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

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Monday 27 January 2014

On a mission. (Liaison Cafe. North Walsham)

Liaison Cafe,
North Walsham,
Now Closed Down
Today was my first cafe rating commission as I had been asked to recommend a cafe in the North Walsham area. Unfortunately this is a part of Norfolk that I have not yet managed to get much coverage of so I would need to find and rate somewhere new. I was meeting Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at his home in Aylsham and as that is not too far from North Walsham I asked him to research the cafe we should go to. On arrival he told me he had done thorough research and had picked Liaison cafe as it had had a good review for fried eggs. I suspected his thorough research had not been very thorough as I was rather hoping for a cafe that had had a good review for relevant things like hot chocolate and home-made cake. He explained his logic was that if you can fry an egg you can bake a cake, which seemed fair enough, so we set off on our mission.

Roads started to flood as we went on our North Walsham cafe recommendation mission.
Just as we set off it started to rain, and then sleet and then snow and then the roads started to flood and then we were soon freezing. Andrew wasn't sure if he was enjoying himself and claimed he could no longer feel his fingers. To keep him motivated I reminded him that nobody ever said cafe cycle rating was going to be easy and that we were on a mission. Surprisingly it didn't seem to do the trick so I agreed to take a short cut to North Walsham instead. To make matters worse just as we got to North Walsham I got a puncture but decided to ride on my deflating tyre and mend it after we had warmed up at Liaison cafe.
Bikes, mine with puncture, locked up with Alamio outside Liaison Cafe in North Walsham.
On entering I went straight to the counter to look at the cakes and award the effective cake selection rating. There was a good selection of slices and scones but no proper big cakes so I could only award a middling rating. I went for bread pudding slice and Andrew Bakewell tart slice.

While I was reviewing cakes, Andrew was dealing with drinks and receiving the devastating news that the coffee machine was being repaired. Although this didn't impact on my hot chocolate he had to make do with a mug of tea, not good news for someone who is notoriously hard to please.
Broken coffee machine part way through being repaired.
Although there is no outside seating area at Liaison cafe there is a choice of a formal or comfy indoor seating area. We went for comfy sofas although it was a bit dark. As well as sofas this area also had a useful pole facility which I imagine was there to attract the passing fireman or pole dancer trade in order to make them feel more at home. There didn't appear to be any fireman or pole dancers in today so we sat in the sofas by the pole and got on with rating our cakes and drinks.
Comfy seating area with useful pole facility.
The hot chocolate was a little too sweet but the bread pudding slice was very nice. I quizzed Andrew for a comment on his tea and he described it as 'a standard mug of tea' and said his Bakewell tart slice was quite nice. However he was a bit distracted as he had discovered that his very expensive cycle waterproof was not as waterproof as he thought. Pointing out that my cheap waterproof had kept me dry didn't seem to help. I felt a rant may have been on the way so I suggested he vent his anger with Goretex rather than me and changed the subject.
Cakes and drinks just before rating ,
although 'notoriously hard to please' Andrew was distract
by the lack of water protection from his expensive cycle waterproof coat.
Although Liaisons cafe had a reasonable rating I don't yet think we have found a cafe or tearoom in the North Walsham area worthy of a recommendation so I feel our mission isn't yet complete.
Mending puncture outside Liaisons Cafe whilst being kept dry by my waterproof cycle jacket
After leaving  Liaisons cafe I mended my puncture but because of a lack of inner tubes, Andrews porous jacket and the grey skies we took the direct route back.

I am adding a new feature by showing the cafes ratings at end of each post. The full cafe ratings table of all cafes can be found at the end of the blog.

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance  and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Friday 24 January 2014

Down the road. (Stephanie's Coffee House, Norwich)

Stephanie's has closed down

Today was planned to be another Friday ride with Big George. However as always seems to happen with Big George something had cropped up so he could only do a short trip. I worked out the shortest ride we could do is 0.30 miles (according to my cycle speedo) to Stephanie's Coffee House in Eaton, Norwich. We both agreed that was a bit too short so we decided on a quick 20 mile loop before returning to rate Stephanie's Coffee House in advance of a very quick ride home.

The ride itself was quite eventful as once we got into the country the roads were far icier than we had realised. After a few back wheel skids we both got very tentative and rode accordingly more slowly. This also cut down on the conversation as we had to have full concentration on not slipping over and our limited multi tasking skills couldn't cope with chat at the same time. With the slow pace, and a puncture thrown in, we arrived at Stephanie's Coffee House later than expected.

In the outside seating area on 'Eaton Common' outside Stephanie's coffee house in Eaton, Norwich.
It was good to see Stephanie's Coffee House provides an outside seating area on 'Eaton common' where one could kick back and enjoy their beverage whilst watching all the action that Eaton crossroads traffic lights can offer. There is also a wooden decking outside seating area round the back of Stephanie's Coffee House, which overlooks the car park, but this seemed to be closed today. As it was cold we decided to sit inside. 

Stephanie's Coffee House's main competition is from the nearby Waitrose which has recently started to hand out free coffee, like a sort of coffee based soup kitchen, to anyone in need of it. However Stephanie's Coffee House provides a far more relaxed location if you want to have a good natter (and there was plenty of that going on in there today). 

As always I went straight to view the cakes and award the effective cake selection rating. It was a rather sparse collection although what there was looked good.
Rather sparse cake selection. Maybe there had been a run on cake today.
The downstairs seating area is a little dark but there is a lighter area upstairs with comfy sofas. We didn't make it that far as the seat by the radiator was free and ready to warm us up.

With my Hot Chocolate I ordered a raspberry and something (can't remember what) flapjack. I thought both the Hot Chocolate and the raspberry and something flapjack were very good and both scored well. The Hot Chocolate had a nice cinnamon (I think) sprinkling on it that gave it an extra spicy taste, which I liked. 
My hot chocolate and raspberry and something flapjack. Both rated well.
Big George went for cappuccino and a Pain Aux Raisin. He felt his cappuccino was a bit weak and needed stronger coffee as it could have doubled up as a latte. The Pain Aux Raisin is clearly a leavened butter pastry and not a cake so even though Big George thought it was good he could not take part in the cake quality rating which had to be based on the raspberry and something flapjack alone.

Overall Stephanie's Coffee House rating came out as a nice middling cafe which seemed about right. A full list of all cafe ratings are at the end of the blog. 

Whilst the rest of Stephanie's Coffee house continued their nattering we had serious biking business to attend to. We needed to hold the first meeting of our working group to plan Big Georges proposed London to Paris cycle ride. This probably explains why Big George selected a Pain Aux Raisin instead of a cake in order to get him into a French mindset. The meeting went well with no decisions made other than to have another meeting on our next ride. It brought back pre retirement memories of how meetings at work used to be, except without the bikes.

On leaving I discovered I had another puncture but at least it was only a very short walk to wheel it home (0.3 miles actually).

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Map of route we took

View 20 miles Norwich Wymondham loop in a larger map
Click here to download Norwich - Wymondham loop GPX file to load on to your GPS

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Going alone

If you read my post Will it be a record from a couple of weeks ago then you will know I had asked the Guinness world record people to approve and set a target for my proposed cafe and cycling based world record attempt. 

The record was to be for Most cafes visited on a calorie neutral bicycle ride. They said I would hear back in about 12 weeks time after the Guinness World Records experts had reviewed my record breaking bid and set the standard I had to achieve. Well it was actually about 12 hours, not weeks, later that they sent me their decision. I hoped this was good news as they knew a good thing when they saw one so I excitingly started to read their reply.

It started well as they said "We are always delighted when we hear from people who want to break a record and were excited to read your application." Not only were they delighted to hear from me but my application had got them excited, not just "pleased to read" or "glad to read" but actually "excited to read" my application, things were definitely looking good.

But then the bomb shell. "Unfortunately, after thoroughly reviewing your application with members of our research team, we are afraid to say that we’re unable to accept your proposal as a Guinness World Records title." Clearly their delight and excitement had quickly worn off although I'm suspicious about how much thorough reviewing by a whole research team of people could have happened in the short time they had looked at my application. They could have at least sat on it for a few weeks to give a more credible impression that they had really been delighted and excited and it was with a heavy heart that they were forced to turn me down.

Their explanation continued stating that  "Every record verified by Guinness World Records must be measurable by a single superlative, verifiable, standardisable, breakable and also present an element of skill. Also no gluttony records are allowed."

To be fair the record does fall down against most of their criteria even if standardisable isn't a proper word, although I was hoping they could make an exception for such a marvellous idea that had initially caused so much delight and excitement in the Guinness World Records offices.

They did try to raise my spirits by pointing out that "Only a handful of new records categories are accepted every year" but finished by washing their hands of me altogether with a P.S of "If you choose to proceed, then this will be of your own volition and at your own risk. Guinness World Records will not monitor, measure or verify this activity." 

Well Guinness World Records I don't need you to monitor, measure or verify my activity. I can easily do these things with my Garmin training watch and my Iphone camera so I will go it alone. The only other thing I would have got from you is a poxy certificate. 

Therefore later this year I will undertake my own research and have a trial run of 5ish cafes to see what is practical. Based on this I will set a Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour verified world record target and have pencilled in a date in September for my attempt. 

If I succeed I will make my own certificate with my colouring pencil set. 

Sunday 19 January 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 1. (26 mile via The Cafe Brooke)

Sportive 1,
The Cafe,
Changed hands now Rural Kitchen
Yesterday saw the first Norfolk Cafe Cycle Blog Sportive. This is an organised ride to one of the current favourite cafes. The cafe is chosen based on how far we want to go and the wind direction. The Cafe at Brooke ticked all today's sportive cafe selection boxes, (cafe previously reviewed on post a Pleasant Surprise) so a 26 mile route stopping there had been arranged. A map of route is at the end of this post.

A large entry of 5 had signed up for today's ride but unfortunately due to injury there had been a late call off.
Mass start of Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 1 from Race HQ
Due to the large number of participants the organisers had to delay the start by 5 minutes while general faffing about occurred but the ride was soon under way. The start caused quite a stir as a blur of hi-viz yellow hurtled off through Cringleford. 

The ride then headed south through the village of Stoke-Holy Cross before tackling the major climb of the day which stretched on and up into the clouds for at least 200m. A small refreshment break was needed at the top before setting off to Hempnall. Unfortunately the wet and muddy lanes  took their toll and the peloton had to wait for a puncture to be repaired before continuing cross country to Brooke.

Once at Brooke we found our way to the Cafe where we ordered our drinks and cake. 
Carnage in the outside seating area at the  Cafe Brooke as the whole of the Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive arrives only to find there is only one lock (Alarmio of course) between all the bikes
Despite such a large number of guests they all rated their guest drinks (Latte, Mocha, Flat coffees) 9 out of 10. The quality of the cakes has always been consistently high at each visit here and scored well again today with Blueberry scone and a coffee cake being the groups choices. I was particularly pleased to be asked if I wanted hot or cold Blueberry scone as I prefer fruit cold and cheese warm when it comes to optimum scone consumption temperature. I have regularly had a warm fruit scone foist on me in the past which is not only an unnecessary waste of energy but inevitably results in a low cake taste quality (CTQ) rating.
Cake Taste Quality (CTQ) rating in action in the indoor seating area at The Cafe.
This cafe has had a consistently high CTQ on each visit
Cafe rating rules (There Must be rules) base a cafe rating on the average of the ratings at the last 3 visits. This was the Cafe's 3rd visit and as a result of today's visit the Cafe improved its score slightly and moved further up the cafe league table.

The return ride back went through the outskirts of Poringland and with the wind behind the riders quickly got back to race HQ. Feedback was collected and processed with the first Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive being declared a success (by me)..

The next Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive is scheduled for March 1st with potential cafe stop being Tabnabs in Mattishall but could change depending on wind direction.

Based on it's 3 visits, ratings for the Cafe are
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Map of route.

View 26 mile route via Box tree Cafe, Brooke in a larger map

Click to download 26 mile Norwich Brooke loop GPX file for you GPS

Thursday 16 January 2014

A long way round. (The Pennoyer Centre Cafe. Pulham St Mary.)

Pennoyer Centre,
Pulham St Mary,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:30-03:30,
 Highly Recommended
For yesterday's ride myself and guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) decided to head south to an old favourite the Pennoyer centre cafe in Pulham St Mary. It was one of the first cafes I found when I first started cafe rating but on my last visit in late summer it had not been up to its previously very high standard so I was keen to see if normal service had been resumed.

The ride got off to a bad start as all my attention was absorbed by Andrew's latest rant and I missed the turning we should have taken. After a couple of hundred yards I realised my mistake. The option to turn back was not open to us, because as proper men we can never admit we have gone wrong and must continue to confidently cycle in the direction we are going. Knowing the roads in the area quite well we agreed a possible alternative route that would get us back on the track without turning round. So in the end instead of going back 200 yards we added 5 miles, into the wind, onto our journey. After much muttering and whinging from 'notoriously hard to please' Andrew we continued down to Pulham St Mary.
Outside The Pennoyer Centre in Pulham St Mary.
 In summer a small outdoor seating area is provide right where I'm standing.
The Pennoyer Centre Cafe is in The Pennoyer Centre which is like a posh village hall and provides a centre for Pulham St Mary community activity. On arrival I activated Alarmio to secure our bikes and we went straight through to the Kitchen area to make our cake selection.
Today's cakes selection including Ruth's invisible cheese scones.
The cakes all seem to be made by the ladies of the village and are labelled with their names. From previous experience the cakes can sell out by the end of the day so due to our little detour the selection had already gone down. However all the remaining cakes looked very tasty so I awarded a good effective cake selection rating.

I ordered hot chocolate and chocolate cake and Andrew a cappuccino and Spanish orange cake. On a previous visit I had had one of my best hot chocolates ever and although this one was still very good it didn't get back to that level. Andrew had also previously had one of his best coffees ever here but today his cappuccino fell short of that exceptional high standard. Being notoriously hard to please this seemed to cheer him up and he got over the extra 5 mile slog I had added to the route.

The chocolate cake was about as good as chocolate cake gets, however I have realised that there is a ceiling as to how good a chocolate cake can be and it can never be as good as the best carrot cake or cheese scone. I got to try the Spanish orange cake which I thought was even nicer than the chocolate cake and helped support my chocolate cake ceiling theory but true to form Andrew found it a touch sweet. I, however, awarded a high cake quality rating.

As the ladies of the Pennoyer Centre Cafe seem to see me as a regular (I last came in August) I was invited to have a loyalty card. It will be another 8 times before I can claim my free drink but I have put a date in the diary for July 2016 when I expect to have completed the requisite number of visits. The Pennoyer Centre Cafe remains one of my favourite destinations and with the added loyalty card incentive I will be back soon, but before then I have lots more cafes I need to review.

On the way back we had the wind behind and didn't get lost so Andrew turned his attention to rants about pilates and the water industry instead. 

I have been asked to find a good cafe in the North Walsham area so if anyone has any suggestions then please let me know and I'll head out that way.

Cafe ratings for the Pennoyer Centre cafe based on latest 3 of 9 visits are
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

This is the route we took:

View 37 Miles Pulham st Mary in a larger map

Click link to download 37 mile Norwich Pulham St Mary loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Is there such a thing as a free lunch? (The Mill Cafe Bar & Restaurant, Yaxham)

The Mill has Closed Down.

I planned a cycling based day today. First an hour on the indoor turbo trainer then a ride out to a new destination (The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant at Yaxham) with today's guest Chris (wife). Things didn't start well with a puncture after 40 mins. Not, as you might imagine, out on the wet and muddy roads but whilst I was inside with my bike attached to a turbo trainer roller. It's not as if you can cycle over a stone or thorn so a bit of a mystery how an inside puncture can happen. The manufactures do claim it is the most realistic indoor ride you can have and as I do get a lot of punctures out on my bike then maybe this is a design feature.

Once I had got over the frustration of a half done training session we set off on our ride. It was a difficult day to judge the temperature and neither of us were confident we had got our clothing layers right. After a couple of miles I checked my feetmometer and the reading confirmed it was cold as I had lost the feeling in my toes. I knew I should have double socked! We stopped to add extra clothing layers and then it was fast pedalling, head down into the wind to try and warm up on the way to Yaxham.
Outside main entrance to The Mill Cafe Bar & Restaurant
We were still a bit cold when we arrived at The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant and in need of a hot drink and cake. Once inside I made may way straight to the cake display to award the effective cake selection rating (ECS). There was a good looking selection in a smart glass case. Unfortunately both myself and Chris wanted the Malteser and chocolate slice type thing. To make sure we spread our cake tasting wide enough I graciously went for my second choice of a cheese scone.
Cake Selection in elegant back lit display case
The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant is very friendly and we had a nice chat with Hugo the owner. He asked how we had heard of them so I proudly told him about my blog and that I was trying to review all the cafes in Norfolk to find the best ones to cycle to (especially for fans of hot chocolate and cake). He trumped my potential blog review of his cafe (readership of about 50 per post) by telling me they had been reviewed in the EDP yesterday (readership about 59,493). However if my blog readership continues to grow at its current rate then I calculate that I will have more readers than the EDP in about 37 years time and this review will be more read than theirs.

The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant is a large continental style cafe bar offering hot drinks, home-made cake, beer and wine etc, lunch and evening meals. However I was most impressed by the number of seating areas. There were two outdoor seating areas (one patio and one grass based) and 3 types of indoor seating area (table and standard chairs, table and comfy chairs, and sofas) plus a formal dining/function area. All of these things combined resulted in a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) rating. 

I ordered my normal hot chocolate and Chris went for a skinny mocha as her guest drink. Both were very good and scored well. The Malteser and chocolate slice type thing was very nice although a bit rich for Chris, however I was disappointed with my cheese scone as it wasn't very cheesy which is a prerequisite for a cheese based bake.

Just as we were about to leave Hugo (owner) said they were doing some publicity shots of their restaurant food and once photographed the plates would need to be eaten by someone or they would go to waste as he couldn't manage to eat several lunches himself. If we didn't mind eating photographed food then we could have some. Although we were both full from our Malteser and chocolate slice type thing and cheese scone we decided to take him up on his kind offer as this really did sound like such a thing as a free lunch. So we shared the venison burger.
Free photographed venison burger lunch which is clearly not a cake but was very tasty.
Note this wasn't one of the official publicity shots, in case you were wondering why they had employed such a poor photographer
The photographed burger was excellent and had clearly not been adversely affected by the number of pictures that had been taken of it. We were soon full and therefore had to turn down the opportunity of free photographed fish and chips. However as photographed venison burger was clearly not a cake it couldn't form part of the rating score for The Mill Cafe Bar and Restaurant, which is a shame as it was very good.

This was an excellent stop and I look forward to coming back again and trying out a different seating area and cake, although I was warned that free photograph food isn't always available.

According to my feetmometer the temperature had warmed up and we now had the wind behind for the ride back. However we were slowed down as I had two more punctures on the way back but as my mother always tells me, 'bad things come in threes' so I should be clear of punctures for a bit.

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
This is map of the route

Click here to download 34 miles Norwich Yaxham loop GPX file for your GPS

Friday 10 January 2014

Race against time. (Rosy Lee's Tearoom, Loddon)

Rosy Lee’s Tearoom,
Opening times Mon-Sat 07:30-17:00,
Sun 09:00-17:00
Highly Recommended
Today was a perfect winters day, crisp with clear blue sky's. So I was pleased that I had arranged a bike ride with today's guest Big George. I had agreed to go back to one of Big George's favourite cafe stops, Rosy Lee's tearoom in Loddon.

Regular readers may have noticed that cycling with Big George normally comes with a critical deadline and today was no exception. To aide with Big George Jnr's A'level studies Mrs Big George had decided a new carpet, desk and desk lamp would help encourage the imminent demands of revision. (We had had the same thoughts for our son and recently returned his floordrobe to carpet to try and improve his revision environment. No signs that it has made a difference but we did find a lot of missing plates). Whilst they were in the carpet shop a last minute cancellation had made a carpet fitting slot available for 1 o'clock today. Big George claimed he tried to rearrange but with Mrs Big George standing beside him the words 'but I've agreed to go cycling on Friday' came out as 'that's fine' instead. We therefore had to be back by 1 o'clock to avoid putting Big George Jnr's university education in jeopardy.

With the deadline in place we rode at pace down to Loddon. Big George refused to engage in any conversation on his domestic chores as apparently I had been showing a lack of discretion. Reporting his views on cooking and cleaning in this blog was ruining his hard man image. However I did get the impression he was very pleased with his new Dyson's cleaning power and smooth ball action.
Outside Rosy Lee's Tearoom on the edge of the outdoor continental style pavement seating area
Once at Rosy Lee's Tearoom we chose to go inside rather than make use of either of the seats in the outdoor continental style pavement seating area. Rosy Lee's Tearoom is small but very popular and there have been times in the past when we haven't managed to get a seat. Today we came 'off Peak' so we were able to have a choice of tables and opted for the one by the counter and cakes. 

This was a good seat as it gave me plenty of time to look at the cake selection and award the effective cake selection rating (ECS). There was a good selection of cakes and scones so I awarded a high ECS. 

Myself and Big George both fancied the date and walnut cake which was a shame as I like as many different cakes to be tried and rated as possible in order to get a more rounded cake taste quality (CTQ) score. Fortunately Big George often panics when ordering his beverage so I easily managed to trick him into having a cheese scone. I had my normal hot chocolate and Big George a cappuccino. 

The hot chocolate was excellent and nice and chocolaty, Big George also liked his coffee so good scores for both hot chocolate and guest hot drink. The date and walnut cake was very moist and tasty but Big George's cheese scone was a little small compared with a number of the scones I have recently reviewed although it tasted good.

We also received  very good service being offered hot water bottles for our cold feet. We declined on this occasion but foot warming facilities should be encouraged in more cafes.

After our very pleasant stop we still had plenty of time to get Big George back to make his carpet fitter appoint and guarantee his son's University education. We set off at a steady pace confident nothing could go wrong. Unfortunately there was one scenario we hadn't catered for as Big George took a call from the carpet fitter, who was coming early! The race was now on, I knew I didn't want to get into Mrs Big George's bad books, again, so shot off as fast as I could go. Big George kept up to start with but soon started to flag. 'Come on' I shouted, 'we must save your sons University education'. When he caught up he was red in the face, out of breath and looking ready to collapse. He suggested that we slow down and that he could always concentrate on his other sons education instead. I agreed that sounded like a better plan and we continued home at a more leisurely pace discussing how expensive and overrated University is. 

Stop Press: Carpet fitter was still waiting when Big George finally got home so Big George Jnrs University education is back on!

Scores with Rosy Lees based on last three visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Map of route.

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