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 29 January 2015

Pink Footed Geese. (Cley Marshes visitors centre, Cley)

Cley Marshes Visitors Centre Cafe,
Cley next the Sea,
Open Mon-Sun 10 - 3.30 (4.30 in summer),
Highly Recommended
I have spent each day this week on my indoor cycle turbo trainer doing a cycle training video and taking part in the tour of Sufferlandria (the greatest tour of a mythical country you can do). I was therefore very keen to get out on a real bike ride. Unfortunately the weather forecast was poor with biting winds, sleet and snow on the cards. However I was delighted when Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) agreed to host a ride from his house and promised not to take us to Holt for the 4th time running.

Andrew has recently become interested in birds (the feathered variety) which he claims is because he is old and all old people become interested in birds. I'm hoping to be old one day so I thought it was about time I found out more on the subject. Therefore we decided to take a ride to Cley Marshes visitors centre where I could see birds and rate a cafe.

You may remember that a recent cycling guest top cycling tip suggest that: When you set off on a ride you should start off feeling cold or you will get too hot later on.  Being scared of today's forecast I had foolishly not followed this tip and had over layered and was toasty warm when we set off. This meant I was soon boiling hot on the ride. It just proves what a useful feature the cycling guest cycling top tip is and that they should be followed at all times.

The way up to Cley was a real treat for all ford crossing fans with several to enjoy such as the one below which was the deepest.
Deepest of many fords crossed during the ride.
Still boiling hot we arrived at Cley Marshes visitors centre where Andrew passed on his cycling guest top cycling tip for the day.

Cycling guest top cycling tip no 12. If you are boiling hot when you arrive at your cafe destination make sure you delayer when inside or you won't appreciate your cycling jacket when you leave.
Outside visitors centre where there is currently much lottery funded building work
There is an outdoor hexagonal bench seating picnic area available overlooking the Marshes but it was far too cold for even the most hardy bird fan to be picnicking at so we opted to go inside.
Outdoor hexagonal bench seating area overlooking Cley Marshes
Inside there is a very modern building which has a huge window indoor seating area overlooking the marshes. This area was full with actual bird watchers. There where also a number of tables for the lesser dedicated observer which we opted to sit at.
Huge window indoor seating area occupied by bird watchers
While Andrew engaged in bird related chat I  went to check out the cake selection and was very pleased to see a large number of cakes, slices and scones available. I therefore awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Good selection of cakes, slices and scones
I ordered chocolate sponge cake and a cheese scone (as part of my cheese scone serving temperature research) to have with my hot chocolate. Andrew had a cappuccino and millionaire shortbread.

Before we tried the cakes and drinks Andrew taught me a few basic bird spotting facts. I quickly got the hang of it and as things flew past the window and I was able to identify them as birds. To make it more exciting I pointed and shouted "bird" to make sure all my fellow twitchers didn't miss out on one I had spotted.

With one eye on the bird action going on outside we tasted our drinks. Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) thought his coffee had excellent flavour but was not hot enough. My hot chocolate, on the other hand was very hot but very weak so only got an average score. Andrew's millionaire shortbread was performing well so hopes were high for a good cake taste quality (CTQ) score.
Cakes and drinks ready for tasting
Just then a particularly good bird flew past, I knew it must have been a good one as some of the people in the prime bird watching seats actually stood up. I was very pleased to have seen such a good bird although I have no idea what it was.

When the excitement had died down I went back to cake tasting. Sadly the scone was served cold and it is becoming clear my cheese scone hot campaign has not yet reached North Norfolk so more work to do there. It was, however, a nice enough scone. The chocolate cake was also a good bit of cake but neither had lived up to the high standard set by the millionaire shortbread.

Overall the Cley Marshes visitors centre was a very good stop and performed well in all categories. It has the added bonus that you can play bird spotting at the same time.

By the end of our visit I had spotted 23 birds fly past. I thought this was very good so I asked at the information desk if this was likely to be a winning score for the day. I was told it didn't work like that, apparently bird watching isn't a sport it's just a thing. I didn't understand that concept but the other people at the visitors centre seemed to be enjoying themselves. I did notice that the best watchers did get to write on the bird leader board if they spotted something good so maybe I'll have another try one day.
Bird spotting leader board showing what has been seen on the Marshes recently.
I wasn't allowed to put that I had seen 23 birds
On way home Andrew said he was glad we had not reacted to the poor forecast and had come out on the ride. After such a foolish remark there was only one thing that could possibly happen and within a few minutes we were being bombarded with stinging hail followed by sleet and snow. Andrew may be old and know about birds but he still has a lot to learnt about commenting on weather conditions while out on a cycle ride.

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

Click here to download 40 mile Alysham Cley loop GPX file to your GPS

Friday 23 January 2015

Bicycle carnage. (Bailey's cafe, Attleborough)

Baileys Cafe,
Now Closed Down
Today I set off on the second leg of my cafe cycle double header. Today's guest was Big George. Because of the very cold temperatures we decided that a pitch inspection was required to make sure it was going to be safe to ride. The roads outside my house seemed fine but we had forgotten how much colder it get's in the countryside, which was where we were heading, compared to the town. This proved to be a fatal mistake. The route was a 36 miles loop via Attleborough stopping off at Bailey's cafe.

We decided the conditions were playable and after piling on extra layers for warmth we set off. The main topic of conversation was future trip planning. The next "celebrity cyclist recommends" (see last celebrity cyclist recommends) ride is scheduled for a few weeks time so I let Big George into the secret of who the celebrity is and where we were going. 

The roads had all been fine until out of the blue we hit a patch of ice. Big George lost control and slid off his bike right in front of me. I was unable to halt in time, and had to use riding into Big George's back as a braking device. This sent me flying over the handle bars onto the soft verge. There were bikes, bottles, pumps and people splattered across the road and a car could have come along at any moment putting us into serious peril.

Fortunately thanks to my quick thinking I was able to get my camera out and take a photo for the blog before any clearing up had started.
Bicycle carnage, with Big George massaging his injured back
With photo safely captured, and despite it being his fault, I kindly checked to see if Big George was ok,. He was a bit shaken and had hurt his hip and back but he was fit enough to continue to the cafe which was all I really cared about.

We tentatively continued our journey and eventually crawled into Attleborouh where we found Bailey's cafe on the high street over looking the green. There was limited outdoor seating but at this temperature we were likely to get frozen to the chairs so we went inside.
Outside Bailey's cafe, the outdoor seating table and chair is behind me
Bailey's is fairly small and was busy but we were able to shove in front of a frail old lady to grab the last table so we could start to warm up, she could always sit outside, I thought, so I didn't feel too bad.

I checked out the cake selection on top of the counter and apart from no chocolate cake it had a decent selection so I awarded a decent effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Cake selection nicely labelled
I ordered lemon sponge, a cheese scone (as part of my cheese scone hot, fruit scone not research) and a hot chocolate. Big George was clearly still suffering for shock as he ordered crumpets and Marmite (other yeast based spreads are available). Not only are crumpets and Marmite not cake but I didn't even know they were a thing. In his current mental state I felt it would be dangerous for him to take part in any further cafe rating today.
Cakes and drinks with crumpets and Marmite airbrushed out as they are not a thing.
My hot chocolate was good and strong and Big George thought his Cappuccino was excellent and better than most so good drinks scores.

Sadly my cheese scone had not been warmed but it still tasted nice. The Lemon sponge was also good. As it wasn't a thing I ignored Big George's crumpets and Marmite comments.

Overall Bailey's cafe had performed very well and was a top half cafe in my league table. It was also one of the cheapest cafe's. As Big George clearly didn't know what time of day it was I didn't tell him that he paid for both of us thinking he was just paying his share of the bill.

Bashed and bruised we took it easy on the way back. Big George did mention that he was surprised how expensive crumpets and Marmite were but I told him that's because they weren't a thing and he seemed happy.

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

Click link to download 36 mile Norwich Attleborough loop GPX for your GPS

Thursday 22 January 2015

Film Review. (Eve's cafe, Yelverton)

 Eve’s Café,
Highway Garden Centre,
Open Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 10.30-4.30

Today was the first of a planned two day cafe cycle ride double header. For the first leg I had asked Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) to join me on a loop down to Loddon before stopping at the Rockland St Mary's Post Office cafe. I had attempted this ride before with Chris (Mrs Crusader) in the summer but had failed when we discovered the cafe was closed on a Tuesday (see Toddler entertainment). As today was not a Tuesday I was confident of success so foolishly hadn't developed a plan b like I normally do. This turned out to be an embarrassing error which was to cause Andrew both physical pain and mental anguish.

Things started well as we set off in cold but refreshing conditions. Coincidently we had both gone to see utter nonsense Oscar film favourite Birdman at the cinema in the last week. On route Andrew explained why viewing this was not two hours of my life that I would never get back but a multi layered cinematic master piece. It was a convincing argument but clearly wrong so we continued to hold our own film review based bike ride until we arrived at our venue of Rocklands Post Office cafe.

On arrival I spotted a notice saying that the cafe was closed this week. This was terrible news as I had no alternative option. Just as panic was setting in the local postman appeared and came to our rescue. We engaged in chat about our ride and he shared his view on Birdman; "a group of very good actors wasted in an indulgent and pretentious script". I had to agree so asked if he knew of an alternative cafe venue. He suggested the garden centre on the main road to Beecles.

This sounded a good plan but I noticed Andrew had turned pale at the thought. Not only is he notoriously hard to please, a poor judge of films but a garden centre snob as well.

I persuaded him that it won't be that bad and I promised we would go straight to the cafe and not spend time browsing round the garden centre or gifts section. A few minutes later we found ourselves at the Highway garden centre which includes Eve's cafe.
Eve's cafe at the Highway garden centre
After going through the compulsory Scottish woollens section we found Eve's cafe which had a huge seating area featuring both traditional tables and chairs plus comfy sofas. There were lots of people spread out around the inside seating area but it did feel a bit cafeteria.
Some of the available indoor seating at Eve's cafe
However I was impressed by the cake selection as they had an excellent range of sponges, slices and scones. I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Large selection of cakes
I ordered Belgium chocolate cake and a cheese scone with my hot chocolate and Andrew a chocolate fruit slice, cheese scone and cappuccino. We were served by a very cheerful waitress who felt that Birdman had offered "by far the most fascinating meta-deconstruction of an actors ego" she had seen and she likes that sort of thing. Andrew agreed.

We choose to sit in the comfy sofa section at which point Andrew worked himself up into a full blown rant about garden centres. He got into such a state that he lost control of his limbs and sent his cappuccino flying causing coffee carnage and Andrew both physical pain and mental anguish
Coffee carnage
After we finished mopping up and Andrew had calmed down, we got round to tasting. I thought my hot chocolate was good. However Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) thought his coffee poor as it tasted a bit strange, this may have been as it had been squeezed out of a napkin but, unlike Birdman, I went with his view. Sadly the cheese scones were very poor. I always believe that to be called a cheese scone it is important that it has cheese in it and these ones didn't seemed to have followed this simple rule. To make matters worse they were served cold, a real no no. The cake and slice were much better bringing the cake quality rating up to something acceptable.
Cakes and drinks pre carnage
Eve's cafe was not the best I've been too but we still found it to be a surprisingly relaxing stop and stayed ranting about pretentious films and garden centres for sometime before completing our journey home.

Scores for Eve's cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

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

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Marital Bliss. (The Garden Tea Rooms, Wymondham)

Garden Tearooms,
Under New management, Now the Nest Egg Cafe
Apparently yesterday was my 25th (silver) wedding anniversary. Unfortunately no one had told me until it was too late so the day had passed off card and gift free, which I'm told is wrong. What better way to make it up, I thought, than to invite Chris (Mrs Crusader) to be my cycling guest on a freezing cold cafe cycle review where I would be buying! I certainly know how to win a lady round.

As it was -2 C it was necessary to hold an early morning pitch inspection to make sure conditions were safe enough for the ride. I decided if we left it an hour it would be fine and was rewarded when we set off in crisp conditions with a lovely winter sun and sky.
An 8.3 on the winter crispness scale
As it was so cold I decided on a short ride down to the newly opened The Garden Tea Rooms in Wymondham.

On the way I asked Chris for her cycling guests top cycling tip.

Cycling guests top cycling tip no 11. To avoid an even frostier cafe cycle ride try to remember the date of your 25th wedding anniversary and act on it accordingly.

Freezing cold we arrived at the Garden Tea Rooms and I spent sometime locking our bikes using my new super strength unbreakable lock, which is the rubik cube of bike locks, and we went inside.

The Garden Tea Rooms were nice and light and the owner was also very cycle friendly. She explained that on request cyclists can take their bikes round the back to the outdoor seating area rather than leave them out on the street. This was good news and would save me having to solve my puzzle lock on future visits.
Outside The garden Tea Rooms about to unnecessarily tackle locking bikes
with my new super strong Rubik bike lock.
I tried to take a photo of the cake selection but was blocked by a lady who wanted coffee and cake but turned out to be allergic to eggs. She insisted on the ingredients of each cake being listed before deciding it had eggs in it and was therefore unsuitable. In the end she went for soup which, being a bit of an expert on the subject, I can confirm is not cake and a glass of water, which is not coffee. I immediately decided not to invite her to be a guest on a future cafe cycle ride as she would be a useless reviewer and probably didn't have a bike.

I eventually got to judge the effective cake selection (ECS). There was a small but effective collection featuring a Devils chocolate cake as the star offering. I therefore awarded a reasonable ECS rating.
Cake and scone selection, all made with eggs
With my Hot Chocolate I obviously ordered the Devils chocolate cake plus a cheese scone (as part of my cheese scone hot, fruit scone not research. See cafe cycle tour 2015 goals). As it is a rule that we can't both have the same cake Chris went for a brown fruit scone with her Semi skinned Mocha. However as it was our anniversary I kindly let her have a small bit of my chocolate cake (you can see why I'm a keeper).
Cakes, scones and drinks ready for tasting
Chris found her semi skinned Mocha a bit on the weak side which didn't help my cause. However the Hot Chocolate, Devils chocolate cake and scones were all good. As another 2015 goal I was pleased the Devils chocolate cake was correctly served to the side rather than on the serviette. I was also pleased the cheese scone had been correctly warmed. The only downside was that Chris's fruit scone had also been hotted where I believe it should have been notted but apart from that we both liked the The Garden Tea Rooms and wish them success for the future.
We returned to the Arctic conditions and were soon frozen once more before we made it back home. Although the ride had gone well I'm not entirely sure it had made up for yesterdays anniversary faux par so I plan to try harder for our Golden Anniversary in 2040 and maybe let her choose her own cake on that ride.

Scores for Garden Tearooms on 3 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Ckick here to down load 25 mile Norwich Wymondham loop GPX file for your gps.

Thursday 15 January 2015

2014 Cafe Cycle awards Review

Who's won 2014 Cake Crusader Awards
We are now into the awards season and not wanting to miss out I have announced the first ever winners of the Cake Crusader cafes, cakes and drinks awards. 

Over a tense few days between Christmas and New Year each of the winners of the 8 categories were tweeted on the Cake Crusader twitter feed (Cake crusader@cafecycletour) to an expectant public. 

For fact fans 81 different cafes (some more than once) were visited in 2014. 65 in the UK and 16 in Europe so the winners had a lot of competition to beat.

Each winner received one of the coveted Cake Crusader winners certificates so they could display their achievement for all their customers to see.

So here is the list winners and their feedback

Best Effective Cake Selection went to Wiveton Hall Cafe (see Pizza oven envy) for what is always a large and tempting set of baked offerings, including my favourite choc jack (half flapjack and half chocolate). 
Part of the cake selection at Wiveton Hall

Wiveton Hall were pleased with their award but to date no one has yet been able to send a photo of certificate, they are probably too busy making cakes.

European Cafe of the Year went to Hotel Vitranc in Slovenia. Over the summer an extensive search of 16 of the finest cafes anywhere in Europe (within a 25 mile radius of where I was staying on holiday) was undertaken to discover the finest. (see Laketastic)
Hotel Vitranc winner of Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour European Cafe of the Year 2014
It has to be said the standard of cafes, and complete lack of tea rooms, on le continent was disappointing and not as high as the excellent cafes in the Norfolk/Suffolk region. 

I contacted the Hotel Vitranc (via E-mail) and sent them one of the coveted Cake Crusader winners certificates but sadly to date there has been no response. This maybe because I used google translate to tell them the good news in Slovenian, which I thought would be a nice touch. However having just re translated back the email I sent it no longer makes any sense and talks about liking their pie (which they don't even sell) so maybe I just confused them. I have therefore arrange a return trip in the summer so I can deliver their certificate to them personally. I'm sure they will be very pleased.

Best Atmosphere and Ambiance went to the Hen House near Wymondham. There is always a warm welcome in a relaxing setting and it has the added advantage of a shed based seating area. If you want a nice relaxing stop (plus excellent drinks, cakes and eggs) during your ride then this is the place (see Eggcellent find)
Part of the shed based seating area
In her acceptance speech owner Annabel said "It makes all the difference to know that people appreciate my handy work, it makes it all worthwhile"
Annabel showing off her coveted Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tours winners certificate
Best Guest Hot Drink went to Tabnabs in Mattishall. A very difficult category to win due to the diverse tastes of my cycling guests. However Tabnabs was visited 3 times in 2014 with 5 different guests and they consistently scored the highest guest hot drink marks. Their Chocolate and Beetroot cake was also runner up in the cake of the year category.
A selection of Tabnabs guest drinks and cakes
 (including cake of the year runner up Chocolate and Beetroot)
In accepting the award Mrs Tabnabs said "she was delighted to know that me and my guests all enjoy their coffee and cakes so much."  
An example of  a Tabnabs guest hot drink with
 the coveted Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tours winners certificate
Best cafe anywhere between London and Paris (that I happened to stop at) went to Poppy's in Coulsdon. You may remember myself and Big George undertook the 300 mile ride from London to Paris in order to hunt out the best cafe on the Avenue Verte Cycle route (see London to Paris by bike day 1). It turned out that Poppy's cafe, just 19 miles into the route, was the best. Lovely view over the park and excellent drinks and cake. In hindsight we needn't have bothered going all the way to Paris and might as well have stopped there and saved ourselves a lot of hassle.
Outside Poppy's cafe in lovely Coulsdon Park
Owner Dawn was "over the moon" with the award and has had their certificate on display since it was awarded soon after the trip. It has caused lots of comments from regular and new customers (presumably on route to Paris by bike). 

Cake of the year went to Every Days a Picnic in Hedenham near Bungay (see Celebrity ride). It was the closest contest with a lot of excellent cakes to choose from this year. However the Chocolate and Guinness cake had the perfect combination of moistness, chocolateness and icingness.
Winning chocolate and Guinness cake
Mrs Picnic thanked the Cake Crusader for the award and was looking forward to feeding me and my guests more excellent cake in 2015.
Mrs Picnic with winning cake and her coveted Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tours winners certificate
Best Hot Chocolate went to Jesters in Bungay (see cycling tips). Jesters not only had a superb thick and chocolaty drink but also the widest range of Hot Chocolates.
It was also a decent temperature which customers are warned about on the menu. 
Jester's thanked Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour for the certificate which is proudly on display on their entrance.

Cafe of the Year 2014 went to Earsham Street Cafe in Bungay. Bungay is obviously the place to head for if you are after the best cafes in the region. Earsham Street Cafe topped the charts with a very high standard in every category. They also are very bike friendly allowing me and my guests to wheel our bikes to the outside seating area and off the street.
Earsham Street Cafe. Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tours cafe of the year 2014
I have been to Earsham Street 3 times since I started my cycle cafe quest and it has been outstanding every-time so will be hard to beat in 2015.

Mike and Gemma were delighted with their award which is now on display. 
Some of The Earsham Street Saturday team with their
coveted Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tours winners certificate
I'm planning to visit even more cafes and tearooms in 2015 but the bar has been set very high but all my 2014 winners. I will be making sure I revisit them all again this year to not only see if they can retain their awards but also to enjoy the excellent drinks, cakes and warm welcome you get at each.