafe, which we would have been at if someone's "tyre hadn't exploded", the scheduled rain arrived and the winds picked up blowing water straight into our faces. It was tough going but we battled on until we arrived at St George's whisky distillery near Larling.
Outside the distillery
Now wet and with point two of my plan in tatters, we parked our bikes in the outdoor seating area. It looked like a fabulous spot on a nice summers day but today everyone had decided to sit inside in the small downstairs window seating area on the edge of the whisky shop. There is also a large upstairs balcony seating area available for those with the energy to battle up steps.
View of inside seating area from shop
Using the gift of the wet cycle helmet we reserved the last downstairs table before going to the counter to check out the cakes. The choice was limited to two very large sponge cakes (a coffee and walnut and a Victoria) so I couldn't award a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Cake selection was just two large, but good looking, sponge cakes
They had a special coffee and cake deal which we both took advantage of. I was pleased to see their offer, included hot chocolate as an acceptable drink (take a note Waitrose with your so called loyalty card free hot drink, as long as it is not hot chocolate, offer).
Cake and drinks
We returned to our table to try our cakes and drinks. The hot chocolate was nice, not too milky but not very chocolaty either. Big George thought his filter coffee was very good and just the strength he likes. The cakes were both excellent, nice and moist with good flavours so I gave a high cake taste quality (CTQ) score. I could feel the energy giving property of the cakes starting to work ready for the return trip.
Whisky tasting table
It was now time to action point 3 of my plan. They do a free whisky tasting so I suggested that proud scot Big George have a go. I thought this to be a nice touch but Big George was to drop a bombshell. He might be Scottish be he doesn't actually like whisky so would rather not have to taste any. My 3 point plan was now only fit for the waste paper basket as it had now become a one point plan which isn't really a plan at all.

Despite this I thought that St Georges distillery coffee shop makes an excellent pit stop for a bicycle ride as it is open all day and always has energy giving cake available and as a bonus if you have a proper Scot with you they can try the whisky, although I'm told non Scottish people like it as well.

It was now time for the ride back where at least the last point on my plan worked correctly as the wind was playing ball and blew us all the way home.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
7.5
5.0
8.0
6.0
6.50
Route

Click Here to download 48 mile Norwich Larling loop GPX file for your GPS