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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Friday 26 June 2015

More power. (Smallsticks cafe, Happisburgh)

Smallsticks Cafe,
Open Mon to Thurs 10:00-16:00,
Fri 10:00 – 19:00,
Sat and Sun 9:00-17:00
Highly Recommended
I first visited Smallsticks cafe in June 2015 when, as you can see from the post, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) was at his most hard to please. I returned again in August 2016 with cycling guests, Chris (Mrs Crusader) and Dom (old school cyclist) who felt Andrew was completely wrong and really liked the cafe. I have therefore updated the post and ratings to reflect their views as well. For the record I thought it was great on both visits.

Back in June 2015 I followed up on a blog reader cafe recommendation to go to Alfresco tearoom in Ludham (see A series of mistakes) which was a success so I thought I should try another blog reader recommendation. This time it was from Steve who said

'Suggest you try Smallsticks Cafe, Cart Gap, nr Happisburgh,  
I haven't cycled there, but regular mid dog walk stop, courtyard to put bikes in, good cakes and breakfasts' 

All sounded very promising and I fancied a trip to the seaside so arranged to meet up with today's cycling guest, Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), at his house in Alysham where we set off towards the coast.

On the way I told Andrew about my new bicycle power meter. I was very excited about it as it would give me lots of new interesting ride facts (such as my average watts per ride, the balance of my pedalling between left and right foot, smoothness of my pedalling) so lots of new spreadsheet opportunities and post ride data crunching fun. I even explained to him the science behind power and how the meter worked. This led to today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip No 33. For the safety of your cycling guest make sure you don't bore them to sleep whilst riding as they will fall off their bike and could injure themselves.

After Andrew woke up and got back on his bike we continued to Happisburgh via the back roads through the dunes at Sea Palling, a very pleasant route. (I took a similar route on national cycle way 30 on the ride in August 2016 as well but this time it was 65 miles from Norwich).
Route 30 through the dunes
We found Smallsticks cafe down the road towards the lifeboat station at Cart Gap. I was curious why it was called Smallsticks so was pleased to see an explanation was available on the website. Apparently it is named after the field next door which is called Smallsticks field. Unfortunately Smallsticks field doesn't have a website explaining its name derivation so none the wiser really.

Andrew took the obligatory photo and complained he couldn't really see what he was taking as the screen was dirty. Foolishly I didn't check the photo but it turned out he couldn't really see what he was taking as he had his finger over the lens.
Smallsticks cafe and close up of Andrews finger
On my visit in August 2016 the priority was to get a proper photo taken which this time was a success.
Photo of smallsticks cafe minus any finger
As Steve suggested we took our bikes round to the courtyard area where there was a lovely walled outdoor seating courtyard area. Inside was a glass fronted indoor seating area but as it was a rare warm day we sat outside.
Outdoor seating courtyard area
The staff were very friendly (on both my visits) and the view across to Happisburgh lighthouse was great so I awarded a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score. 
Great view of Happisburgh lighthouse and church
Steve had said there were good cakes but unfortunately there seemed to have been a rush on them so only Victoria or chocolate sponge cake, cupcakes and flapjack on offer. I enquired about scones but the fruit ones were just out the oven and the cheese had only just gone in. There were muffins but they were wrapped in cellophane and cake reviewing rules clearly state anything in cellophane will not count towards the effective cake selection (ECS) rating so sadly I could only give a low ECS score. I suspect it could have been much higher on a different day.
Rather sparse selection of cakes
My suspicions proved correct as there was a much better selection on my next visit upping the ECS mark.
Larger cake selection on a different day
We ordered hot chocolate and cappuccino for drinks plus a slice of both the cakes. As it was lunch time we also went for a cheese ciabatta roll as well. I know a cheese ciabatta roll is not cake, so plays no part in my ratings system, but I mention it as when it arrived it was served on top of its serviette. I was worried this would not bode well for when the cakes arrive and impact my 'keep cake off serviettes' campaign.
Ciabatta served on serviette rendering it useless
I had been given a choice of dark, milk or white hot chocolate which is always a good sign. I went for dark and was very pleased with both my choice and the drink as it had an excellent chocolate taste and good temperature so scored well. On the other extreme Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) did not like his cappuccino at all. I questioned him further and he just didn't like the taste and lack of coffeeness so refused to budge from a very low guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) score. As a good reviewer I have since checked trip advisor where there is only positive comments on the quality of the Smallsticks coffee so maybe it was just an off day (for Andrew or Smallsticks or both).
Very good hot chocolate and not so good cappuccino
Again I was right about the coffee as when I returned with Chris and Dom (who can also be hard to please and are certainly no pushovers) they both thought their coffee was excellent pushing up the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) mark. My hot chocolate was even better than before.
Cakes and drinks from my second visit in August 2016
Steve prove to be spot on about the cakes as they were both top draw and got high cake taste quality (CTQ) marks and much to my relief they came with separate serviette wrapped round a cake knife. As my mother told me never to eat food off my knife I had to request a cake fork to eat the cake with, so she will be very pleased with me.
Good quality cakes
All in all Smallsticks cafe was a good recommendation, thanks Steve, and I could have spent sometime sitting in the outdoor seating courtyard area enjoying the views but it was time to return home. It was equally hard to persuade my 2016 guests to get going as we had already cycled 40 miles to get there and had another 25 to go. However I decided it was worth it and highly recommend a visit.

I also now have over a year of power meter data that I have spent many happy hours analysing although I still don't really know what it all means (graphs available on request)

Scores based on average on three visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click here to download 43 mile Alysham Happisburgh loop gpx file for your gps

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