Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

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Saturday, 22 August 2015

St Davids to Lowestoft cycle ride Day 6 (Bury St Edmunds to Lowestoft 58 miles, Angel cafe Diss)

In search of the best cafe across Great Britain, literally
Day 6 Bury St Edmunds to Lowestoft
Featuring 
Angel Cafe Diss
Opening Times Tue-Sun 8-4
Recommended
After 5 hard days in the saddle it was finally time for the procession into Lowestoft to complete the ride. With only 58 miles to do today it should have been straight forward but nothing is ever simple and since I organised the ride the football fixture computer had come out with a home match for Norwich city which I also planned to attend. Therefore in order to get to the match I would need to be in Lowestoft by 1.00 which would make today another challenging ride.

Fortunately my cycling guests were very understanding and more than happy to get up early so we could leave at 7.00 am, I think. I did warn them that if we started to slip behind schedule we would need to put the hammer down (cycle speak for go faster) which they also appeared to understand.
Cycling guests looking very happy about 7.00am start fro second day running
Unlike yesterday I hadn't been able to provide porridge and bananas for breakfast so was worried how they would respond on just energy bars and gels in their stomachs but I needn't have.

I took the lead and kept up a decent pace as we sped through the deserted roads of Norfolk and Suffolk. After about 20 miles cycling guest Dom wanted to confirm that I had put the hammer down early as he was starting to feel the pace. I asked him if he had ever read the fairy tail about the elves and the shoe maker when the elves came out at night to make shoes using their little shoe making tools. Well I explained that the elves tiny shoe hammer was about as much hammer as had been using so far. Once again my morale boosting skills seemed to do the trick and we arrived at the scheduled cafe, which was the Angel just outside Diss, right on time.
Angel Cafe, Diss
There was a choice of indoor or outside seating but as it was such a lovely morning we choose to sit outside. Despite it still being early it was important to have cake to give the Angel a crack at the best cafe across Great Britain title. I was impressed at what was available cake wise this early in the day so awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating. I went for fridge cake.
Some of the available cakes
My cycling guests were now openly revolting and refusing to eat any more cake whereas this was my 13th piece this week. They insisted on fried breakfast again and a pot of tea
My cake and drink plus guest tea but no sign fry up yet
My hot chocolate was nice and my fridge cake was excellent so good scores all round but not enough for the Angel Cafe to take the title. The only downside was this was the first cafe this week that had served my cake on the serviette, #keepcakeofserviettes.

Last week I had a comment on my blog from someone who was not impressed with one of my top ten cafe recommendations as they had had to wait 20 mins for their coffee and scone to arrive. They recommended I try the Angel at Diss, which I was currently doing. It was therefore somewhat ironic that as we were on the wrong end of some big breakfast orders we had a longer wait than they did for our breakfasts to appear. Not normally a problem on such a nice day but on this day it was starting to threaten my deadline. The friendly owner and staff were very apologetic and gave us a complimentary pot of tea to make up for our wait. A lovely gesture, which my cycling guests thought was great but for me it only delayed us further. All in all a good cafe stop and the Angel is worth a visit for cake or breakfast.

We set off again knowing that we couldn't drop the pace but the wind was picking up and so it was tough to keep it up however everyone dug deep and when I once again applied the shoemaking elves tiny hammer they responded well and we made it to our far East end point right on schedule.
As far East as you can go.
We had covered 470 miles and visited 13 cafes in my search to find the best cafe anywhere across Great Britain, literally. I was impressed with the way my cycling guests had kept going and their performance on the bikes to make it to the end. I was less impressed with their cafe rating performance where they had been disappointing in their cake eating and guest hot drink rating role. Before another such trip I will need to see them up their cycle cafe rating game.

There was a clear winner and I can announce that Michaels House cafe in Cambridge was a well deserved champion cafe. I will shortly be sending them a certificate to celebrate their achievement which I'm sure they will be very excited about. (All cafe scores for the ride at end of post.)

The trip has also been excellent training for my calorie neutral cycle ride world record attempt in three weeks time so my focus is now turning to that.

Route

Café Name
Hot Choc Qual
Guest Hot Drink Qual
Effective cake selection
Cake Taste Quality
Atmosphere and Ambiance
Café Score
MichaelHouse, Cambridge
8.5
7*
7
8.5
9
8
Frescoes, Bedford
6
9
7
8.75
7.5
7.65
Jacks, Cirencester
7.5
7.5
7.5
7
8
7.5

Grazing Ground, Caerphilly
7
7.5
7.5
7.5
7.5
7.4
No. 28, Nailsworth
6.5
7
7
7
8
7.1
The Angel, Diss
6
7*
6
8
7.5
6.9
Flanagan’s coastline café, Llanelli
5
7*
6.5
7.5
7.5
6.7
Park Slip Visitors centre café, Bridgend
7
6.5
5
8
6
6.5
Gingers Café, Haverford west
7.5
6
3
8
7
6.3
Café Crumbs, Carmarthen
6
6.5
5.5
6.5
6.5
6.2
Old Studio Coffee shop, Wittney
5
7*
7.5
6.5
4
6.0
Caffi Becca
3
5
4
7.5
5
4.9
Mister Tea’s, Bletchley
6
7*
1
4
6
4.8

*Only guest hot drink was a cup of tea so maximum score of 7 as it is just a cup of tea

Friday, 21 August 2015

St Davids to Lowestoft cycle ride Day 5 (Biecester to Bury St Edmunds107 miles)

In search of the best cafe across Great Britain, literally
Day 5 Bicester to Bury St Edmunds

After yesterday's "rest day" it was the long one today where we had our only ride of over 100 miles to do. It was therefore going to be an early start but as it was my turn for the single room I had little confidence of this happening. However much to my surprise we all lined up in reception at 7:00 ready for the off. The night before I had given each team member two bananas and some instant porridge to have before we left, in order to provide our early morning fuel, which they claimed to have dutifully ate.
Breakfast
Once out on the road it took a while for the legs to warm up but we were soon into our stride and bombing along to the first planned stop at Bletchley. As we had missed our normal overly leisurely Premier Inn all you can eat breakfast I had promised my cycling guests we would stop at a cafe that does a good fried breakfast. I had done some internet research and Mister Tea's seemed to fit the bill.
Outside Mister Tea's cafe ready for breakfast
We arrived just before 9:00 and to my horror there were numerous different fry up options but no cakes. If I was going to give it a cafe cycle review then the only option for me was some slightly stale chocolate chip shortbread which isn't even really cake. I have had problems before getting cake at cafes early in the morning so recently introduced my pre breakfast cake flexibility rule which allows biscuits and pastries to count as part of a cake selection before 9:00am. It was only 8:58 so I was alright.
Hot chocolate and 'cake'
To show willing I also ordered a medium fried breakfast before Big George put me to shame using his years of fried breakfast ordering experience. He started his order by putting in a poached egg on toast foundation (totally off menu) which he then skilfully constructed the rest of his breakfast round. I have clearly too much to learn on the fried breakfast front so I will continue to focus on cake.
Beautifully constructed fried Breakfast
There was a huge difference of opinion between me and my cycling guests over the rating of this cafe. For me Mister Tea's rated poorly on my hot chocolate and cake based system but Big George and Dom felt the whole experience was fantastic. However it's my blog and scoring system so I'm afraid Mister Tea's finds itself in last place.

With a now very happy set of team members we quickly covered the 20 mile next part of today's stage to Bedford where I took them to Frescos which was a cafe much more to my tastes.
Outside Frescoes, a proper coffee shop stop
Frescoes is called Frescoes as it has a big copy of a Michelangelo fresco above the door although no explanation as to why. It was a nice feature to study while sitting in the pleasant outdoor seating area just off Bedford high street.

Inside there was a good cake selection to choose from but despite this Big George ordered a Danish pastry when he knew it had gone 9:00 and that my pre breakfast cake flexibility rule for pastries no longer applied. He also ordered a smoothie which does not qualify as a guest hot drink what with it not being hot. It was almost as if he was deliberately ordering things so he did not have to take part in any cycle cafe rating.
Very good drinks
Fortunately Dom, my back up cycling guest, was still prepared to play along for now and had a Latte and chocolate fudge cake. I had the house speciality of black forest gateaux.
Excellent cake although rather small slices
Despite the cake portion being rather on the small side the cakes were excellent and our drinks the best all week so far. Dom was particularly impressed that his latte had not been served in a vase for once.

As a result Frescos leapt to the top of the best cafe anywhere across Great Britain leader board.

The next part of the ride was 35 miles across to Cambridge through the flatlands of Cambridgeshire. I discovered the team were now very good as long as it was flat or downhill so this terrain was much to their liking and we were able to travel along quickly in our highly drilled train formation.
Cambridgeshire flatlands
As I knew there was little civilisation on this part of the route I suggested we had an unscheduled stop at Waresley Park garden centre cafe. Despite this being another potential cycle cafe review stop even I couldn't face another hot chocolate so soon after the last and had a cup of tea, so despite the cheese scone and fruit cake being rather good there were not enough other categories to review so we shall say no more about it. It will go down in cafe cycle history as the stop that never was.
The stop that never was
Refuelled once again we fly along to Cambridge. I felt that after all the early problems in the first few days we were a cycle team at last, or so I thought.

I often get recommendations of cafes and tea shops to try and one such had told me that Michaels House in Cambridge was really good so I thought this was a great chance to check it out. It is situated in an old chapel like building with tables also available outside.

Outside Michaels house cafe in Cambridge
First impressions were promising and I was pleased to see they had a good original cake selection although I went rather traditional with my choice of cheese scone and brownie. By this time both my cycling guests had lost all interest in cakes and order pizza and salad with a cup of tea. I will clearly need to pack 3 cycling guest on future tours.
Good and interesting cake selection
I did at least get them to help rate the atmosphere and ambiance score which was high due to the seating options, setting and very pleasant staff. My hot chocolate was by far the best of the week but could have been a touch hotter. My scone and brownie were excellent too. It was just a shame that my guests only went for a cup of tea as in my scoring system the most a cup of tea can score is 7 as a guest hot drink.
Excellent hot chocolate and cake
Despite this Michaels house cafe leap frogged the field to the number one spot in my cafe search and I would recommend a visit if you are ever in Cambridge.

When I eventually managed to shoehorn my cycling guest out of their chairs and back on to the bikes things took a bit of a downturn. As tiredness set and the more hilly Suffolk countryside took its effect then the team fell apart. Big gaps started to appear between the riders, our average speed dropped and our happy banter turned to silence as the last few miles became a real slog.

Even so surprisingly our longest ride turned into our earliest finish and confidence is now high of completing the last 58 miles tomorrow.

To spoil the mood I did introduce one final twist in that I have to have finished the ride by 1pm tomorrow in order to get to an urgent appointment. This will once again mean a 7am start and no breakfast. At best we will only have time for one more cafe stop and Big George has already voted for Morrisons as they do a good fried breakfast but I can assure you now that won't be happening.

Route


Café Name
Hot Choc Qual
Guest Hot Drink Qual
Effective cake selection
Cake Taste Quality
Atmosphere and Ambiance
Café Score
MichaelHouse, Cambridge
8.5
7*
7
8.5
9
8
Frescoes, Bedford
6
9
7
8.75
7.5
7.65
Jacks, Cirencester
7.5
7.5
7.5
7
8
7.5

Grazing Ground, Caerphilly
7
7.5
7.5
7.5
7.5
7.4
No. 28, Nailsworth
6.5
7
7
7
8
7.1
Flanagan’s coastline café, Llanelli
5
7*
6.5
7.5
7.5
6.7
Park Slip Visitors centre café, Bridgend
7
6.5
5
8
6
6.5
Gingers Café, Haverford west
7.5
6
3
8
7
6.3
Café Crumbs, Carmarthen
6
6.5
5.5
6.5
6.5
6.2
Old Studio Coffee shop, Wittney
5
7*
7.5
6.5
4
6.0
Caffi Becca
3
5
4
7.5
5
4.9
Mister Tea’s, Bletchley
6
7
1
4
6
4.8
*Only guest hot drink was a cup of tea so maximum score of 7 as it is just a cup of tea