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/

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Sunday 31 May 2015

Change of plan. (Acron Tearoom, Poringland)

Acorn Tearoom has closed down
Last Friday I had planned to join Big George on a pre arranged cafe cycle ride to further discuss plans for the cross Great Britain cafe cycle ride happening later this year. However one look at the weather forecast made it clear we only had a small window of fine weather before heavy rain was due. I had already planned a 45 mile ride to Gressinghall, and I'm not one who easily like to revert from plan A, but on this occasion all the evidence meant I had to be brave and come up with a Plan B which was a 25 mile ride via Poringland.

Today's destination became the Acorn Tearooms at the Royal Oak pub (see what they did with the name, very strong). According to the website during the day the back of the pub is converted into a tearoom. I was fascinated to see if they could pull off such a transformation but Big George was very sceptical. He believed we would be sitting at the bar with instant coffee and a packet of crisps. I had more faith and told him it would be a proper tearoom as it had it's own Acorn tea rooms logo, which is always a good sign (not literally).

So we put plan B in to action and set off to enjoy a sunny ride round to Poringland. I was starting to believe the weather forecast may have been wrong and we should have gone on the longer ride after all but I'm certainly not someone who would ever change plans twice in the same day so this was not an option. On arrival I proudly pointed out the dual signs for pub and tearoom and we went round the back to the tearoom/beer garden.
Pub and Tearoom signs
At the back there is an undercover outdoor seating area cleverly segregated from the pub seating area by a sign saying Tearoom customers tables only.
At the entrance by the tearoom only outdoor seating area
We locked the bikes and headed inside inside where the pool room and snug had been transformed into a proper looking tearoom by the imaginative use of tablecloths and bunting. Big George was still not convinced and couldn't see anything but a pub with some fancy furnishings and cakes available. We decided to agree to differ as it felt all tearoom to me.
Total transformation of pub to tea room
I checked out the cakes which were partly in the chiller and partly on the cleverly discussed pool table. There were only a couple of pieces of each type which at first made it appear there was only a small selection but on closer inspection it was actually quite a good one so I awarded a decent effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Part of the cake selection the rest was on the covered pool table
The charming young and friendly waitress took our order which was hot chocolate, white chocolate cake and cheese scone for me with Big George going for a filter coffee and toasted tea cake. As I have explained to him on many occasion a toasted tea cake may have the word cake in it but it is clearly a bread and not a cake so he would not be involved in the cake taste quality (CTQ) reviewing today. 

Our drinks came first and I thought my hot chocolate was a very nice example. Big George said his filter coffee was ok but he was clearly suffering from being in a pub and not being allowed a pint. He still gave a good guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) mark.
Drinks which were good but Big George would rather have had a pint
The food soon followed and I was glad to see my cheese scone nicely warmed and the cake served correctly with the napkin on one side. The cheese scone also came with an onion chutney and was very good as was my white chocolate cake so I awarded a good CTQ score.
Scone and cake. Please ignore toasted tea cake in the back ground as it is not a cake
Overall I really liked the Acorn Tearooms and felt it was a great idea that more village pubs should follow. I couldn't persuade Big George who didn't think pubs and tearooms should mix, I think this is because he was worried about his image again and the risk of being seen in a pub eating cake off a china plate discussing housework rather than supping beer and talking about Rugby. As he probably isn't the tea room target market this probably doesn't matter.

As we had spent more time than planned discussing pubs and tearooms we stayed longer than the weather forecast recommended so storm clouds had gathered outside as we got back on our bikes.

Although the rain was not yet with us it wasn't long after we set off that it started to drizzle and we started to get wet. Fortunately we were back inside before the heavens really opened and we would have had a proper soaking if the ride had been any longer. So changing to plan B had proved the right thing to do after all, how strange.

Scores for Acorn Tea rooms
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click here to dowload 25 mile Norwich Poringland loop GPX file for your GPS

Saturday 30 May 2015

Keep cake off serviettes. (Wortham store and tea shop. Wortham)

Wortham Stores and Tea shop,
Open Mon,Thur,Fri 09:00-17:00,
Wed,Sat 09:00-16:00
 Highly Recommended
While recovering from my near death funny turn experience last year I had needed to start upping my cycling miles ready for the epic London to Paris trip I had planned with Big George. I had therefore plotted a 66 mile training ride which would help both my recovery and Big George get ready for our adventure. Sadly, for reasons I have long forgotten, Big George stood me up at the last minute so I did the ride by myself. (see No show)

As it happened the stop I had planned at Wortham stores and tea shop turned out to be a very good one and as a result made it into my top ten cafe list. However I have also had many sleepless nights since. I had not had a guest cyclist with me that day so I was unable to rate the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) and therefore felt this needed to happen to truly find where Wortham stores and tea shop stands.

Next week myself and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) are going to Slovenia as I plan to do some Ironman cycling altitude training and Andrew is coming along for the ride, literally. I was therefore easily able to persuade him to come on the long ride down to Wortham for some pre trip training especially as he could add his expert cafe cycling guest reviewer opinion and give a GHDQ score.

Andrew got caught in traffic so was late arriving at Crusader Towers. This turned out to be a bonus as the postman arrived after our planned departure time with my new cycling top so I was able to use it on the ride. My old cycling top had been assigned to the bin after it lost my lock key due to the holes in it's pocket. My new top came with a lined zippered pocket so everything was super secure. I was looking forward to trying it out so I could add it's rating to my cycling tops spreadsheet.

The ride to Wortham went smoothly with my new cycling top performing well throughout and we arrived at Wortham stores and tea room without issue and a key to lock the bikes with. You can't miss the teashop on the A143 it as there is has an imaginatively shaped teapot sign.
Sign signally tearoom location
At the tea shop you will find an outside seating garden area but due to the strong winds no one was using it today so we went inside. 
Outside tearoom entrance
Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) was very impressed with the whole atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) experience. The staff were very friendly, there is a choice of two indoor seating areas (conservatory or old school) and despite there being lots of other customers, which Andrew hates, there was a calming feel to the place. This upped the AAA score considerably from my previous visit when I hadn't realised there was outside seating available.
Traditional indoor seating leading to conservatory area
There was also an excellent selection of cakes displayed in a cabinet and a cake overflow shelf area. I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) rating consistent with last time I came.
Large cakes in cabinet, further cakes available on cake overflow shelf
We took our seats and I ordered a hot chocolate and carrot and orange cake. It was now time for Andrew to do his bit with his guest hot drink order. However for hot drink lovers we hit our first issue of the day as this was clearly a tea drinking area (as there was a fine selection of teas) rather than a coffee area as they only did filter coffee, milky coffee (which isn't really coffee at all) and a mocha (coffee, hot chocolate mash up). I suppose the clue was that it was a tea shop and not a coffee shop but Andrew found himself forced down the filter coffee route to go with his Bakewell tart.

Andrew also ordered an omelette. He asked the friendly and patient waitress what fillings he could have. She proudly told him they had virtually any filling you can think of so just name what you want. To me this seemed like the omelette fillings gauntlet (OFG) had been thrown down and I was excited to see what exotic combination Andrew would come up with. You could see the cogs whirling in his head as he weighed up the multitude of opportunities before eventually coming up with cheese. Obviously disappointed with his rather conservative choice she returned to the kitchen to put in our order.

While we waited I told Andrew that this was where my campaign to keep cake off serviettes had started as it had been the first time when I was presented with the cake on napkin, thus rendering it useless for crumb wiping purposes. I was interested to see if this was still an issue here.

Our drinks arrived first so we set about trying them. I found my hot chocolate not as good as the last visit but I was really here for the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ). Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) tried it and said it was a decent cup of coffee but not strong or flavoursome enough for top marks in his opinion.
Drinks and cakes
Next the cake arrived and to my horror served on the napkins. To get to my serviette I first had to work my way through the entire cake with the cake fork provided so, as I feared, by the time I reached the serviette it was no longer functional (remember #keepcakeoffserviettes). In terms of cake taste quality (CTQ) then Andrew thought his Bakewell tart was extremely good and I very much liked my Orange Carrot cake so I awarded a high CTQ mark.

Knowing that using the serviette would be an issue I ate my cake very carefully to avoid excessive mouth crumbage and the need to bring the napkin into play so I managed to get away without the need of a wipe, however this would be a real issue to less experienced cake eaters.
Serviette became unserviceable after cake was served on it
(Post update. On my next visit to Wortham Tea shop in September 2016 I was relieved to receive my cake and serviette apart so kindly ignore the previous information.)
Cake not served on Serviette in September 2016. Hooray!
Although not part of the reviewing process Andrew wanted it known that his cheese omelette was exceptionally good and the best cafe cycle omelette based lunch he could remember, so as promised I have made it known, note my quiche and salad was excellent too

Overall Wortham stores and tearoom had scored really well on AAA and cake based ratings but it's drinks were not quite up to top ten standard so it just drops out of my current top 10 cafe list. I would still highly recommend a visit especially if you want lunch as well.

On the way back, despite the lack of mountains, we started preparing for our trip to the Slovenian Alps next week. As my new cycle top had performed exceptionally well with nothing getting lost, it has won a last minute place on the plane. When we arrived home Andrew told me to text him with a list of anything he might have forgotten to pack. Which I will and I'm expecting it could be a long one starting with bike. 

Scores for Wortham Store and Tea Shop based on three visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Click on link to download 65 mile Norwich Wortham Diss Loop GPX file for your GPS

Friday 29 May 2015

Looking for more Art (Deepdale cafe at Burnham Deepdale, Art Cafe at Glandford)

Deepdale Café,
Burnham Deepdale,
Open Everyday,

Art Cafe,
Open Everyday 10-4, 
Highly Recommended

After last years success of combing cycling and art (see Looking for art) then last Sunday I tried to repeat the experience by looking for more art as part of this years Norfolk and Norwich open (OPENN) studios programme. This time the studios would be in North Norfolk area.

When I tried looking for art last time I had made the mistake of going to the studios blind (not literally) without any criteria as to judge the art by. This meant I was unable to know what the good pieces were. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice and had come up with a 3 point definition of what makes good art which I could apply when viewing

They were:
1. Could I have done it? If yes it is not good art.
2. Would I want it in my house? If yes it is good art.
3. Does the name of the painting or description bare any relevance to the art on show? if yes it is not good art (see point 1).

I would be using these criteria to determine which was the good art we saw today.

I was joined by Chris (Mrs Crusader) as today's cycling art guest and to make sure we squeezed in plenty of art we set off early to Norwich station to board the train to Sheringham.
Get on train to Sheringham at start of our search for more art
I had planned the studios we would visit based on combining the small descriptions of art available in the OPENN studios brochure with a suitable route and cafes stops. However despite my organised approach art was not as easy to find as you would think.

On arrival we set off to our first studio on the seafront in Sheringham and thanks to my meticulous planning the Garmin Edge cycle sat nav took us straight to the studio door. The next part didn't go so well as the door was locked with a sign that said the studio didn't open until 10 o'clock, which was 20 minutes away. This was not good as we had a lot of art to find today so there wasn't time to hang around for the opening. Instead we got back on our bikes and headed off to our next studio destination at Wells next the sea.

It was nearly a 20 mile ride along the coast and up some hills to our next planned art studio so after nearly 90 minutes of enjoyable riding we were hungry for some good paintings. Once again we went straight to the studio only to find it was closed today due to ill health. This was not only unfortunate for the poorly artist but we were already a third of the way through our ride and hadn't seen any art yet either.
Our second planned visit which was closed due to ill health
Wells next the sea was also the destination for our next studio but as luck would have it on the way there we stumbled across another open studio which was not on my target list. I would not normally so readily divert from my original plan but as we had already missed out on 2 studios, we decided to pop in. Although the art here, which were etchings, passed 2 of my 3 tests it was not really to our tastes so we quickly moved on and reverted to plan A which was to see John Ritche's paintings in what seemed to be an old fishing shed at the end of wells harbour.
Outside studio amongst fishing sheds in Wells next the sea
His works were much more to our tastes as they were sort of abstract landscapes and although the paintings were simply named I felt we had definitely found some good art. We thanked John and set off again.

It was another hours ride to the Deepdale cafe at Burnham Deepdale and just as we arrived it started to rain so I hurriedly locked our bikes and we went inside.
Outside the Deepdale cafe in Burnham Deepdale
It was very busy and we were lucky to find one of the few remaining tables in the corner. On the way there we went past the cake display so I quickly checked it out so I could award the effective cake selection (ECS) rating. It wasn't a big selection but had some good offerings so I awarded an appropriate score.
Cake selection

There was a small outdoor seating area in the courtyard but it was a bit wet for anyone to sit there today, inside there were plenty of tables with an American diner sort of feel. Despite the busyness the waitress service was very efficient so I ordered a hot chocolate, cheese scone (as part of my cheese scone serving temperature research) and franzipan tart. Chris went for a mocha and fried breakfast. As a fried breakfast is clearly not cake (or even lunch) she took no further part in cake related reviewing at this stop.
Drinks and food for reviewing (but not the fried breakfast)
The cheese scone had not been warmed but it was very tasting if a touch dry. It had an usual herb in it and although I couldn't decide which one it still added to the flavour. My franzipan tart was very nice so a good cake taste quality (CTQ) score.  

We both thought our drinks were of a good standard but not strong enough for top marks.

The Deepdale cafe is one of the busier cafes I have visited so was well organised and of a good standard which attracts lots of holidaymakers and daytrippers. It is a useful addition to my reviewed cafe's list.

Before we left we went to check out the art advertised in the OPENN brochure at one of the pop up shops in the retail area. After walking around for a few minutes we couldn't find it so I checked the OPENN studios brochure again only to find I had made another error as this art would only be here the following week. It was clear finding good art, even when you have 100's of open studios to choose from and 'good art' criteria, isn't as easy as it looks. So far I had only a 25% success rate.

Fortunately it had stopped raining so we set off for our next planned stop. On the way we passed an open art sign to a glass gallery so, despite the lack of success when we last went off piste, we decided to take a quick detour to Salt glass studios.
Detour sign to Salt Glass studios
On this occasion it turned out to be a good call as this was my favourite studio to date. I liked the glass objects on display (and they passed all 3 of my good art tests), the furnace meant it was warm on a cold drizzly day and the artist had the cricket on the radio. I like a bit of cricket so I enquired as to the score. Mr Glass said he had no idea as he was only listening to it as the radio could only get radio 4 long wave. How different the life of a carefree artist to an obsessive cafe cycle reviewer I thought.

We set off again to Houghton St Giles where we found art in a studio in the back garden of Tracey Ross. Here there were some very good landscapes and they passed all my art tests. However the painting Chris really liked, and would have wanted to buy, had just been sold so once again the gods of art were not looking favourably on us.

Next stop was Binham for some photographed art. They were very good pictures and better than I could take on my phone but somehow I never think of photos as proper art. I'm old school on this front and want my art painted or sculpted so we quickly moved on.
Photographed 'art' in Binham
Just round the corner we made another unscheduled stop at a gallery were Rosemary and Lionel were showing. This meant my target studio count was now back on plan so I was happy. We particularly liked one of Lionel's landscapes of Wells beach but with time pressing we only had time for a quick look round as we had to get to our next stop, The Art cafe, before it shut at 4.00 pm.

With some speedy pedalling we just made it to the Art cafe at 3.55. Fortunately it was not the sort of cafe that says it is open until 4.00 and then won't serve anyone past 3:30 so we went inside to order. On my previous visit the Art cafe became my number one rated cafe.
Just got to Art cafe 5 mins before it shut
The disadvantage of getting to a cafe late is that the cake selection is not as large as at the start of the day. However despite the cakes not being fully stocked and everything being a bit rushed we still rated the ECS and Atmosphere and Ambiance in line with it's previous number one billing.
Cake selection at late in day at Art cafe
The cakes (Chocolate cake and Lemon cake) were excellent and also got a good CTQ score. Sadly on the drinks front the previous high standard had not been maintained as both my hot chocolate and Chris's mocha were not as good and strong drinks as last time I visited with Andrew, and he is notoriously hard to please. Still good drinks but with the scores averaged out the Art cafe dropped down to no.2 on my list with Earsham street cafe returning to the No 1 spot (see tough at the top)
Cakes and drinks at the art cafe
While we were there I realised I had lost the key to my rubic's padlock when I discovered there was a large hole in my cycling top. There was much emptying of pockets, throwing things and huffing and puffing before I eventually admitted defeat and conceded the key was 'proper lost'. Fortunately this happened while the bikes were unlocked or we would still be there now searching for the key. On my return home I punished my cycle top by putting it into the clothes bank so it couldn't lose anything else of mine.

With the joint bombshells of the Art cafe losing its top spot and me losing my key we forgot to look at the art in their gallery, which was the main reason we had come in the first place. 

That was the end of the scheduled art and we set off for our final hour's cycling back to Sheringham to catch the train home. Although we had been to some nice Studios Chris had not seen anything she would like to purchase where as on last years hunt she had brought some pieces. This was therefore a much more cost effective art trip and has clearly allowed more money to be diverted to my cycling fund which is handy as I'm in need of a new cycling top. I was also satisfied all my art targets for the day had been met, although apparently that's not the point.

Scores for Deepdale cafe

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Score for Art cafe based on two visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating


Click here to down load 65 mile Sheringham Burnham Deepdale GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive 13. (36 miles Pulham Market via Goodies food hall cafe)

Sportive 13,
Goodies Food Hall Cafe,
Pulham Market,
Open Mon-Sat 9.00-4.00, Sun 9.00-3.30

Saturday saw the 13th Norfolk Cafe Cycle Tour Sportive head south to Goodies food hall cafe near Pulham Market. Sadly there were a number of late call offs due to illness, haircuts and building work but six riders still made it to race HQ for the start of the ride.
Sportive riders lining up at Rcae HQ
It turned out to be the best organised peleton ever as all six riders kept together in a neat formation throughout the ride enabling proper drafting and therefore a good speed to be maintained throughout. Pats on back all round.

There was much chatter in the group especially as I told them that tomorrow (Sunday) I would once again being riding to a selection of the Norfolk and Norwich open studios where artists display their art. I explain I was yet to develop a suitable system for judging art by when Gwyn (spiritual cyclist) suggested that art was an abstract and subjective experience that was meant to generate emotions and not scores. I told her that I understood what each word she was saying to me meant individually but strung together in the way she had made no sense at all. Surely everything needs to be able to be entered on to a spreadsheet, even art, or what's the point.

We continued to discuss art all the way to Goodies and I promised I would let her know my top 10 bits of art from tomorrow but apparently art doesn't work like that..

On arrival we parked the bikes in the outside seating field which has attractive views of the countryside, including the A140 in the distance, and went inside to the cafe through the food hall.
Outside Goodies food hall Cafe
Inside was very busy and we had to wait sometime in the queue to be served while old people purchased lots of pots of tea. This did have the bonus of allowing plenty of time to check out the cake selection and award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was certainly a good display of cakes with most things covered, with the only exception of a big chocolate cake, so I was able to awarded a higher ECS than on my previous visit. (see.If it ain't broke don't fix it)
Good selection of cakes so a good ECS
Our group also managed to review the whole drinks gambit with hot chocolate, tea, cappuccino, mocha and latte all covered so it was going to be interesting to see what the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) rating would be.

We sat at a table and started to discuss cake and drink quality. There was some initial disappointment that the cheese scones and sausage rolls had not been warmed (although as sausage rolls are not cake this was irrelevant). I felt if the rule of 'cheese scone hot, fruit scone not', had been followed then my cheese scone would have had top marks as I felt it was a good one. The cakes (carrot and blackcurrant Victoria) were both nice but we felt had been over iced and a bit less would have been better.
Drinks, cakes and scones ready for reviewing
The drinks got a mixed reception ranging from good to disappointing, the overriding feeling was they needed to be a bit stronger but overall still achieved a mid range score.

I added up the totals to see that Goodies food hall cafe had come out with a similar score to my previous visit which once again demonstrated the consistency of my ratings system. Goodies is a nice destination especially if you want to buy some food type gifts and as an added bonus you can already place your order for this years Christmas tree which is a real plus for those people who like to get their Christmas planning under way early.
Get your Christmas tree early this year
The peleton were also well behaved on the way home and kept up a high speed. When we got back I excitingly checked my records and announced that this was the highest average speed maintained on any sportive. Everyone cheered loudly (at least in my mind) but Gwyn (spiritual cyclist) suggested that cycling was more about the experience of the journey and not the statistics at the destination but again I couldn't understand what she meant and hurried off to update my sportive data information spreadsheet to feed into this months cycling report.

Scores for Goodies Food Hall Cafe based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click link 36 mile Norwich - Pulham Market loop to download GPX file for your GPS