Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Black Friday (Itteringham shop and Cafe, Itteringham)

Itteringham Village shop and cafe,
Itteringham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00,
Sun 09:00-16:00

Recommended 
I returned to Itteringham Village shop and cafe today (February 2017) to show my support for their Save our Shop (SOS) campaign and also take the opportunity to try one of their excellent sausage rolls as part of my search for Sausage Roll of the Year (#SROTY).

It was a very successful trip and, reassuringly, not much had changed since I last visited or probably in the last 380 years since it first opened. 
About to help save Itteringham Shop and cafe 
When I looked up at the sky before my first visit back in November 2014, I noticed just how dark it was. During our trip it just seemed to get darker and darker. This is why I have called this post Black Friday and it is not some cynical attempt to use the current most popular search engine term in order to get more hits on my blog. 

Despite getting him soaked on our last ride, and the Black Friday sky, Big George agreed to be my guest for a 50 mile loop up to Itteringham just North of Alysham.

On the way I told him about my new feature; cycling guests top cycling tip. He was very excited and after much consideration came up with his tip.

Cycling guests top cycling tip 2. To avoid punctures and skidding on your winter rides it is worth fitting some heavy duty 700c-25 winter tyres on your road bike.

I didn't like to point out that despite following this top tip at the start of the winter I had had a puncture on yesterday's ride but as it was my first one in over 500 miles on these type of tyres I thought I wouldn't undermine his top tip (even if I just have).

Once we had crossed Norwich the ride out to Itteringham was very pleasant, if a bit dark and we arrived successfully at Itteringham cafe and shop. It is easily the smallest cafe I have found so far on my cafe cycle quest so not one for a future sportive. There are two tables in the corner of the shop and a couple of tables outside. It has a lovely cosy country folk atmosphere and so got a high Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) score.
Outside the Itteringham shop and cafe
Once inside I checked out the cake selection so that I could award the effective cake selection rating (ECS). It was not surprisingly a small selection for a small cafe but still very interesting. I went for almond and apricot gluten free cake and Big George had tiffin.
Cake selection on top shelf of refrigerated display unit
We also decided to have sausage rolls. After being given a long and informative explanation about each roll on offer I decided to try the one made from rare breed pork. I wasn't surprised that it was now a rare breed if they kept turning the pigs into sausage rolls. I felt very guilty eating it as this rare breed of pig had now become one sausage roll nearer extension. Surely it would be better to use 'plenty of this type of breed pork' in sausage rolls. I worried that it was like eating a Dodo roll knowing they were about to die out. However it was one of the best sausage rolls I have had so it was worth it and my guilt soon passed.

The drinks were very hot, which is good and Big George thought his filter coffee was excellent. My hot chocolate needed to be a bit stronger. The apricot and almond cake (despite its lack of tasty gluten) and tiffin were both excellent and scored highly.
Drinks, cake and tiffin
Overall the Itteringham Shop and Cafe is well worth a stop as it not only serves good cakes and drinks but is a bit different from your run of the mill cafe. While we were there much local village drama was played out and it was a bit like listening to the Archers (which I have never actually done) in real time. I can't tell you what I heard because what happens in Itteringham stays in Itteringham.

On the ride back the Black Friday sky got darker and blacker but fortunately the rain held off so I was nice and dry ready for an afternoon of on-line discount shopping.

Ratings based on 3 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.83
8.17
5.33
8.33
7.67
7.07

Route
Click link to download 50 mile Norwich Itteringham Loop GPX file for your GPS

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cycling tips. (Jesters of Bungay, Bungay)

Jesters of Bungay,
Bungay,
Open Mon-Sat 9:30-17:00.
Open Sunday during BST
 Recommended
Things have been quite on the blog front over the last week. Due to the bad weather and lack of cycle guest availability I haven't been able to get out for a cafe cycle review for over a week. Also blog traffic has fallen from it's peak of a few weeks ago. I assume this is because not so many people are looking to get out on a bike ride at this time of year. I decided to discuss this issue with today's guest, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), as we went for a ride down to Bungay.

He was full of ideas to freshen up the blog. Most of them centred around writing less about cake and more about things he was interested in. Although I won't be including any obscure Italian poetry in future posts I will be introducing a new feature to try and re balance the cake vs cycling ratio. It is called cycling guests cycling top tip. In each post I will be asking my guest for a top cycling tip to pass on to like minded blog readers.

Here is the first tip from Andrew. 
Cycling guests cycling top tip 1. For a smoother and more efficient ride, make sure your tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure.

There will be more excellent tips like this to inform you in future posts. If you want to share a cycling top tip then send me it at norfolkcafecycle@btinternet.com (or tweet cake crusander@cafecycletour) and I will include the best ones.

With Andrew continuing to share his blog improvement ideas the ride down to Bungay flew past and we soon arrived at Jesters of Bungay in Bungay. It turned out that not only is Jesters of Bungay a cafe in Bungay but also doubles up as the visitors centre for Bungay castle.
Outside Jesters of Bungay in the outdoor seating and castle information area
On arrival we found a large outside seating area which also provided information on Bungay castle via a multi media model castle display exhibit (MMMCDE). Before going inside the cafe area I studied the MMMCDE and discovered that Bungay Castle was built in the 1100's by a chap called Hugh Bigod who used Bungay as his power base to try and overthrow the King. He, not surprisingly, failed but if he had won Bungay could now be the Capital of England. I think it is a good job he lost as I'm not sure that Bungay could have coped with being a capital city as it doesn't have enough shops or an underground transport system.
Informative model of how Bungay looked in medieval times
available to view in Jesters courtyard
We went inside to find it very full, so we grabbed the last table. Jesters of Bungay had a lively and friendly atmosphere and we felt comfortable in the surroundings. By the door was the cake shelf display unit so I was able to award the effective cake selection rating straight away. There were a number of cakes in various states of completeness and it was a good solid selection, although it again lacked anything chocolate based. 
A nice cake selection but lacking anything chocolate
It was great to see that Jesters offered a wider range of Hot Chocolate's plus a red warning that the hot chocolate was very hot. I therefore had high expectations of a very high quality drink and was also ready to take the necessary first hot sip precautions to avoid a nasty burnt mouth incident.
Menu with selection of Hot Chocolates
plus Hot Chocolate Hotness warning

I ordered some Victoria sponge to accompany my drink and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) ordered Cappuccino and Almond and Apricot slice.

Whilst waiting for our cakes and drinks to arrive Andrew once again revealed his anti cake views. On our last trip he had shockingly revealed he was not a fan of cake queen Mary Berry and today, followed this up with the suggestion that there should be fewer blog cake photos as when you have seen one cake etc. I decided to ignore his worrying cakist views and took some more cake pictures for you to enjoy.
Another super photo of cake for you to enjoy
The Hot Chocolate did not disappoint and was, as promised, very hot but also nice and thick and chocolaty. The warning had proved worth while as I could have easily burnt my mouth area if I had not known of the temperature issue in advance. I was therefore able to award a 9 out of 10 for a hot chocolate for the first time in ages. The coffee was also nice and hot although Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) thought it could have done with a touch more coffee and milk (or less water). He still thought it a was good drink. 

Our cakes were both nice but not exceptional and I awarded a middling cake quality score.

Overall Jesters of Bungay proved to be a very good stop and worth a visit especially if you want to combine your visit with some history as entry to Bungay Castle (50p for Adults, 20p for children) seems very reasonable.

We decided to leave history for another day and set off on the return journey. With Andrew ranting on a number of topics we soon got back and agreed it was a very fine route. The only disappointment was the lack of eggs available at the end of garden egg outlets. Remember for up to date Egg News Flashes (and other cafe cycle updates) you need to follow me on twitter (cake crusader@cafecycletour).

Tomorrow I hope to be riding with Big George and look forward to finding out his cycling guests top cycling tip.

Scores for Jesters
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
9.0
7.0
6.5
7.0
7.0
7.30
Map of route

Click here to download 40 mile Norwich Bungay loop gpx file for your gps

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Extreme reviewing (Butterflies Coffee Shop, Blofield)

Butterflies Coffee Shop,
Blofield,
Opening times Mon-Fri 10:00-16:00,
 Sat 10:00-16:30, Sun 10:30-15:30

Recommended 
During the winter I find that cafe cycle reviewing becomes an extreme sport for adrenalin junkies. The thrill coming from not knowing if your chosen venue will be open or not. As you approach a new cafe for the first time you never know if, the website you carefully checked before setting out, is correct for winter openings. Rounding the corner the tension mounts until BOOM, you find the cafe is shut until the spring and you have to go to plan B. Life doesn't get more exciting than this and today's ride was no exception.

For today's extreme winter cafe cycle ride I was joined by guests Chris (Mrs Crusader) and Barry and Helen and their tandem. This was Helen and their tandems first cafe cycle review for sometime as she had recently had a bionic knee fitted. We were therefore keeping the route a bit shorter than usual and had an 18 mile loop planned from their house in Thorpe End out to Ranworth and back. We were going to the Granary Store Tearoom but with the added winter jeopardy of would it be open or not.

Shortly after we set off I heard a loud bang at the back of the bike. Sunday's Cyclocross had obviously not just taken it out of me but my bike as well. One of the spokes on the back wheel had snapped. Fortunately using all my bike maintenance skills and some duct tape we were able to continue the journey.
Taping up broken spoke before continuing
It wasn't far to Ranworth and we soon located the Granary stores tearoom. As we approached the tension mounted and then Boom, it was shut. Catching my breath after the open or closed excitement I informed my guests I did have a plan B which was to go to Blofield and the Butterflies Coffee Shop at Norwich camping and caravan. 

After another short ride we arrived at Norwich camping and caravan and parked our bikes. We found Butterflies Coffee Shop at the back of the huge camping shop. It was very busy and the outdoor seating area seemed to be shut or too cold to sit out. Fortunately we were able to find a recently vacated table in the corner.
Outside entrance to Butterflies Coffee Shop
at the back of the Norwich Camping and Caravan shop
I made for the cakes counter display unit where there was a good selection of cakes but only a few of my favourites, I awarded a good Effective cake selection score (ECS).
A large selection of cakes available.
My guests had chosen a wide range of coffees and I had gone for luxury hot chocolate. I went for the Dutch apple cake, Chris the white chocolate and raspberry cake and Helen millionaire shortcake. Once again Barry opted out of any cake based activity and picked a sausage roll. Barry and Helen's tandem decided against refreshments and waited patiently outside for us.
Cakes and drinks ready to taste. Barry had already scoffed his sausage roll.
All the drinks were very hot and the coffees all got the thumbs up and a high score. My luxury hot chocolate was a little weak and I didn't notice anything particularly luxurious about it but it was a perfectly acceptable drink.

Overall Butterflies Coffee Shop was consistently good and had the added advantage that you could buy a tent and camp overnight if the long walk back out of the shop was a bit too far to do in a single day. 

The journey home saw me complete my week long winter cycling feast having completed 200 miles, 5 rides and one cyclo cross event. I will now have a few days rest before once again setting off on my mission to find more top cafes or tearooms for you to try out on your bike rides (first checking they are open of course).

Scores for Butterflies Coffee Shop
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.5
7.00

As the route changed I don't have a suggested route for the ride

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Proper job (Mad Hatters Tea Shop, Wymondham)

Mad Hatters Tea Shop,
Wymondham,
Opening times Mon-Thur 09:30-16:30,
Fri -Sat 09:00-16:30
Recommended 
Yesterday saw the 4th of my 5 ride winter cycle feast as I set off with today's guest Chris (Mrs Crusader) on a trip to Wymondham via Hingham. The plan was to go to the Bridewell Museum tea room which (according to my I-spy book of cafes and tea rooms) was the final remaining cafe needed to complete my Wymondham cafe and tea room set.

As an added extra to my winter cycling feast I had entered my first ever cyclo cross race on Sunday at Hempton cross near Fakenham. It was very enjoyable but a bit more scary and faster than I had imagined. I exceeded all expectations finishing a very credible 23rd out of 25 in the 50+ category. At one point I was even challenging for 22nd but he got away on the final lap. But then after a restless night  I took the difficult to decision to call time on my cyclo cross career. I wanted to finish while I was still at the top of my game. So to the shock of the cyclo cross community I announced my retirement from the sport on my Facebook page.

Today we would be sticking to roads and except for Chris whinging about how far we had to go before a coffee stop, we successfully arrived at the Bridewell museum teashop. Unfortunately I had made a classic cafe cycle review school boy error. Although I had checked the website for opening times I had failed to notice it is shut all winter. I decided we didn't have time to hang around until it reopens in March so implemented plan B. 

You may remember that when I was away on my search for Cake Crusader European cafe of the year 2014 back in August, that Chris had arranged a ride and review to the Mad Hatters Tea Room (see Rebel tour). I had not been convinced that the cafe cycle reviewing that had occurred that day had been performed with the necessary rigour and care. I had noted that each category had been awarded 7.5 suggesting a rather slap dash approach. This was now my opportunity to do a proper job.
Outside the Mad Hatters Tea shop in my still faulty gilet (arms missing)
On arrival we locked our bikes, using Alarmio, by the tea shop. There was one table in use on the pavement but it was occupied and as we were freezing we went inside. It is one of the smaller and cosier tea rooms but we found a space near the counter and opposite a wall full of tea pots.

I immediately checked out the cake selection which was very good and I felt a higher effective cake selection (ECS) score could be awarded than had be done by the rebel tour.
Excellent cake selection
I ordered bread pudding cake and Chris coffee cake to accompany her semi skinny mocha. Again I thought the cakes were excellent and deserved a higher mark than the amateurs had awarded. The only slight disappointment was my hot chocolate, which had a lot more hot than chocolate about it so I had to mark this down a bit on it's previous score.
Cakes and drinks, well presented
Chris, on the other hand insists on a hot drink being scolding hot and was very happy with the nuclear thermal temperature that her mocha had reached. Later I tried to fake sympathy when during the ride home she announced she had burnt her mouth on her drink, but I think she may have spotted my sniggers.

Overall the Mad Hatter Tea Shop lived up to it's previous review by my B' team of reviewers and maintained its place at the top end of my cafe ratings table.

Tomorrow is the final day of my week long cycling feast with a short ride out to Ranworth Broad. Barry and Helen and their Tandem are making a return for the first time since August.

Scores based on two visits (albeit one was by the reviewing reserves)
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
7.25
7.75
7.75
7.25
7.30
Route
Click link to down load 34 Mile Norwich Hingham loop gpx file for your GPS

Monday, 17 November 2014

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 8 (32 miles via Spoon cake cafe, Loddon)

Sportive 8,
Spoon Cake,
Loddon,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00,
 Recommended
Today was the 8th Cafe Cycle Tours sportive and 3rd ride in my 2nd Annual winter wheels cycling feast. The chosen route was down to a cafe favourite, the Spoon cake cafe in Loddon. This was the fourth time I have been there equalling the all time record for most visits to a single cafe.

A bumper attendance of 8 arrived at race HQ for the pre ride faffing about but we surprisingly set off roughly on time. Dr Hans had brought his wife Frau Hans for the first time to form a Dutch team in the peleton.
Colourful bunch of riders at Race HQ
Despite the large numbers the ride out to Loddon went smoothly and we easily conquered the Col du Poringland, which was the biggest climb of the day, without incident.

We arrived at the Spoon cake cafe where I had warned today's riders of the inconsistent herb based table identification system seen in operation here on my last visit (see Remember the Herbs). The Spoon cake cafe had clearly rowed away from this concept as the herb based system had fallen into disuse with only a couple of herb named tables and the majority were now name free. It was unclear if any form of table identification system was now in operation.

We caused chaos by joining some herb name free tables together and fighting our way to the cake display cabinet at the counter at the front of the shop. There was a big difference of opinion on the effective cake selection (ECS) rating mainly caused by lack of any chocolate based cake but I felt the choice was still a good one and ignored the chocolate lovers protests in awarding a good ECS score.
A fine and varied cake selection despite the lack of chocolate ones
A wide range of guest drinks were ordered with again much wrangling on the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) score. Everyone agreed the drinks had good flavour but some of the party felt they were not hot enough. This was probably because the staff had waited until all the drinks were ready before delivering the eight cups to the table. Although the polite thing to do this had clearly allowed the earlier made drinks too much cooling time and they were unfortunately the ones for the asbestos mouthed in the group. I had to take all this into account in awarding a good GHDQ score. 

My hot chocolate was consistently good compared with my other visits and fortunately the cake quality feed back was consistently good so we could finally move on to non rating topics. 
Cakes and drinks at various stages of reviewing
Despite the wide range of opinions on offer the spoon cafe had still performed well and maintains it's place at the top end of my cafe rating table.

On the way back I decided to go for a solo break away and had soon stretched out the riders with the Dutch team being spat out the back of the peleton. My breakaway attempt nearly failed when after several miles Andrew and Dom bridged across and tagged on behind me. This had clearly taken much out of them and I was able to sprint clear up the final mountain (Col du Kirby Beddon), to where I decided the imaginary finishing line was. I claimed a well deserved victory and spent the rest of the ride telling everyone how I had won today's stage, despite none of them knowing we were racing. Dom explained that he and Andrew had tried to catch me up in case I wanted some company but when they caught up I had just sprinted off. A poor excuse I thought.

Next week sees the final two rides in the 2nd Annual winter wheels cycling feast with over 130 miles covered to date. The next sportive will be just before Christmas with fancy dress and Christmas bike decorating very much discouraged, humbug.

Score for Spoon Cake Cafe based on last 3 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.83
7.0
7.5
7.7
6.83
7.37
This is map of route

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

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Wet, wet, wet. (Twyfords tearoom, Beecles)

Beccles,
Twyfords Tearoom,
Mon-Sat 08:30-17:00,
Highly Recommended 
Yesterday saw ride two of the 2nd Annual Cafe Cycle Tour winter wheels cycling feast and I had planned a 50 mile ride to Beccles with today's Winter Wheels guest, Big George. Fortunately Big George had not seen that the weather forecast was for rain all day or he may not have been keen to come. Fortunately the rain hadn't yet started as we set off. 

The dry weather lasted less than 5 minutes when it started to drizzle. Before we had time to put on our waterproofs Big George reported that one of his brake blocks had fallen off. He said he would be fine with just a back brake but with my Health and Safety hat on I insisted we stopped at a near by bike shop to buy replacements. By the time his bike had once again got full stopping capabilities the rain was really bucketing down but, using the gift of lying, I convinced Big George that the weather would be better the further south we went, although I had no evidence for this it seemed to make him happy.

The rain continued to bucket down until we arrived at Reedham Ferry for our crossing (as always I refused to pay until the ferryman had got us safely to the other side). The ferryman said we were mad to be cycling in this weather and hadn't we seen the forecast. I quickly changed the subject.
Very wet crossing of the Yare
We continued to head south to Beccles as the rain got heavier. When we arrived we 
spent sometime in the mysterious Beccles one way system. I made sure we only ever went one way but this didn't always correspond with the one way other people had chosen. Eventually Big George used his gift of 'asking for directions' and we found our way to Twyfords Cafe.
Sheltering outside Twyfords Cafe in Beecles
I locked up the bikes and we went inside the cafe which has a lovely European feel. There was also a big sign advertising the fact it had a secret garden. I felt having a big sign telling everyone about the garden rather took away it's secret characteristics. As it was still pouring with rain we decided to forgo the not particularly secret garden outside seating area for another day. All in all Twyfords got a high atmosphere and ambiance score.

The cake selection looked spectacular although all the cakes were of a large indulgent type so hard to differentiate between. I was impressed and awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Part of the large and indulgent cake selection
I chose the luxury carrot cake with my hot chocolate. Big George had Cappuccino and bacon sandwich (which is clearly not a cake). He couldn't afford a cake as he had spent most of the pocket money that Mrs Big George had allowed him for today on brake blocks. I would like to be a fly on the wall when he only hands her back a few pence change from his day out.

Drinks were of a good standard and warmed us up nicely. The cake was suitably indulgent and very well presented so again good marks all round.
Cakes and drinks 
Overall Twyfords tearoom was a very good stop and I suspect on a nice day in the not particularly secret garden could score even better. It still scored well enough to make it into my current top 10 and is highly recommended.

On the way back we once again spent a large amount of time trying to exit Beccles one way labyrinth and completed two more loops before we finally managed to escape. 

The rain stopped on the way back and although we were rather cold we both agreed it was a very good 54 mile ride. I said I was planning a hot bath on my return. Big George said that it was funny as he had just been thinking about that as well. Worried that Big George had been imagining me in the bath I quickly changed the subject to more manly things and there was no more bath chat for the rest of the way home.

Tomorrow sees ride 3 of the Cafe Cycle tours winter wheels cycling feast with a sportive ride out to Loddon.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
6.5
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.50
Route
Click link to down load 50 mile Norwich Beecles loop gpx file for your gps