Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near-death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Revisited. (The Nest Egg Cafe, Wymondham)

The Nest Egg Cafe,
Wymondham,
Mon-Sat 9:00-3:30 (closed Wed),
Sun 10:00-3:00
Recommended
After last weeks gales the weather seems to have settled down in time for some cafe cycling opportunities this week. I therefore persuaded Mrs Crusader to join me on a trip to the newly opened Nest Egg cafe in Wymondham.

I have now been doing this blog for over 5 years and in this time this is the 3rd change of ownership (and name) of this cafe. Just after it had opened in its previous incantation (as the Garden tearooms) I took Mrs Crusader there as a treat for forgetting our 25th wedding anniversary the day before (I even bought her a fruit scone and let her try my chocolate cake) see Marital Bliss.This time I needed no such excuse (although I did recently forget our 29th anniversary) as we repeated the route from that trip via Attleborough 

On arrival at the Nest Egg we were pleased to find that they still let you take your bicycle round the back to a secure garden area.
Outside the Nest Egg Cafe
Inside not too much had changed and the library style indoor seating area was still there and was empty so we decided to treat ourselves and sit on  comfy sofas. 
Opted for the comfy sofa library style indoor seating area
Learning from my mistake when I last bought Mrs Crusader here I let her have a fruit scone AND chocolate cake. I went for the coffee cake and also a fruit scone to try out in my fruit scone of the year search #FSOTY.
Todays cakes and drinks
The cakes were proper homemade ones and very good. My hot chocolate was of Cadburys type so didn't score too well but Mrs Crusaders black americano coffee was a good solid effort. The scones were the largest and tastiest to date this year, if a bit on the crumbly side.
Excellent fruit scone
After totting up the scores then the Nest Egg Cafe had scored 0.1 higher than its predecessor so if you liked the Garden Tea rooms you should like here as well, by 0.1 more in fact.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5
7
6.1
7.87
7.2
6.63

Map of route

Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Attleborough loop gpx file for your GPS


Friday, 8 February 2019

Reckless. (Tickety Boo Garden cafe, Thurston)

Tickety Boo Garden Cafe,
Thurston,
Tue-Fri 9:30-4:00, Sat 10:00-4:00
Highly Recommended
Despite it being a mild winter it has been a bad one in the world of cafe cycle riding. I have had a number of rides postponed this year as rain, wind, ice and snow have corresponded with my plans. It has meant that I have only managed to visit two new cafes in the first 6 weeks of the year. So when I woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds I thought that another trip had bitten the dust.

However today's cycling guest, Big George, was also frustrated by the lack of recent pedalling action so despite a forecast promising 50 mph gusting winds we decided to be reckless and go on our ride.

With well over 250 cafes and tearooms visited in the region I had pretty much run out of new venues to visit that could be cycled to from home. This has meant now driving away from Norwich to start my rides. Today we drove to Knettishall country park car park to cycle in the Breckland area.

On arrival I realised that this was an opportunity for a new feature (and spreadsheet) as I would start my search for the top ten free car parks to cycle from. Knettishall country park car park scored 7.3 and goes straight to number one.
Knettishall Country park car park.
My current number 1 rated free car park to start a cycle ride from
The first few miles were with the wind so we flew along but then we turned south and were hit by strong cross winds. The real danger came whenever there was a gap in the hedge as the wind would try and lift you off the road and pop you into the nearest hedge. We both rode at a 45 degree angle as we battle this section and safely made it to the next wind based challenge.

When we turned West we were now straight into the wind and progress almost ground to a halt. You know you are in trouble when you are pedalling really hard in your easiest gear when going down hill.

We had only done 18 miles but were completely shattered when we reached today's venue , Tickety Boo Garden Cafe in the village of Thurston.
Outside Tickety Boo's trying to stay upright in the wind
Much to our surprise we were not the only cyclists stupid enough to go riding today as we had been beaten there by a group of riders from Diss CC.

Big George had not been happy when I had told him the name of today's cafe as he felt it would be far too twee for his hard man Scottish image. However he was quite impressed with the venue as there were fried things on the menu and sausage rolls on the counter. For me they had an excellent cake selection plus fruit scones which I immediately entered into my fruit scone of the year competition #FSOTY.
A very fine effective cake selection
I went for ginger cake and dark hot chocolate (always good sign when you are given a choice between milk and dark) and Big George an americano and sausage roll (which is still not cake).
Today's drinks and cakes
Our drinks were both excellent and scored highly although Big George would have liked his coffee a bit hotter. My cake was very nice although I could have taken a bit more ginger. Although not part of my rating system Big George said it was the best sausage roll he had had since we had made rare breed pigs even rarer with our rare pig sausage rolls at Itteringham post office several years ago (see Black Friday).

We both thought Tickety Boo was an excellent, and cycle friendly, stop and I would highly recommend a visit.

It was still windy on the way back but at least we had it behind for the last few miles (just after I had been blown into a ditch, which was nice).

Just before we got back to the car park I saw a sign saying we were leaving the Brecks, I thought a catchy name for this would be a Brexit but I had a feeling I had heard that term somewhere before although I couldn't remember when.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.8
7
8.65
7.5
7.8
7.75
Route

Click here to download 37.5 mile Thetford Bury St Edmunds loop gpx file on your gps

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Dogs! (Blackberry Tea Rooms, Wymondham)

Blackberry Tearooms,
Wymondham,
Mon-Fri 9:00-6:00, Sat 9:00-4:00
Highly Recommended
My hunt for fruit scone of the year, #FSOTY, has got off to a poor start with bad weather curtailing some rides and no fruit scones available at my selected stops on the others. I was therefore hoping for better luck on today's ride with Mrs Crusader.

I had recently heard about a new tearoom near Wymondham that was within Mrs Crusaders 30 mile winter ride limit. The only problem was it was at a dog training and grooming centre. For doggy people this probably sounds like a good thing however despite giving the appearance of being a big strong chap (who has done 4 ironman triathlons, although I don't like to talk about them) I'm actually a little bit afraid of our canine friends as I'm convinced they are out to get me.

If I was going to continue to be the self proclaimed number one cycle cafe reviewer (in the South Norfolk region) I felt it was my duty to man up and check it out. Mrs Crusader promised I could hold her hand if necessary.

On the ride out we passed some sheep who I have more empathy with as they are not big doggy fans either.
Empathetic sheep
After 20 miles of winter riding we found the Blackberry Tea rooms just outside Wymondham. There was a nice outdoor seating area, a play area (for dogs) plus a dog obstacle course training area type thing.
Outside the Blackberry Tearooms
Inside there were lots of people and they all had dogs, whereas we just had bicycles. I bravely went inside and checked out the cake selection which was a very good one and included doggy cupcakes. 
Good looking cake selection
As bonus on a Tuesday you get a 10% discount so my hot chocolate and coffee cake and Mrs Crusaders Americano and white chocolate cake came to less than a tenner. The only issue was once again no fruit scones although they did say they had plain and cheese ones (not that helped). 

Without making any dog based eye contact I managed to make it safely to the comfy sofa in the corner. Here there were cushions I could hide behind in an emergency. Our drinks and cakes arrived and we were both impressed with them. The coffee cake being the star attraction.
Cakes and drinks
Mrs Crusader then spotted an old work colleague with her two dogs and went over to pat them as she was lept upon (by the dogs not the work colleague). I hid behind my emergency cushion.

Despite the presence of our four legged friends the Blackberry Tea rooms proved to be an excellent stop with good refreshments. I would highly recommend a visit, especially if you own a dog, like dogs or are a dog. 

Even with my cynophobia tendencies it had been a very enjoyable ride but I was no further forward on the #FSOTY front. Therefore on my next ride I shall be going to Holt to visit a number of cafes and tea rooms and won't leave until at least 3 fruit scones have been tested.
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.9
7
7.3
8.1
7.2
7.30

Map of Route


Click here to download 28 mile Norwich Wymondham loop GPX file for your GPS

Friday, 4 January 2019

Debt. (Ber Street Kitchen, Norwich)

The Ber Street Kitchen,
Norwich,
Mon-Sat 8:00-6:00, Sun 9:00-3:00
Highly Recommended
Since the exciting end to 2018, of the Brownie of the Year (#BOTY) ride, I have had a break from the world of cafe cycle riding. However as we now enter a new year it is time to dust off the bike and get back on my mission; to finding the best cafes and tea rooms to visit on your cycle ride.

Being the first ride of the year it was time to announce what my thing of the year would be. So this morning I took to my twitter feed to announce that I would be searching for the best fruit scone (#FSOTY pronounced fsoty) on this years rides. As most outlets offer a fruit scone option I hope to be able to check out a lot more than the 50 brownies I managed last year. 

I was pleased that Big George would be today's cycling guest. For anyone who read the exciting BOTY post they would know that Big George fell off and broke his bike. I had helped repair it but needed to use my spare chain as his had bent and was now useless. He therefore owed me nearly £30 for a new one and promised to pay up on our next trip (ie today).

The plan for our ride was to do a 30 mile loop, involving Loddon, before returning to Norwich to test out the Ber Street Kitchen of which I had heard good things. When Big George arrived I casually mentioned the £30 debt and he assured me he had come ready with reimbursement. I assured him that there was no hurry to repay me (which was a lie) as I did again on the other 10 occasions I mentioned it during the ride.

It was very very very cold today but Santa had done us both proud on the cycle clothing front so we were as warm as current technology could make us although by the time we got back to Norwich we were no longer in contact with our extremities.

As we were cafeing in a big town I had brought along my super strong gold rated belt lock which I had worn throughout the ride. There was a cycle rack thing outside the Ber Street Kitchen which meant we could keep an eye on the bikes anyway meaning I needn't have bother lugging an extra 3kg round with me.
In the continental style outdoor pavement seating area at the Ber Street Kitchen
Even in these Siberian conditions the Ber Street cafe had set up their continental style outdoor pavement seating area although surprisingly it was free from any patrons today and we were certainly not going to use it.

Inside I checked out the cake selection which had some excellent looking sponge cakes so I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating despite there being an absence of fruit scones.
A good looking cake selection
There was hipster feel to interior which was right up Big Georges atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) street so got high marks in this category too.

With my hot chocolate I had chocolate cake while Big George went for a fancy named cheese sandwich thing (which is not cake) with his americano.

Big George thought his coffee was excellent and awarded a high guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) mark. My hot chocolate was one of the best I can remember and got a massive 9 out of 10. The chocolate cake was nice but not exceptional enough for top cake marks.
Today's cakes and drinks
The Ber Street Kitchen had scored really well just missing out on a place in my coveted top 10 by 0.06 of a mark. I will be surprised if I visit many better cafes or tea rooms this year so I highly recommend a visit.

It was now time for the main business of the day when Big George would release himself from his debt. As I waited Big George started to check his pockets with increasing urgency before announcing that he couldn't find where he had put the money and now suspected that he he had forgotten to pick it up when he left home. I told him it didn't matter (it did) and urgently arranged another ride with him so he could cough up.

Not long after returning to Crusader Towers I got a text saying that he had found his money in his jacket sleeve when he took his coat off (sure he did) but it will be a full body search if he tries to pull this trick off next time.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
9
8.5
7.7
7
8
8.04

Route
Click here to download Loddon - Norwich loop GPX file to load on to your GPS

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

BOTY build up and winner announced

BOTY 
December 2018
News of winner of brownie of the year

As we approach the end of another year I'm sure that most of your thoughts have turned to thinking about who will be the winner of this years Cake Crusaders thing of the year. After the previous things of Cheese scones, Flapjacks and Sausage Rolls then this year the focus has been on the chocolate brownie. 

As before I have visited many cafes in the Norfolk and North Suffolk area in my quest to find the best brownie and tested over 50. Qualification has been very close but results are now in.

Therefore this week, as thing of the year rules dictate, I am cycling to the top 8 brownie cafes to purchase brownies ready for the grand brownie off back at Crusader Towers on Saturday.

I will add to this post as events unfold over the week

Tuesday
Despite it being a rather cold and slightly icy morning I managed to persuade Mrs Crusader to join me on the first collection leg, by promising her an unprecedented 2 cafe stop for a less than 40 mile ride, outrageous!

First stop was Tabnabs in Mattishall which was only 14 miles away but I have to admit that by the time we got there I had lost contact with my extremities so was grateful for the excellent Hot chocolate and peanut cake. 
Mrs Crusader arriving at Tabnabs frozen to her bike
However the main purpose of our visit was to collect the brownies so I was pleased that they had plenty available and had the first finalists in the bag, literally.
First brownie finalists literally in the bag
Next stop was a few miles up the road as we set off for Hamptons at the Barn near  Bawdeswell. Here I was presented with a dilemma as they only had one piece of brownie left. As a rule I need 3 brownies from a cafe for a brownie off, one for each of the quarter, semis and final (if they get that far). I decided to go with the one piece available and make it into 3 rather small brownies for finals day. However I fear this could make it hard for them to win the title, but we shall see.
Proudly showing off the last remaining brownie at Hamptons
Next it was back East to the final stop of the day at the Urban Jungle Cafe in Costessey. On arrival I was relieved to see a stack of brownies on the counter so immediately purchased 3 in case there was a sudden rush before I left (although there wasn't). I then treated Mrs Crusader to a second coffee of the day before we returned to Crusader Towers to label and store the first contestants.
The Urban Jungle brownies ready for transporting
Apart from having a couple less brownies then I had hoped for then today had gone remarkably smoothly. Especially compared with last year when on the corresponding ride I fell off my bike, smashed a tooth and broke a rib (although I still went on to collect the requisite sausage rolls on my bike during the week).

Thursday
Today it was time to head North to purchase brownies in the North Norfolk region. I also sent Mrs Crusader off on an urgent special brownie related mission.

I met up with Andrew at Hard to Please House. We were both pleased to find that although it was cold and windy there was no sign of the frosty and icy conditions from earlier in the week. However we had a decision to make; it would be a 78 mile ride to today's brownie venues or we could go half way in the car and do a more manageable 38 mile trip. It took many seconds and no discussion for us to agree that the 38 miles would be the ride of choice.

We drove to Creake Abbey at the centre of a figure of eight loop and set off to Thornham Deli. As a busy cafe and shop I was confident they would have plenty of brownies and was not disappointed as I purchased three from the top of the stack.
Thornham Deli make it into the bag
Our second stop was Stiffkey stores which was the smallest venue of any of my finalists. I was concerned that they may not have lots of cakes at this time of year and would not have the three brownies that I required. I therefore had come up with a plan to mitigate the risk of Stiffkey Stores (or any of my other finalists) not have any brownies when I visited. I believe this sort of plan is now called a backstop.

The first phase of the backstop was to send Mrs Crusader (in her car) to The Galley in Horning which had just missed out on the finals by only 0.1 of a mark. On the way to Stiffkey I received a text to confirm 3 backstop brownies had been successfully acquired. If there was to be a need to use them I just hoped my team of brownie judges would accept the backstop being implemented as I believe this is not always the case with backstop plans.
Receiving confirmation that the backstop plan was in place
After another 14 miles of hard pedalling, into the wind, along the coast road we made it to Stiffkey stores. I needn't have worried as they had 6 brownies left plus another 4 white chocolate ones. I quickly bought 3 traditional ones and some well earned refreshments. Despite being hard to please, Andrew thought his coffee and carrot cake were both exceptional. My banana cake was pretty good too which bodes well for their chances in the brownie off. I updated the Stiffkey stores marks with today's rating which confirmed their highly recommended status.
Very excited to have completed all my brownie collections today
I was glad I had got the brownies when we first arrived in the store as when we left, 20 mins later, they had all been sold! 

Tomorrow is the final collection run when hopefully the last 3 finalists can come up with the goods although its comforting to know I now have a fully functioning backstop if they don't. 

Friday
I was hoping that everything would go smoothly as I set off to collect brownies from the final three contenders. But as history tells us this was never going to be the case.

Today's brownie collection cycling guest was Big George so I wasn't surprised when I got the text explaining that he had overslept and would be a bit late. When he did eventually turn up he told me that yesterday he had fallen off his bike on a greasy road. I asked if everything was OK and for some reason he told me that he was a bit bruised but otherwise fine which didn't answer my question as I only wanted to know about his bike.

When, shortly after, we reached our first hill we discovered that everything was not alright as when Big George put his bike into the big cog at the back the rear derailleur caught in the wheel and the whole thing snapped off. The bike was well and truly out of action. However nothing can stop the collection of a thing of the year so I cycled back home and collected Big George and his now useless bike in my car before lending him a working machine for the day.
Big George and broken bike being rescued
We were now an hour late so I hoped this would not impact any future brownie purchasing but of course it did.

First stop was the Courtyard cafe in Attleborough. Here they had spiced up their classic brownie (the one that had qualified for the finals) with some nuts to make it a festive brownie. Before purchasing I checked the rules which clearly state that the addition of nuts or fruit to your brownie is allowed so the next set of brownies were in the bag.
On the way to the next brownie stop
From here it was on to the Cadence cafe in Old Buckenham where we were given a very warm welcome by Kong who was expecting us and popped the next set of brownies into a bag. She claimed that she had also been trying brownies at different cafes but still thought these were the best she had had. I felt there might be a slight bias so rather than just go with her word the brownie off would still go ahead tomorrow.
Kong packing the Cadence Cafe brownies
This just left the last set to be collected from the Piano tearooms at Kettering hall. Thanks to our earlier delays I just hoped the Piano tearooms would still have some brownies left.

But when we got there they didn't as they had just sold the last one. This was a shame as they were real contenders, but at least I had yesterday's backstop brownies which could now be implemented to complete the final eight. 
What no brownies!
Then just as we were leaving Mrs Piano came after us. She had not been at the counter when we were informed of the lack of brownie but knowing the purpose of our mission kindly said we could have a couple from tomorrows supply. This was a lovely gesture although as Mrs Piano said she wasn't after any extra brownie points (see what she did there). 

Fantastic news as I now had a full set of finalists and could warm up for the finals by eating the backstop brownies this afternoon.
The backstop brownies from the Galley in Horning
I now have a pile of brownies ready for the big brownie off tomorrow, I'm so excited I don't expect to get much sleep tonight. Watch this space to see what happens
Tomorrows finalists ready for the brownie off
Finals day

Brownie finals day was finally here as my team of 7 crack brownie tastiers turned up on time for a pre tasting warm up ride.

In freezing conditions we cycled over to one of my new favourite cafes, Teles Patisserie in a field near Surlingham where we enjoyed some portuguese treats (but no brownie). If you have never been I highly recommend a visit.
Brownie tasting team at Teles patisserie
It was then back to Crusader Towers for the brownie off. 

Once everyone had a palate cleansing cup of tea or coffee then the first round draw was made and approved by the official adjudication team. There were some cracking looking ties with the tie of the round looking likely to be the North Norfolk battle between Stiffkey stores and Thornham deli.
1st round brownie off draw
With the opening ceremony over we kicked off with Hamptons at the Barn vs Piano Tearooms. You may remember Hamptons had come into the finals with only one piece of brownie so would struggle if they made it all the way to the final. However the Piano Tearooms proved too strong with a 5-2 win.
Piano and Hamptons take to the field
Next the Jungle cafe took on Cadence cafe in a very tight match but Cadence just crept through 4-3.

In the Tabnabs vs Courtyard tea rooms in Attleborough game we saw the biggest difference of opinion. Tabnabs had put up a gooey brownie whereas the courtyard entry had been spiced up for christmas and was the only festive brownie on show today. This went down well with some of the judges but Tabnabs more traditional approach took the round 5-2.

This just left Stiffkey to battle Thornham deli in a David vs Goliath face off and to my surprise Stiffkey came out comfortable 5-2 winners.
Much discussion about courtyards festive brownie
To be clear brownie off tasting rules state that it must be done without the tastiers knowing which brownie is which so no cafe bias can occur and I strongly enforced this rule today.

The semi final draw was done and first up was Cadence vs Tabnabs. These were two very different style brownies but the lighter more gooey one from Tabnabs won out 5-2.
Semi final brownies being prepared
In the other semi it was the same story as Stiffkey Stores racked up a 5-2 win over the piano's darker and firmer brownie as the two lightest colour brownies made it into the finals.

It took some persuasion to get the judges to have one more set of tasting as most of the tasters were struggling to eat any more brownie but they all manned up as Tabnabs and Stiffkey took to the field.
Action from the brownie off final
It was a really close final going one way then the other but by the narrowest of margins Stiffkey Stores came out on top by 4-3.

This was probably the most exciting (and only) brownie off anyone could remember and all the judges agreed that any of the brownies on show today would have been worthy winners so thanks to all those that took part but in the end there can only be one champion so congratulations to Stiffkey Stores.

When the excitement has calmed down I will be announcing what thing of the year in 2019 will be so watch this space.