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

Available on Amazon

Thursday 31 July 2014

Surprise extra. (Tučarjev dom, Vršič moutain, Slovenia)

Search for Best Café in Europe 2014

Day 9
Much to my surprise George (son) and Jake (nephew) announced they would like to ride up the 7.5 mile 24 hairpin bend Vršič mountain pass as a challenge. This sounded a great idea and as I suspected there would be a cafe at the top so I invited myself along and made them my guest reviewers for the ride.

Therefore early this morning, with the sun shinning, we set off for our mountain climb cycling challenge and cafe cycle review experience. It was tough going but to inspire us I sang the lyrics to the chorus of Geordie X-Factor winner Joe Mcelderry's number 1 hit 'the climb'.

There's always going to be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always going to be an uphill battle, 

Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose,

Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

Unfortunately the only line I actually knew was 'it's the climb' so I had to dum-de-dum the other bits and then just belt out 'it's the climb' every few minutes. It seemed to do the trick and we made good progress towards the top. 
Today's guest reviewers enjoying the climb (both actual and my singing)
Years of cycling practice, including forcing my children to cycle with me, meant myself and George kept going all the way to the top but unlike the marines we were prepared to leave a man behind and with about 1 mile and 4 hairpins to go it started to rain so we sped up and left Jake to struggle up the last bit without us or my inspirational singing to aid has soggy ascent.

As the rain got heavier we kindly waited for Jake at the top and then headed straight for cafe Tučarjev dom. With clouds closing in the stunning view was a bit less stunning than on the postcards but still not bad.
View from top, partly hidden in cloud
We locked up our bikes outside Cafe Tučarjev dom and headed inside to get out of the rain and grab some much needed refreshments to refuel up our lost energy.
Outside Tučarjev dom
Inside was very dark and not very welcoming. Unfortunately we had just been beaten in by a coach party of old people, I think from Italy, all waving their tokens for coffee and strudel. I thought we deserved our refreshments first seeing as we had just cycled for 1.5 hours up hill where as they had sat in a coach staring out of a window but despite this we had to wait behind them for sometime as plate after plate of strudel flew out of the kitchen. The old people, I think from Italy, were also taking up most of the indoor seating area and although there was a nice outdoor bench based seating area no one, including us, wanted to use it in this weather.
Out door seating bench area abandoned to the rain
When we did eventually get our hot chocolate, strudel and a seat the items were all faintly disappointing with only the lemon zest twist in the apple strudel saving cafe Tučarjev Dom from becoming the worst cafe in all of Europe.
Disappointing set of food and drink
We waited for the rain to ease before flying back down the slippery roads in only 25 minutes. It was disappointing to have put in so much effort for such a poor cafe visit. But then I remembered the words of Joe:
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
And Suddenly I understood what he meant; it was the fun and enjoyment of cycling uphill with legs aching and lungs burning for 90 minutes that was important not the rubbish cafe at the top, I think.

European league table after 11 cafés.   
Cafe                                                             Drink   Food    Ambiance  Score
Hotel Vitranc, Podkoren, Slov.                        8.        8.5             8            8.17 
Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen, NL              8         8.5            7.5          8.00
Central cafe, Baarlo NL.                                  8          8.75          7            7.92
Hererg de bonged, Bassel, NL.                        8          8.5.           7.           7.83
D'hefren van Baarlo, Baarlo, NL.                    6.          8.             9.           7.67
Gasthof W@nker, Arnoldstein, Austria          7.          8.            7.5.          7.50
De Ijsvogel (kingfisher mill to you),                8           6            8.5           7.50
Arcen, NL
Passi cafe, Horst, Holland.                               7         7.5           6.5           7.00
Gostinstvo in turizem cafe,                              7.5.       5             5.5           6.00
Monstrana, Slov
Tučarjev dom, Vršič moutain, Slov                  5          7               5            5.67
Dakepello, Panningen, NL                                5         6.5             5            5.50

Mama Mia (Friuli pizzeria, Tarvisio, Italy)

Search for Best Café in Europe 2014
Day 8
Despite it being another rainy morning today was the last chance for an Alpine cycle cafe review before we left. I was also keen to give Italy the chance to put forward a contender for Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014. Fortunately all of the other 8 members of the von Frazer singing famille were up for the challenge so armed with bikes and our favourite songs we once again set off on an alpine adventure.

We got off to a slow start as the weather wasn't the only think not playing ball. A serious of gearing and chaining issues meant two returns to the local bike hire shop within the first mile (or kilometre as we say sur la continent) to exchange the original bikes for ones that worked. Eventually we all had our bikes in order and were doe-a-deering on our way.
Attempting to fix broken chain on hire bike
It was a gentle down hill ride on my number one rated cycle path anywhere in the whole world (see my new feature "my favourite stretches of cycle path anywhere in the world what I have cycled on") down to the small Italian town of Tarvisio.

On arrival we found the restaurant hub and selected Pizzeria Friuli from the 3 places available. This was mainly based on the fact that it had stopped raining and they appeared to have a suitable out door seating area where we could make full use of the rare dry spell. 
Outside Friuli Pazzeria
Our choice proved to be a poor one as apparently there was not enough room outside so we were ushered into the modern looking indoor seating area, which was nice but they had crammed a lot more chairs and tables in than the space could really cope with and everything felt a bit rushed.

The waitress didn't speak anything but Italian and as we spoken nothing but English there was a bit of a language stand off as we attempted to order our food and drink. I wanted a real Italian hot chocolate but despite franticly pointing at the menu and shouting 'hot chocolate' very slowly the waitress just shock her head. I eventually gave in and ordered a beer.
Beer although I really wanted a hot chocolate
Without the variety of the hot chocolate the drinks were standard fair although I was told the apple juice was good.

As they say in these parts "when in Tarvisio do as the Tarvisions do" so we limited our menu choices to pasta or pizza. I went for the lasagne.
The lasagne was just lasagne with no accompaniments
It was quite nice lasagne but not like my mama used to make (thank god). It had an awful lot of lasagne sheets, I counted 8 layers, and very little meat or sauce. However the general consensus was the food was good and had warmed us up ready for our return ride.

Friuli pizzeria had been an ok stop but once there had been no hot chocolate on offer it was always going to struggle to make its mark on the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 leader board.
Returning in the rain to Slovenian Alpine base
We went back outside just in time to catch the first drops of rain which continued to get heavier during our gentle up hill cycle home. On arrival we packed our bags ready for the return to the UK for some traditional british hot chocolate led cycle cafe reviewing.

European league table after 12 cafés.   
Cafe                                                            Drink   Food    Ambiance  Score
Hotel Vitranc, Podkoren, Slov.                        8.        8.5             8            8.17 
Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen, NL              8         8.5            7.5          8.00
Central cafe, Baarlo NL.                                  8         8.75           7            7.92
Hererg de bonged, Bassel, NL.                        8         8.5.            7.           7.83
D'hefren van Baarlo, Baarlo, NL.                    6.          8.             9.           7.67
Gasthof W@nker, Arnoldstein, Austria          7.          8.             7.5.        7.50
De Ijsvogel (kingfisher mill to you),                8          6              8.5          7.50
Arcen, NL
Passi cafe, Horst, Holland.                               7         7.5            6.5          7.00
Friuli Pizzeria, Tarvisio, Italy                         6.5        8               6.           6.83
Gostinstvo in turizem cafe,                             7.5.       5              5.5          6.00
Monstrana, Slov
Tučarjev dom, Vršič moutain, Slov                 5          7               5            5.67
Dakepello, Panningen, NL                               5         6.5             5            5.50

Monday 28 July 2014

Laketastic. (Hotel Vitranc, Podkoren, Slovenia)

Search for Best Café in Europe 2014
Day 7
As the weather today looked fine, if a little cloudy, it seemed like a good day to find a new cafe to check out for the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 competition. I had been joined by my brothers family so there would be 8 Frazer guest reviewers on today's alpine adventure. Like a scene from the sound of music, minus the singing and nuns, the von Frazer famille set off on bikes down the purpose built cycle path.
The von Frazer famille setting off on an adventure
For today's ride we would be heading to the near by Italian lakes. They may not be lake Lugano or lake Como (although Perry Como once came here to record his "classic Italian Christmas songs" album, possibly) but they were lakes and in Italy so that was good enough for me.
The Ride was mainly flat with a short up hill sting in the tail so we were all a bit out of breath when we reached the imaginatively named Lago 1 (lake 1).
Lago 1 (lake 1)
We parked our bikes and went for a pleasant stroll round the lake before deciding to following the signs to the rather more descriptively named Lago 2 (lake 2) for lunch.
Preparing to have lunch by Lago 2 (lake 2)
Although both lakes (lagos) had cafés neither looked like potential winners of the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 so not wanting to waste the opportunity I suggested we head back to Slovenia and try out the better looking prospect of Hotel Vitranc which we had passed on the way.

The ride back was on a very pretty cycle track and has inspired me to start a new feature named "my top 10 stretches of cycle path any where in the world what I've been on". This is the first entry.
1st entry of the top
10 stretches of cycle path anywhere in the world what I've been on so is currently in first place.
We arrived at the Hotel Vitranc in the pretty village of Podkoren and settled into the comfy chairs in the outdoor seating area.
Outside the Hotel Vitranc
Unfortunately you can't see any mountains from the outdoor seating area but you know they are there which gives a calm relaxing feel to the place. However to make up for the lack of mountain view you can see an apartment once featured in Channel  4's excellent property/travel series: A place in the sun (series 3 episode 12). Sitting here we were following in the footsteps of top property/travel presenter Amanda Lamb who may have once also had a drink and sat in the comfy chairs in the outdoor seating area at the Hotel Vitranc, although there was no actual evidence suggesting this had happened. I had expected at least a plaque. It all added up to being able to confidently award an 8 for ambiance and atmosphere.

We ordered drinks which were mainly beer and coke although for reviewing purposes I also ordered a hot chocolate. All were very good and another 8 was scored meaning a good display on the food front could see the Hotel Vitranc go to the top of the European leader board.
Local beer and hot chocolate
I ordered the apple strudel and was joined in this by some other members of the party. There was also an order for ice cream from Greg (age 11) our youngest ever reviewer.
Strudel and ice cream
Both the strudel and ice cream were top draw and thanks to an 8.5 food rating made the Hotel Vitranc Slovenia, officially the best cafe in the whole of Europe beating the previous Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen, NL (see rain rain go away). On hearing the news all the Frazer's were very excited and couldn't wait to text, tweet or Facebook (other forms of social media are available) their friends with the news that they had just been to the best cafe anywhere on the continent (within a 20 mile radius of where I have stayed this year).

I am hoping to maybe slip in one final alpine cycle cafe treat before moving on to the final leg of the search for the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 when I cycle to Paris with Big George.

European league table after 10 cafés.   
Cafe                                               Drink   Food    Ambiance  Score
Hotel Vitranc, Podkoren, Slov.                        8.        8.5             8            8.17 
Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen, NL             8        8.5            7.5           8.00
Central cafe, Baarlo NL.                                 8          8.75         7             7.92
Hererg de bonged, Bassel, NL.                      8          8.5.          7.            7.83
D'hefren van Baarlo, Baarlo, NL.                    6.          8.             9.           7.67
Gasthof W@nker, Arnoldstein, Austria            7.           8.           7.5.         7.50
De Ijsvogel (kingfisher mill to you),                  8           6            8.5           7.50
Arcen, Holland
Passi cafe, Horst, Holland.                             7         7.5           6.5           7.00
Gostinstvo in turizem cafe,                             7.5.      5              5.5          6.00
Monstrana, Slov
Dakepello, Panningen                                    5         6.5             5            5.50

Thursday 24 July 2014

What's in a name. (Gasthof W@nker, Arnoldstein Austria)

Search for Best Café in Europe 2014
Day 6
Today I decided to go on a mini European tour to find the next Alpine cafe to review. Starting in Slovenia we would then ride through Italy before finding a suitable cycle cafe to review in Austria. The route would all be on cycle track and therefore pretty flat. Today's guests were Chris (wife), George (son) and Peter (son who will only come if there are no up hill bits).

We set off along the cycle way in Slovenia and soon made it to the Italian boarder, here we rode through some lovely woods before reaching Austria. It was a very pleasant ride sampling the different cultures of each country (although we had only gone 12 miles).
Guests on Slovenian part of route
We were on the look out for a suitable Austrian cycle cafe to review and see if Austria could win the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014. Suddenly I performed a double take as I spotted Gasthof W@nker. I will be very disappointed if any of you think I decided to stop there just because it had a smutty name as I believe I operate to higher standards than that, however on this occasion you would be right.
Outside Gasthof W@nker
We parked outside and, with me and the boys still sniggering while Chris told us to grow up, we went inside. It was typically alpine and very dark inside but there was a nice patio area with a super view out the back leading to a good ambiance score.
View from Gasthof W@nker outdoor seating terrace area
As it was hot we sat under a red umbrella, which made the photos come out pink, and ordered our drink and food. Even though it was very hot George stepped up to the plate and agreed to have the requisite hot chocolate while I had a cold beer. The beer was good but the hot chocolate pretty average and weak.
Selection of drinks which were not exceptional
The food menu was rather limited and only had various meat with chips. All the other punters were having some type of schnitzel so we all did as well. The stuffed schnitzel was better than plain but they were all very nice. It was also good to see 80's favourite the crinkle chips were still in fashion here.
Selection of schnitzel all with crinkle chips
Gasthof W@nker was a good stop but nothing special and sadly we won't be seeing its name on the Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 winners trophy.

There was a choice of routes for the way back. Either the safe option of going back the way we came or the adventurous option of taking the bikes up to the Austria / Slovenia boarder on a chair lift before cycling back down the mountain through the woods. Chris decided on the safe route (so here her story ends), while the rest of the party opted for the chair lift approach.

We cycled down to the chairlift and waited behind Four old age cyclists (OAC's) who were planning to do the same thing. The chair lift operator man thought we were all one group and charged the OAC's for us as well. The OAC's were not from these parts and the chair lift operator man only spoke Austrian so they had a heated argument in foreign, involving lots of pointing, before the cost was finally sorted out. 

We were a bit shocked to see that you had to sit on the chair lift and cling on to your bike which was not strapped on to the chairlift in any way.
Bike about to be given to passenger for holding on way up
All the way up I expected the OAC's to tire and drop their bikes down the mountain, but fortunately they didn't.
Bikes dangling off chair lift as the old age cyclists held on for dear life
The only challenge left was to negotiate an electric fence. We only found out it was electric when George tested it. You can see for yourself with what!
George discovering that this was an electric fence
The rest of the ride went smoothly and we all met up safely again back at our Slovenian apartment.

The Alpine leg had still not thrown up a real contender for The Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 but there is still time.

European league table after 8 cafés.   
Cafe                                               Drink Food    Ambiance  Score
Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen, NL             8        8.5            7.5           8.00
Central cafe, Baarlo Holland                           8          8.75         7             7.92
Hererg de bonged, Bassel, NL.                      8          8.5.          7.            7.83
D'hefren van Baarlo, Baarlo, NL.                    6.          8.             9.           7.67
Gasthof W@nker, Arnoldstein, Austria            7.           8.           7.5.         7.50
De Ijsvogel (kingfisher mill to you),                  8           6            8.5           7.50
Arcen, Holland
Passi cafe, Horst, Holland.                             7         7.5           6.5           7.00
Gostinstvo in turizem cafe,                             7.5.      5              5.5          6.00
Monstrana, Slov
Dakepello, Panningen                                    5         6.5             5            5.50

Tuesday 22 July 2014

It's the climb. (Gostinstvo in turizem cafe, Monstrana).

Search for Best Café in Europe 2014
Day 5
I had arrived in Slovenia for the Alpine leg of my mission to find the best cycle cafe in the whole of Europe in order to be able to crown the potential Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 winner. Today's ride was going to take in a steep climb up towards the Austrian boarder before heading back down to Monstrana in Slovenia. Today's guests were Chris (wife) and George (son). Once eldest son Peter had discovered that some serious up hill pedalling was involved he decided he would rather stay in bed and wait for flatter cafe cycling rating opportunities. 

In cloudy conditions we quickly made it the 9 or so miles (or 15 kilometres) along the flat cycle path to the start of the climb. Soon we were breathlessly climbing up along stone tracks on our Slovenian mountain bikes. The views were stunning and I was enjoying them so much I missed the signpost for the route we were on resulting in us going the wrong way. After about 20 minutes of shear up I thought something didn't seem right and on consulting my map I had to inform the party of my error. My how they cheerily laughed about the extra climbing I had made them do as we rode back down before starting to climb again, or something like that. I will of course be returning my Boy Scout map reading badge as soon as I return to England.
Having a rest after discovering we had gone up the wrong bit of mountain
As we cycled up further my guest's started to suffer and were complaining of sore knees, backs and that sweat was dripping down places that it ought not to be. However I'm sure they were enjoying it really.
Very much enjoying the ride
Eventually we made it over the top and had a quick picnic lunch near some noisy cows who were practising their alpine bell ringing skills.
Noisy bell ringing cows
It was then a downhill stretch and ride along some new cycle path until we got to Monstrana and found the Gostinstvo in turizem cafe. 
Outside the Gostinstvo in turizem cafe in the bicycle parking zone
Considering the potential stunning views on offer the Gostinstvo in turizem cafe was a little disappointing from an ambiance perspective as all the mountains were hidden by the surrounding buildings although it did get an extra half point for having a proper table tennis table in its outdoor seating area.

After the disappointment of the poor hot chocolate (chocomel) available in Holland then it was good to have a nice one here. There was also refreshing beer and grapefruit shandy available for my guests so drinks score reasonably well.
A nice and well presented hot chocolate
For food I ordered a banana split flavoured ice cream and George a strawberry and milka ice cream. We thought they were ok but Chris thought the strawberry ice cream was the most disgusting ice cream she had ever had tasting like medicine. However as she hadn't ordered any food her rating of -100 didn't count.
The interestingly flavoured ice creams
This was a poor start to the alpine leg of the search for the best cafe in all of Europe. However due to the good hot chocolate Gostinstvo in turizem cafe avoided the European wooden spoon.

Hopefully our next alpine cafe visit will be a better contender for Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014.

European league table after 8 cafés.   
Cafe                                                            Drink   Food    Ambiance  Score
Morgenstond cafe, Griendtsveen,                   8        8.5            7.5           8.00
Central cafe, Baarlo Holland                           8          8.75           7           7.92
Hererg de bonged, Bassel, NL.                      8          8.5.          7.            7.83
D'hefren van Baarlo, Baarlo, NL.                    6.          8.             9.           7.67
De Ijsvogel (kingfisher mill to you),                  8           6            8.5           7.50
Arcen, Holland
Passi cafe, Horst, Holland.                             7         7.5           6.5           7.00
Gostinstvo in turizem cafe,                             7.5.      5              5.5          6.00
Monstrana, Slov
Dakepello, Panningen                                    5         6.5             5            5.50

Sunday 20 July 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 5. (40 miles via Heydon Shop and Tearooms, Heydon)

Sportive 5
Heydon Shop and Tearooms,
Open Wed-Sun 10-4.30 (4.00 Nov- Feb),
Highly Recommended

On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning the latest Cake Crusader Sportive took place out to Heydon. Unfortunately since this sportive had been first advertised there had been a number of withdrawals meaning that by the time we set off there was only myself and Chris (Mrs Crusader) waiting to start at Race HQ. Fortunately Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) was going to help boost the numbers by meeting us on route.

The Oxford dictionary states that a sportive is : An organised long-distance road cycling event in which a large number of cyclists ride a marked route. I felt that; I had organised today, 40 miles was a long distance, more than two was a large number of cyclists (we had two and a half) and the route was marked out on my cycle GPS so according to the Oxford dictionary this was definitely a sportive not just a cycle ride. 

We set off at pace in order to meet Andrew at the agreed rendezvous point. It took a bit longer than expected but thanks to the gift of the text message we were able to successfully swell the size of the Peloton.
Group photo of all riders on today's sportive.
An impressive site and the photographer did well to get everyone in.
We arrived at Heydon without incident and were fortunate that on such a nice day there was plenty of room for all sportive riders in the 3 table outdoor seating area, so we selected a seat there.
Outside Heydon shop and tearoom about to nab a table in the outside seating area.
But first we went inside to check out the cake selection. It was not a huge selection but very effective as there were several cakes I needed to choose between. I awarded a high effective cake selection rating (ECS) and choose the tifin, Andrew went for the polenta cake and Chris the Orange sponge.
A particularly effective cake selection
I ordered my hot chocolate which had been a little weak on my last visit, so I hoped for better today. Andrew had a cappuccino and Chris a skinny mocha. When the drinks arrived they were all very well presented.
Drinks to be reviewed, which all looked very good
Unfortunately I again found the hot chocolate very milky, the coffees were both good although Chris would also have liked a bit more chocolate in her Mocha. When the nice chap serving us asked if everything was ok, I told him that I thought it was all very good but the hot chocolate was a bit weak. I had expected him to thank me for my useful and informative feedback but as the answer he had obviously been expecting was 'yes it's all great' he seemed a bit upset and looked at his shoes. If he didn't want my useful and informative feedback why ask I thought.

The cakes were some of the finest I have tried and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) had obviously got sun stroke as completely out of character he wanted to give his cake 10 out of 10. 

This is the third time I have been to Heydon and rated the Heydon tearooms. However as on both the previous occasions I had the same two guests not surprisingly it got about the same rating which keeps it in my top 10 cafe list as it consistently delivers a very good tea room experience. If only they could improve the hot chocolate strength it could easily be number 1 so I hope they have taken on board my useful and informative feedback.
Sportive riders struggling to identify their bikes
 due to the large number parked on Heydon common.
We set off on the return leg and left Andrew (who is notoriously easy to please at Heydon tearooms) after a few miles before returning safely to race HQ. Hopefully we will attract an even bigger field to the next sportive in August.

Cafe ratings for Heydon shop and tea room based on last 3 visits of 6
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Map of route

Click link to download 41 mile Norwich Heydon loop gpx file for your gps