Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mass review. (Cadence Cafe, Old Buckingham)

Café Cadence,
Old Buckenham,
Opening times Wed-Sun 8:30-5:00,
Highly Recommended 
One advantage of being a self appointed cycle cafe reviewer is that fellow cyclists and cafe fans often send their recommendations or news of new establishments opening. Recently I have had several emails and tweets telling me about Cafe Cadance that has recently opened in a field. Not only is it a new cafe, but it is cycle themed and an optimum distance from my house for a 40 mile bike ride to boot. 

So today I organised a group ride down to Old Buckenham to try it out. It was a high risk approach as I normal only take groups to cafes I have already been to but sometimes you just have to live on the edge.
My large group of cycling guests ready for some group reviewing
One drawback of a large peleton is the increased likelihood of a puncture so it was no surprise when less than 5 miles in Mrs Crusader's friend Tracey (on her first Cake Crusader ride) shouted the dreaded words 'Puncture' and the group came to a stop. As Mrs Crusader is a veteran of these things she knew exactly what to do and handed me Tracey's bike, pointed to the wheel to be fixed and then returned to chatting while I got down to work.
Fixing the puncture while everyone else stood around and chatted
Once back on our way there were no further incidents as we found Cafe Cadence in a van in the middle of a field just the other side of the aptly named Cake Street in Old Buckenham.
Outside Cafe Cadence at Old Buckingham Country park
I was very impressed with the setting, the excellent bike rack facility and the fact it sold puncture repair kits, inner tubes and lube so awarded a very high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) mark.
Our bikes part on the excellent bike rack facility
As the cafe is only van sized there was not much room for a large cake selection but what there was was excellently judged as chocolate cake, brownie and banana loaf are three of my favourites so I awarded the highest effective cake selection (ESF) score I could for a choice of 3 cake varieties.
Small but effective cake selection
On the drinks front I felt my hot chocolate was a bit weak although the other two cycling guest who had hot chocolate were far more positive. The remaining cycling guests were all over the place rating the Guest Hot Drink quality (GHDQ) but after much debate the consensus seemed to be it was good coffee and scored well. 
Cycling guests debating coffee and cake ratings
it would seem that a disadvantage of having your cafe in the middle of a field is that the drinks cool down quickly and every felt they could have been a bit hotter for really top marks.
Some of the coffee and cakes we enjoyed
The cakes were excellent with the banana loaf a real star. Once again my cycling guests started to debate the quality of their cake but as I had already updated the spreadsheet with my cake taste quality (CTQ) mark then frankly I had lost interest by now. Some of the newer cycling guests actually seeming to believe I cared about what they thought and have much to learn. 

Experienced cycling guest Big George is well aware of this and attempted to undermine things by refusing to have cake but a pain aux chocolat despite knowing full well that cake reviewing rules state that a pastry can only be rated as cake before 9.00am (see poor plans post if you want to know why). I obviously ignored his sarcastic attempts to give me a mark for it.

We all agreed the Cadence Cafe was an excellent cycle stop and I highly recommend a visit. It is definitely the best cafe in the middle of a field I have been to. 
Purchasing so lube for the ride home
I liked it so much I even bought some lube and was not only able to deal with my bikes chain but offer a good lubing to several other members of the group, who were a clearly a bit dry, for a squeak free ride home.

Scores 
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
7.75
5.5
8.5
9.0
7.35
route to be published shortly

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Its Official (Broken Egg Cafe , Harleston)

Broken Egg Cafe,
Harleston,
Opening times Every day 8:30-4:30
Recommended

It has been a frustrating time in the world of cafe cycle riding as I have been unable to review a new cafe for over 3 weeks. This is not for the want of trying but I have been frustrated by closed cafes, last minute call offs and inclement weather. So it was a relief to finally get a successful trip in the bag.

Despite the lack of new cafes I have not been idle with several more sausage rolls tested for sausage roll of the year #SROTY and I have been planning a trip to find the best cafe in South Wales in September. As always I will need a cycling guest to accompany me and have chosen Mrs Crusader for this tour. Due to injury and ongoing toothache then Mrs Crusader has not been able to get out on her bike much so will need some serious training up, starting with this 60 mile round trip to Harleston.

On the way we stopped at the Spoon cake cafe in Loddon.
Quick stop at Spoon cafe in Loddon
Here I was able to audit their current ratings (still very good) and check out their sausage roll offering. It was a good one but just missed out on my current finalist shortlist.
Sausage roll at Spoon cafe
From here we headed to the border, which gets a bit hilly, so Mrs Crusader started to flag as we hit one 'climb' after another. Using my excellent motivational skills I pointed out it wasn't as hilly as Wales will be, which for some reason didn't seem to help.

After nearly 40 miles we made it to today's target cafe the Broken Egg, just outside Harleston. It has an outdoor seating area but it was mainly filled with very young people on toy tractors so we opted to sit inside.
Outside Broken Egg near Harleston
I checked out the cake selection which had scones (fruit and cheese), a tart thing but only a single slice of cake (chocolate) so I couldn't award a very high effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Rather small cake selection with just one piece cake left
I obviously ordered the only piece of cake to have with my hot chocolate which meant that Mrs Crusader would have to do without and just have a Mocha coffee. I told her it was part of her new nutrition plan, which for some reason didn't seem to help.

They were very busy so our drinks took a little time to come, the very nice waitress lady was very apologetic about the delay and kept us fully up to date with progress.

When the drinks arrived they were both very good indeed. It was nice to have a hot chocolate that wasn't overly milky as is often the case and Mrs Crusader thought her Mocha was of a good strength too.
Very good drinks
As it was lunchtime,and the cafe specialised in egg based dishes, I had an omelet and Mrs Crusader posh eggs on salmon. Again it took a while to arrive but, despite it forming no part of my cafe ratings system, I have to admit it was one of the best omelets I have ever had.

Sometime later there was still no sign of my chocolate cake so I politely approached the counter to ask for it. The waitress lady was so busy apologising to me that she took her eye off the ball (or cake) and dropped it on the floor. Fortunately while we had been having lunch a victoria sponge had been baked and had appeared on the counter so I had some of that instead and must admit it too was excellent cake.
Fortunately a Victoria sponge had appeared before the chocolate cake dropping incident
The Broken Egg was a nice stop and it's food and drink were very good but we had spent a lot longer there than planned and this meant we might not get home before the forecast afternoon rain.

As we set off again it was clear the long stop had done Mrs Crusader no favours and with 10 miles to go she announced that she was knackered. I checked if she was just tired or officially knackered and unfortunately she confirmed the later. This was a shame as it meant forms had to be filled in to make her knackeredness officially official.
Mrs Crusader who was officially knackered
By the time admin was completed the first drops of rain had started to fall. Fortunately I knew that Mrs Crusader knew the way back from where we were so I could happily abandoned her to make sure I got home without the paperwork getting wet. 

I'm sure you will be glad to know that Mrs Crusader eventually got back and as she was officially knackered was allowed a sit down, while I planned her next training ride.

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.0
7.5
5.0
8.5
5.5
6.85
route to be published shortly

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Terror in the Sky. (Owl Tearooms, Holt)

The Owl Tearooms,
Holt,
Opening times Tues-Sat 8:30-5:30,
Sun 9:30-2:30

Highly Recommended 
It had been nearly a week since I did my latest and last Ironman triathlon so I decided it was about time I stopped resting and got back on the bike. I hadn't seen Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) since I left him at Ljubljana airport in Slovenia, just before my mid-air 'terrorist' incident. So it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up with him for an Ironman recovery cafe cycle ride.

Whoa there, back the truck up! Never mind this ironman nonsense what's this about a mid-air terrorist incident?

Funnily enough Andrew wanted to know more too so as we left Hard to Please House, for a thirty odd mile trip to Holt and the Owl Tearooms, I started to tell him.


*****Warning if you want to hear about my drama in the sky then read on but if you have come to this post because you wanted to find out more about the Owl tearooms in Holt then I suggest you skip the next few paragraphs*****

Myself and Andrew had been out riding in Slovenia as part of my Ironman (which I did last Sunday in case I've not mentioned it) training and I was coming home while he stayed on to meet up with Annie, his partner, for some walking in the mountains. My flight had been going normally when the captain announced we had been diverted to Cologne airport for 'security reasons'. This announcement was most inconvenient as I was next person to be served by the refreshments trolley. Shockingly they refused to let me buy a sandwich as they hurriedly packed it away. I was now both angry and hungry so hoped security reasons didn't take long to sort out (but they do).

After we had landed some big gun wielding German police removed two passengers before the captain explained that a fellow passenger had overheard something suspicious and so had decided to land just in case although he thought it would soon be sorted out and we would be on our way.

After another 30 minutes the captain came back on to tell us that to his surprise the police had asked us to evacuate the plane and we have to go down the chutes. This was very exciting and nearly made up for the lack of airline sandwich. Eager to try the slide out I muscled my way to the front and was told to jump up on to the slopey bit in order to initiate the sliding down process.

Airline passenger top tip no 1. To avoid friction burns when going down the emergency slides make sure you don't let any bare skin touch the slide.
Our airplane minus the passengers and 'terrorists' on the tarmac at the very far end of Cologne airport
Unfortunately I was not aware of Airline passenger top tip no 1 so grazed my elbow. From this point it was another 12 hours for the police to search, question and most importantly feed us before we were sent off to hotels for the rest of the night. Next day we returned to the airport to fly home on another plane, minus potential 'terrorists'.

Just before the return flight I was contacted by the BBC asking for an interview for the local news which I did on my return to Stanstead airport. I covered a number of topics (including cakes, blogs, and ironman training) but they mostly ended on the cutting room floor. I had 15 seconds on Look East explaining what it was like to go down the slides and now consider myself as the BBC's go to correspondent for emergency chute based incidents (and no I didn't shout weee on the way down).

As it transpired it was all a very expensive false alarm as the guys were released without charge the next day, minus one backpack that had been exploded in a controlled way on the runway.

Airline passenger top tip no 2. If you don't want to have your hand luggage blown up then avoid telling the old lady sitting next to you that you have a bomb in your bag, as she may not realise you were joking.

I finished telling my story but noticed Andrew was nowhere to be seen as he had fallen asleep a couple of miles back, and this was before I had even started on my detailed Ironman update.

We got to Holt and took our bikes round to the courtyard garden seating area of the Owl trearooms. It was very sunny and also busy so we were fortunate that the prime shaded table was free. This forced all the subsequent old people who came in to sit in full sun. Fortunately I remembered that Andrew is quite old too so I didn't feel guilty for long.
The walled garden outdoor seating area at the Owl tearooms
I had only been to the Owl tearooms once before and it had scored well but as it was now under new management then cafe cycle rules state that the previous scores and post be archived and we start a fresh.
Outside the Owl tearooms
I went to check the cake selection and it was a good one with cakes, tray bakes and tarts all available (all made on the premises to boot), so a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cake selection
There were also sausage rolls to test out for sausage roll of the year #SROTY.  I had them later back at Crusader Towers and they scored well, especially as they had gone short crust while most others I have tried were flakey. As a result I thought they deserved a place in my current shortlist to take part in the sausage roll off at the end of the year.
Sausage rolls to be tested at Crusader towers
Our drinks, Hot chocolate and Cappuccino, scored better than under the previous owners and the cakes were excellent as well. I think my pistachio and cherry loaf was the best cake I had had this year.
Excellent cake
The Owl tearooms were good before but now they were even better moving right up my league table and I highly recommend a visit.

On the way back Andrew seemed keen to talk about anything he could think of so I didn't get an opportunity to tell him about how my ironman went. What a treat he is in for on our next ride.

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
7.0
8.25
8.5
8.5
7.85
route to be published shortly

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Secondhand Land. (Old Orchard cafe, Ditchingham)

Old Orchard Café (Emmaus),
Ditchingham,
Opening times Every day 10-4,
Recommended 
Before I set off back to Europe, this time for my final Ironman triathlon in Austria, I just had time for a quick cafe cycle ride with Mrs Crusader.

I had recently seen signs to a second hand shop and cafe when cycling out towards Bungay so I was curious to check it out. It turned out to be the The Old Orchard cafe at the Norwich Emmaus community near Ditchingham. I knew nothing of this organisation but apparently they take in homeless people who then work there collecting and selling second hand stuff but much more importantly they run their cafe.
Outside the Emmaus Community entrance
When we arrived we went inside and I was pleased to see it had a fine cake selection as well as sausage rolls (which I tried out as part of my search for sausage roll off the year #SROTY).
Good cake selection
I was also pleased to see that there was a proper coffee maker as well. I went for raspberry and white chocolate crumble thing with my hot chocolate and Mrs Crusader choose orange cake with her americano.

We took our refreshments out to the garden area to try them.
Garden area available for cafe users
Things didn't start well as my hot chocolate was rather too weak and milky but Mrs Crusader said her coffee was very good and gave a high guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) mark.
Cakes, drinks and sausage rolls
Both our cakes were excellent and it was the best crumble type tray bake thing I could remember so I awarded an excellent cake taste quality (CTQ) score.

It was an excellent stop in a good location for cyclists and I'm surprised not to have known about it before as it could easily become a cyclist favourite. I recommend you try it out.

When I got back I got told off by my Ironman triathlon plan for doing too much cycling instead of resting so it might be a week or two before my next post, although hopefully it will include a 'brief' section on how my triathlon went so something to look forward too! 

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
4.5
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.70
route to be published shortly

Monday, 19 June 2017

Just in time. Hatters Tearoom (Dereham)

Hatters Cafe,
Dereham,
Opening times Wednesday to Monday 10-4,

Recommended 
As my Twitter and Facebook follows may know I have been away in Europe competing in the prestigious cafe cycle tour of Slovenia. As well as me, some (well one actually) of the finest cafe cycle riders in the world were also in the field but I managed to beat Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) in the general classification as well as mop up all the king of the mountains points. To keep him interested I did introduce a best old rider competition which, as the only entrant, he duly won. 
Action from Stage 3 of the cafe tour of Slovenia
I'm only telling you this to explain why it has been so long since my last new cafe post (and to help massage my ego of course).

It had been nearly 6 weeks since I had last caught up with Big George so it was good to put these two things right as we met up for a ride out to the other side of Dereham.

As always Big George turned up with an excuse to explain his forth coming poor performance explaining he had been stung by a bee and his leg had been poisoned. He claimed he was on antibiotics and proudly showed me a large purple rash on his leg (that suspiciously looked like a ribena stain) but I went with it and promised we would take it easy to help aid his recovery.

It was a hot day but we had much to catch up on as we headed off into the wind. I tried to retune into Big Georges broad scottish accent which was made doubly difficult as his words were being blown about in the wind. Despite using all my powers of concentration I couldn't make much out. Then I remembered I never listen to him anyway so it wasn't really a problem and we soon arrived at Hatters tea room on the A47. 

The first thing I noticed was a 'to let' sign so I was worried it had closed down. Fortunately this was not the case but on further questioning I discovered that the current occupants are looking to move on in the near future so if you want to go there I suggest you do so soon.

Outsider Hatters Tearoom
We took a seat in the outdoor seating terrace before checking out a good cake selection.
Good cake selection with most of the bases covered
I went for carrot cake and was also pleased to see there were sausage rolls available which I could try out in my sausage roll of the year contest #SROTY. 
Todays sausage roll entries
Big George had Victoria sponge with his sausage roll and coffee.

The sausage roll was good but didn't make my current finalist shortlist. We both liked our drinks and thought the cakes were good ones too.
Todays refreshment selection
It is a shame that Hatters cafe may not be in action much longer as it was a good stop and worth a visit.

On the way back I asked Big George if he had done much cycling since our last trip in April.

He explained that he had been working on his cycling technique and was keen to share what he had learnt.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 62. To cycle up hills more efficiently; sit at the back of your seat and push down with your heels.


As I waited at the top of the next hill it was clear Big George had still not mastered cycling guest cycling top tip no 62 yet.


Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
6.5
7.0
7.75
7.0
6.95
Route to be published soon

Saturday, 27 May 2017

To the beach. (Wells Beach Cafe, Wells-Next-the-Sea)

Wells Beach Cafe,
Wells-Next-The-Sea,
Opening times Every day 9-5,
Recommended 
Friday was the sort of summers day when you just had to go for a cycle ride and your destination needed to be at the seaside. So thats what I did as I meet up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House where he would lead us on a trip to Wells Beach cafe, which, not surprisingly, could be found in Wells(-Next-The-Sea) by the beach.

It was 25 miles but we got there rather quickly which either meant we had suddenly got very fit or we would be cycling back into a strong headwind. I optimistically assumed the former on the theory that as we had both been watching most of the Giro D'Italia (Tour of Italy) on the TV we had got fit via osmosis.
Outside the Beach Cafe
The beach cafe is in a prime location so is efficiently set up to be able to deal with large numbers of beach goers. As it was not yet school holiday time this was not a problem today as we selected a picnic style bench in the outdoor seating area.
Our table in the picnic table style outside seating area
Inside there was a good selection of cakes although the majority were tray bakes so restricted the effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Cake selection which was rather tray back biased
There were also some good looking sausage rolls that I tried as part of Sausage roll of the year #SROTY testing. It was a very good one but as the standard of roll has been so high this year it just missed out on making into my current top 10 for the end of year sausage roll off.
Good quality sausage rolls
In all the #SROTY excitement I forgot to photograph are refreshments until we had consumed them. However to make up for it you will just have to imagine the paper cups had hot chocolate and cappuccino in them. 
Drinks post consumption
As flapjack and Rocky Road always looks pretty much the same I'm sure you could go through the blog archive to find other photos of what they look like, if you could be bothered.

For a beach cafe the drinks were very good and much better than you might of expected. The tray bakes were very good too. All in all the Wells Beach cafe goes down as one of the best seaside based cafes I have been to and I recommend a visit.

On the way back we discovered we hadn't suddenly got very fit after all as the strong headwind made it very hard work and we nearly missed the start of stage 19.
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
7
5.75
7.5
8.25
7.0
route to be published shortly