Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

On the Buses. (Blakeys Bus Cafe, Mulbarton)

Blakeys Bus Cafe,
Mulbarton,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:30-16:00
Sat 09:30-15:30, Sun 10:30-14:30  
Recommended 
After the Easter storm, when Chris (Mrs Crusader) asked not to be given any chocolate eggs then ate all mine instead, it was good that things had calmed down enough for us to go on a cafe cycle ride today.

The word out on the cafe street was that a new venture had recently opened in the nearby village of Mulbarton and, more interestingly, it was bus based. I therefore felt this would make an ideal venue for a 30 mile ride today.

Once kitted up and out on our bikes we found that we had to work pretty hard as despite the course being a loop we seemed to be cycling into the wind most of the time. With the cafe stop coming towards the end of the loop we were both pretty tired and in need of refreshments as we pulled into Mulbarton and found Blakeys Cafe Bus parked up near the common.
Arriving at Blakeys Cafe Bus
As you can see the cafe is actually a Bus. It is permanently parked there so sadly not available to be taken on a Cliff Richard style summer holiday (ask your parents). As we arrived my cafe skills came to the fore as I heard a party of mothers and young daughters heading across the car park towards us. I knew we had to beat them inside so as to get our order in first or potential have a long wait. Without a moment to be lost we quickly dumped our bikes in the pleasant looking outdoor seating area and headed in to secure our seat on board as the bus cafe was clearly busy today.
Outdoor seating area where we dumped our bikes
We were greeted by a waitress/conductor next to the downstairs kitchen and shown upstairs were all the indoor seating is. On the way up the stairs we went past a good looking cake selection with some special Easter based cakes leading me to award a good effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Cake selection fridge on the bus stairs
Having never been in a bus based cafe before it was hard to know what sort of atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score to give. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and there were good views over the common, but buses are not that big so it felt a little cramped however the longer I was there the more I warmed to it so eventually gave a good AAA score.
Upstairs on the bus overlooking the common
On the drinks front my Hot Chocolate and Chris's Mocha were both nice but could have both been a bit stronger for top marks. 
Todays drinks
To make sure I did get to eat something Easter based this year I opted for chocolate Easter cake while Chris went for Coffee and Walnut. When they arrived I made sure I ate all the chocolate decorations on my cake before Chris had a chance to spot any and make me hand them over. Both our cakes were good and I especially liked the fresh fruit garnish and choice of cream (pouring, clotted, whipped) that came with it.
Cakes with nice fruit garnish
Blakeys bus cafe is certainly a welcome addition to the local cafe scene and it was great to see it so busy. I certainly recommend a visit if you want something a bit different from your standard cafe venue.

Once home I finished my letter to the Easter Bunny to make sure he ignores any 'No Easter Eggs for me' nonsense from Mrs Crusader next year.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
6.00
7.50
7.00
7.00
6.70
Today's route

Click link to down load 30 mile Norwich Poringland gpx file for your GPS





Thursday, 24 March 2016

Closing time. (Artemis cafe, Cley Next the sea)

Artemis Cafe,
Cley Next The Sea,
Opening times Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00,
Sun 11:00-16:00  
Highly Recommended 
Looking at my cafe locations map I have noticed that the North Norfolk area appears to be a hotspot for top rated cafes. So as today was time for a ride from Hard to Please House in Alysham it seemed like a good opportunity to visit a new cafe in that vicinity. To spice things up a bit I had given today's cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) three possible destinations to choose from and put him in charge of the route so where we would be going would be a mystery to me.

I was a little late setting off to the start point as my normal bike had developed a last minute fault and I had to get my reserve bike prepared instead. My reserve bike is the only bike I own that has a name, thanks to an ill judged naming competition I organised on my Twitter feed last year. So with Bikey Mcbikeface finally loaded in the back of the car I set off to Hard to Please House ready to find out where we would be going.

On arrival Andrew said he would like to keep me guessing as to our final destination before leaping on his bike and charging off towards the Norfolk Coast with me struggling behind as I got used to riding Bikey Mcbikeface once more. Andrew explained we would have to ride quickly as according to the cafe website it shuts at 1pm today.

I was worried that Andrew had not stuck to the brief and would be taking us to Holt, his default destination, so I was mighty relieved when we went past there and out to Cley next the Sea where we found  one of my options, Artemis Cafe.
Artemis Cafe in Cley Next the Sea
We had pedalled hard and arrived at about 12:30, well before the potential closing time. On arrival I was instantly impressed by the outdoor seating area that over looks the marshes. There were even some outdoor sofas.
Outdoor seating area
It was a bit chilly so we went inside to the cosy indoor tables. The whole set up plus the very friendly welcome gave an extremely high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) rating.

I checked out the cake selection which had a good range but fairly small leading to a reasonable effective cake selection (ECS) score. 
Good solid selection of cakes
I ordered some zucchini and lime cake to go with my hot chocolate and Andrew had a cappuccino and millionaire style shortbread. As it was lunchtime, and although it isn't cake, I also treated myself to a sausage roll, which was super.

Our food and drinks soon arrived and we were both very impressed with our drinks especially when, as a nice touch, the chocolate sprinkles were added at the table to our personal taste, a bit like the pepper at a posh pizza restaurant. It was an excellent hot chocolate with a really good chocolate taste and Andrew thought his coffee was top draw too although he would have liked it to be slightly hotter.
Driks just after chocolate sprinkles were added
Andrew had started his biscuit early and already said it was very good. I tried my cake and which was superb and the best zucchini and lime cake I could remember having (and I have tried several). For a second opinion I asked Andrew(who is notoriously hard to please) if he would like to taste some. He wasn't sure if he would like zucchini in his cake and wondered if it would be better to make it using courgette instead. However once he had had a piece he was blown away and thought it was one of the best cakes ever.
Great cakes
All in all Artemis cafe had proved another North Norfolk winner and went straight into my current top five. With a larger cake selection it could easily have gone to number one and I highly recommend a visit and look forward to returning soon.
View from outdoor seating area over the marshes
It was now gone one o'clock so I was impressed they were still open and seemed in no hurry to throw us out. I asked the owner if he was looking forward to closing early today for Easter. He looked at me like I was an idiot with a 'why would I close early over the busy Easter period' expression. I explained that Andrew had seen they were closing early on their website. He was unaware of this and said that today was the day they switched to summer opening times. He was now worried that there would be no customers this afternoon so went off to contact the Artemis Cafe IT Director, who was also the barista, to find out what was going on. Andrew suggested he may have made a mistake so we quickly left before we started any more rumours..

Now I had re established my riding relationship with Bikey Mcbikeface we made good progress on the return ride home. Once back at Crusader Towers I checked out the Artemis cafe website where there was no sign of there ever being an early closing time today. Either the IT director had quickly corrected things or more likely, Andrew had looked at another of today's possible cafes websites and got confused, again.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.50
8.00
6.00
9.00
9.00
8.10
route

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

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Cake Crusader Sportive 20. (36 mile via Piece of Cake at Coltishall)

Sportive 20,
A Piece of Cake,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-16:00,
Sun 09:30-15:30
Highly Recommended 
Yesterday saw the 2nd official Cake Crusader sportive of the year. Due to injury and apathy only 8 of the 10 participants who had entered turning up at race HQ for pre ride faffing about. There was a lack of cafe reviewing experience in the group today with Dan (33), James (36) and Tom (13) (collectively known as the young lads) all on only their second cafe cycle ride.
A lot of inexperience in today's group
The trip was a 36 mile loop round Norwich up to a Piece of Cake (I see what they have done there) at Coltishall. It was no surprise that with such a mixed group of riders the Peleton was well spread and it took all my cat herding experience to try and keep us on route. Only occasionally did I loose a rider or the leaders head off in the wrong way. I was therefore quite exhausted when we arrived at our destination.

Demonstrating their inexperience the group headed inside without anyone waiting to have the compulsory cafe arrival photo. I therefore had to settle for one of their bikes only. 
Bikes minus riders on arrival at a Piece of Cake
Fortunately after visiting nearly 200 cafes my cafe cycle skills came to the fore as despite being last through the door I was able to review and rate the cake selection and then get to the front of the queue to place my order before the amateurs had finished floundering as to what to have or how to pay.

The cake selection was excellent and had a lot of tempting ones on offer leading to a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Part of the cake selection
With orders placed we took our seats on the third of three levels all of which overlook the river through a big window. The group collectively were very impressed giving a high Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) score.
view of cafe from middle layer
Once the food and drinks arrived I foolishly tried to illicit some rating activity but time and again the inexperience showed, especially from the young lads. 
Cake and drink reviewing in action
James tried to award his cup of tea more than a 7 which is the known ceiling of guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) a cup of tea can have. Tom wanted to rate his Paninni when a Paninni is clearly not cake, then once again Ali asked if he could dock marks as his latte came in a vase and not a cup (the vessel plays no part in GHDQ). When asked for ratings the young lads gave me responses like 'lovely', 'nice', 'tasty' etc. Was I meant to guess how these related to an actual score in order to enter in to my cafe ratings spreadsheet? I need numbers! In the end I once again had to ignore the young lads input as it was clear they didn't really have a clue as to what was going on. I blame the parents.

However despite this, all the ratings I did collect were even higher than on my last visit (see Road safety) establishing a piece of cake as one of my top cafe destinations. I was also pleased that the cake had not been served on the serviettes as it had been last time so another success in my campaign (#keepcakeoffserviettes).

The way back was equally chaotic and with rating done I quickly lost interest on making sure the whole party was kept together for the return ride home leaving every one for themselves. I assume they all made it back safely but will probably only find out when I see who turns up for the next sportive in a few weeks time.

Scores for a Piece of Cake based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
7.5
7.75
7.25
                    8.5
7.50
Route

Click here to download 36 mile Norwich Coltishall loop gpx mile to your GPS




Thursday, 17 March 2016

Training. (Potter Tearoom, Potter Heigham)

Potter Tea Room,
Potter Heigham,
Open all year,
Recommended 
After what seems like months of cold and wet weather it was a real treat to find the sun was going to be out and there would be blue skys for todays cafe cycle ride. As I awoke this morning everything seemed good in the world.
Excellent Weather for todays ride
In life it is important to have a guide that you trust and believe in which can instruct and teach you in the way you should go. Mine is my London marathon training plan and according to it, despite also having a 50 mile bike ride planned today, I had to do a 12 mile run. I have great faith in my London Marathon training plan so despite this seeming a little excessive I set off on the designated run before breakfast.

Twelve miles, a quick change and a bowl of porridge later I was ready to set off with today's cycling guest, Big George, on our planned cafe cycle ride. I told him that because of my London marathon training plan I was shattered and that we wouldn't be able to go too fast. Big George said that was fine with him as he to was tired after doing a random 20 mins of abs exercises that morning. He claimed he was now the owner of a super six pack, although he had hidden it under his belly. Mrs Big George is one 'lucky' lady I thought.

The 28 miles out to today's venue, Potter Tea Rooms at Potter Heigham, were a real struggle especially as we were into the wind. We were therefore both in need of a rest and refreshments when we finally cycled over Potter Heigham Bridge and saw the tea room in front of us, although neither of us would admit it.
Coming into Potter Heigham for a much needed rest
There is an outside bench seating area available but despite the sunshine it was a bit too cold to put it into use today so we went inside which was surprisingly busy for a Thursday in mid March.
Outside Potter Tearoom
Here we found a large area of both traditional table and chairs plus a series of comfy sofas to choose from. We opted for a table as it looked a long way down to the sofas and I wasn't sure we would make it up again.
Inside seating area
First I checked out the cakes so I could award the effective cake selection (ECS) rating. I was very impressed by both the size of the selection and the size of the cakes. As a result I awarded a high ECS mark.
Super size cake selection
I was in need of the energy giving properties of cake so went for a large slice of Chocolate and Orange to go with my hot chocolate. I also purchased some maple and pecan flapjack, to try later, in my continuing search for the Cake Crusader Flapjack of the year 2016 (it scored very highly). Big George had a filter coffee and a cheese scone (sadly not warmed).

As it was lunch time we also both ordered a cheese sandwich. Cheese sandwiches are not cake so play no part in my cafe cycle rating system but I mention it due to the impact they had on Big George.
Cakes and drinks for reviewing
When our food arrived I tried my hot chocolate and was delighted to find it had been made with real melted chocolate and was therefore an excellent drink getting a high hot chocolate quality (HCQ) score. The cake was pretty good too. I asked for Big Georges score for his coffee and cheese scone but he had turned pail and was unable to answer. I asked what was wrong. He just mumbled 'grated cheese'. I had forgotten that he had a fear of grated cheese and will only eat sliced cheese in his sandwich. I, on the other hand, love grated cheese and believe it is the only way it should be served with bread. I kindly ate his sandwich for him in order that he could get back to tasting his drink which he found to be a bit ordinary whilst he did like the scone.

Overall Potter Tearoom had scored very well and, espically for hot chocolate fans, I recommend a visit if only to check out the infeasibly large cakes.

Refuelled and with wind now in our favour the ride home was more managable. However once I got back I was in need of an urgent afternoon nap from which I was soon woken with an attack of cramp. My London Marathon training plan really does move in mysterious ways.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.50
5.50
8.00
7.50
6.00
7.10
Route
Click here to download 51 mile Norwich Potter Heigham loop gpx file for your GPS

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Bus Pass. (Tea and Bunns Tea rooms, Taverham)

Tea and Bunns Tea rooms,
Taverham,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:15-15:45,
Sat 9:15-16:30, Sun 10:00-16:00  

After all the bad weather it was good to be able to get back to some cafe cycle riding as today wasn't to be any old cafe cycle ride but a very special one because it was the day that regular cycling guest Barry qualified for his state pension, and other old people related benefits.

Barry has never been a fan of the cafe part of a cafe cycle ride and often refuses to take part in any cafe rating activity and rarely has cake. Therefore as a birthday treat I agreed we could do a two refreshment centre ride. The first stop would be a new cafe of my choice to add to the other 150+ I have visited so far. I would then allow Barry to take the guiding reins and lead us to a refreshments venue of his choosing. To make sure we had enough party guests we were joined on the ride by Helen (Mrs Barry) and their tandem plus Chris (Mrs Crusader).

When Barry and Helen and their Tandem turned up at Crusader Towers for the start of the ride Barry was already in a bad mood. Not only was he now officially old but he had wanted to try out his shiny new Bus pass to get to today's start point, whereas Helen and their Tandem (who are too young for free travel) insisted they cycle the 5 miles from their house to here instead.

So it was under dark clouds, both actual and metaphorical, as we set off on part one of the ride, out to Taverham.
Dark clouds hung over us as we set off on our ride
I had planned a short 14 mile leg after reading that old people should be careful not to wear themselves out, so we took it nice and slowly. 

Today's cafe was Tea and Bunns tea room that we found at the Taverham craft and country shopping complex round the back of Taverham garden centre.
Outside Tea and Bunns Tea room 
Although there was a small outside seating area it would have been reckless for me to have allowed us to sit outside on a cold day so we went straight into the warmth. At this time of day Tea and Bunns Tea room was mainly filled with a similar demographic to Barry so I thought he happy having a nice cup of tea and a good natter. 

First I checked out the cake selection, which had a good range plus, to avoid doubt, every item was clearly labelled as home-made. I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Good cake selection clearly all home made
I opted for cherry and almond home made cake and Chris went for home made fruit scone. Despite the fact I had brought plenty of candles Barry, as usual, refused to have any cake. 

On the drinks front we noticed that there was no proper frothy coffee machine which led to today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no. 45. If your cycle cafe stop doesn't have a proper frothy coffee machine it is best to stick to a basic coffee and not a fancy one.

Foolishly Barry, Helen and Chris had not followed cycling guest cycling top tip no. 45 and therefore only had themselves to blame when the mochas and cappuccino were not up to standard.

I on the other hand found my hot chocolate to be pretty good. I also enjoyed my cherry and almond home made cake, and Chris said her home made fruit scone was nice too.
Cakes and drinks pre reviewing
As usual Barry didn't take part in any cycle cafe reviewing as he was too busy comparing his bus pass photo with a group of elderly ladies at another table.
Barry's new Bus Pass
It was now time to head off to our second centre refreshment stop. Barry revealed the destination he had chosen was the Greenman Pub in Rackheath. He suggested it would be quickest if we went on the Bus but despite it being his Birthday we all insisted we stick with bikes.

As his refreshment centre choice was a pub and doesn't have a cake selection it will play no part in my cafe cycle review blog although we did have a very nice Birthday lunch.

From here we headed back to Barry and Helen and their Tandems house where Barry announced that the ride had ended. Barry then went straight inside to put the heating on up to full blast before heading off to the bus stop for a quick ride, just because he could.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.50
4.00
7.00
7.00
6.00
6.10
Route
Click here to down load 30 mile Norwich Loop gpx file to your GPS