Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Data collection. (Harley's, Norwich)

Harleys,
Norwich,
Opening times Mon- Sat 09:00-17:00,

Sun 10:00-16:00
To make sure I had the best possible statistics for my 2015 end of year report I wanted to squeeze in one last ride this year. Fortunately Big George was in need of a cycle as well so agreed to be my cycling guest. 

Normally we aim to start our rides at 9.00am, then as I wait for his arrival, at about 9.10am Big George will text me to explain why he will be late before turning up at 9.30am ready to start. This morning I got everything in place as usual to set off at 9:00am and waited for his text. However today there was no text and he just turned up at 9:30am thus cutting out the unnecessary texting step. Despite it being the same for over two years he had apparently remembered the start time wrong. I recorded it as a late start in my 2015 cafe cycle statistics spreadsheet and added 'forgot start time' to the cycling guests excuses list.

We were going on a 35 mile loop to Acle and back hoping to find a cafe open there. On the way we compared our Christmases. It turned out we were in exactly the same trouble. Since Christmas Mrs Big George and Mrs Crusader had both sat on their sofas and scoffed all their Christmas chocolate gifts in a couple of binge sittings. After which they had both felt bad about themselves so blamed me and Big George for buying, or allowing people to buy them, something they liked as a present. Apparently it is also our fault that they need to eat so much chocolate all in one go as we have been told it isn't physically possible to spread consumption out over the whole festive period. I know this I foolishly suggested it. Mrs Crusader has now implemented total chocolate lock down at Crusader towers, not just for her, but no one is allowed to bring the stuff into house as if they did she would be forced to eat it against her will.

Apart from this Christmas seemed to have gone well, as was our ride and we soon arrived in Acle. Unfortunately of the two cafes I had lined up one was shut over Christmas and we couldn't find the other one. I updated my 2015 cafe cycle statistics spreadsheet to add one to the shut and one to the missing in action cafe count.

As I was aware of the risk of closed cafes at this time of year I had a plan C which was to continue back to Norwich and go to Harleys, a cafe near the river on the outskirts of Norwich.

Harleys brands itself as the cafe by the river, which is sort of true although there is a busy road separating you from the nearest river bank. However in between the cars going by and assuming no one has parked in front of you, you do get some nice views from the small continental pavement style outdoor seating area. As one of the tables was in use and the others blocked by a parked car we opted for a window seat inside instead.
Harleys taken from the river bank side of the road
Harleys seemed to specialise more in sandwiches and ice cream so there was only a carrot cake and a few mince pies in their cake selection meaning I could only award a low effective cake selection (ECS) rating. 
Cake selection only featuring carrot cake and mince pies
I was glad Big George opted for a latte as it helped boost the poor 2015 guest hot drink (GHD) latte count which continues to languish at the bottom of the GHD popularity table.

Our drinks and my cake arrived. I'm sure you can guess from the photo how disappointed I was to see the cake served on it's serviette further impacting the cake serviette serving coefficient target for the year. Remember #Keepcakeoffserviettes.
Cake, sadly served on its Napkin, and our drinks
My hot chocolate was nice enough and the carrot cake was perfectly fine but neither were absolutely top draw so I was very surprised when Big George declared his latte coffee to be very good indeed and awarded a high GHDQ mark. Further research of other reviews of Harleys concurs with Big George that the coffee here is very good.

Stepping in at the last minute Harleys had done well and looks like a good stop for coffee lovers. It also had the advantage of being close to the end of the ride so we didn't have far to go to get home.

I now have all the 2015 cafe cycle data collected so I can spend the next few days analysing it with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, correction plain biscuit.

Scores for Harleys
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
8.00
3.00
5.50
6.00
5.70
Route

Click her to download 35 mile Norwich Acle loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

New Boy. (CoCoes Cafe Deli, Swafham)

CoCoes Café Deli,
Swafham,
Opening times Mon 09:00-15:00, Tue-Thur 09:00-17:00,
Fri 09:00-18:00, Sat 08:00-18:00
Recommended 
Today I was pleased when a friend of mine, Jim, texted me to suggest we went out on a cycle ride. He had recently got a brand new road bike and wanted to try it out for the first time. I liked the sound of this as there is nothing I enjoy more than patronising a newbie cyclists and I was also keen to get out and work off some of those excess Christmas pounds.

I suggested we started from his house near Dereham and loaded my bike in the back of the car for the drive out. When I arrived New Boy Jim was already waiting for me proudly standing by his shiny new steed. I asked him about his bike spec but all he could tell me was he chose it as he liked the colour, grey and red. It was clear I had much work to do here and was further disappointed to find that New Boy Jim had not been following a number of the useful cycling guest cycling top tips (see top tips) which regularly appear in these posts. He had not put on winter tyres or a winter mud guard and the term hi viz gilet meant nothing to him.

Despite this we set off on the ride I had prepared out to Swafham. It wasn't long before I spotted that New Boy Jim's saddle was far too low, a particular pet hate of mine, and I insisted on raising it to a more appropriate height. As we set of again he next committed another new cyclists error of pedalling in too hard a gear at a slow pedal rate which I also suggested he corrected to make sure he didn't burn his legs out in the first few miles. 

Progress continued to be slow so I was left with no choice but to remove the stabilisers on the back wheel. New Boy Jim did not seem happy about this but I assured him he was unlikely to fall off and (as recommended by team doctor Dr Hans) I now always carry a plaster and some gauze in case of a grazed knee, although I made it quite clear I wouldn't be kissing anything better.

With stabilisers removed and saddle adjusted confidence started to grow and speed increased. It therefore wasn't long before we made it to CoCoes Cafe Deli in Swafham.
Outside Co Coes cafe in Swafham
CoCoes Cafe Deli is down a little alley attached to the side of Strattons Hotel. There is an outside courtyard seating area, which we were tempted by as the weather was so mild but opted for a table in the more cosy indoor seating area instead.
Outside courtyard seating area
There may not have been many cakes in the selection but they were all very interesting and unusual so attracted a respectable effective cake selection (ECS) rating. I opted for blueberry and almond cake and New Boy Jim cranberry and mincemeat slice.
Very effective cake selection
Our drinks and cakes soon arrived and I thought my hot chocolate was very good with a nice bitter dark chocolate taste. I also found my blueberry and almond cake to be quite excellent and awarded high cake taste quality (CTQ) marks.
Cakes and drinks
My cycling guests only have 3 things to do on a ride.
1. Follow me throughout the ride, even if we seem to be going through a ploughed field, as I'm in charge of navigation.
2. Take a photo of me outside the cafe, preferably without including their finger in the shot.
3. Help rate the cafe stop, especially the Guest Hot Drink Quality (GHDQ) score.

Up to this point New Boy Jim had performed well in the first two tasks so I explained to him the intricacies of cafe reviewing. As usual with newbies his scoring was all over the place with ratings justifications bearing no resemblance to the proposed scores and the new reviewer ratings coefficient had to be applied to all his marks (i.e. I ignored them). He was, however, particularly impressed to get 3 cups of tea out of the generous teapot for one.

CoCoes cafe Deli had turned out to be an excellent first cafe stop for New Boy Jim to try out cafe cycle reviewing and sets a high bar for future rides he may come on. With good quality food and drink I have included it in my recommended category and suggest a visit.

On the way back New Boy Jim's confidence grew further and he was keen to add his own cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 39. To improve your descending skills on steep hills shout Weeeeeeee all the way down.

He clearly still has much to learn.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.75
7.00
6.00
8.00
7.00
7.15
Route
Click here to download 36 mile Dereham Swafham loop gpx file for your gps

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Lets go fly a kite. (Cafe Jungle, Costessey)

Café Jungle,
Costessey,
Opening times Mon-Sun 10:00-17:00,
Recommended 
Despite it being rather windy I felt it was important to try and get one last cafe cycle ride in before Christmas, my 85th of the year. Using the gift of fibbing I managed to persuade Chris (Mrs Crusader) that it wasn't too windy to go cycling and she therefore reluctantly agreed to be today's cycling guest.

My planned route was a 30 mile loop with our cafe stop, the Jungle cafe at Costessey, coming towards the end. As we set off from race HQ it soon became clear just how strong the wind was and there was much yelping and screaming coming from behind as the cross winds tried to push Chris off her bike. My suggestion that this was a good way of improving both fitness and her bike handling skills didn't seem to help. I ignored all comments suggesting I had said it wasn't going to be windy today claiming I couldn't hear what she was saying due to the strong wind.
Picture of the wind which is unfortunately invisible
Fortunately we had the wind predominately helping us on the second half of the ride so progress sped up and we soon reached the Urban Jungle Garden centre where we found the Jungle Cafe in amongst the palm trees.
Outside Cafe Jungle
After parking our bikes we went in side to find an exciting environment of tropical plants with seating areas in between. This was the first Jungle based cafe I had been too and, despite the lack of celebrities trying to get out of there, I awarded a high atmosphere and ambiance score.

However I was then presented with a cafe cycle ride reviewing dilemma as there were virtual no cakes on display for me to judge the effective cake selection (ECS). I enquired about the surprising lack of cake, it transpired that this was the last day Cafe Jungle was open until 1st February as they were about to extend their kitchen meaning they were basically out of their normal range of cake. They only had some brownies and individual bakewell tarts left. I decided that it would be unfair to rate the ECS in these unusual circumstances so gave an average ECS score and will update properly on a return visit.

In terms of coffee there was a selection of beans that you could chose from which would be freshly ground for you. This is good for coffee lovers but as a consequence they didn't do fancy coffees like mochas and cappuccinos etc just proper tasting stuff. Chris, who normally mochas, went for a Nicaraguan bean.

We took a seat in the tropical sofa seating area where our drinks and cakes were delivered to the table. 
Tropical sofa area
As a nice surprise we were given a bonus piece of bakewell tart to go with our brownies as it would have otherwise gone to waste and they could clearly spot a cake lover when they saw one. The hot chocolate was nice and hot and Chris also enjoyed her coffee but would go for a stronger bean next time.
Cakes and drinks
We both liked the Jungle cafe but because of the forth coming refurbishments I didn't think we had done it justice so I will definitely be back in the spring for the full treatment and recommend a visit.

It seemed strange to leave the tropical environment and return to a grey and blustery landscape especially as the wind seemed to have picked up, which was a shame as we had to ride directly into it for the last few miles. For some reason my suggestion that we could go and fly my kite in the park when we got back didn't go down as well as I had hoped.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
7.00
5.00
6.50
8.00
6.50
Route

Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Weston Longville loop gpx file for your gps

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Worrying trend. (Little Red Roaster, Norwich)

Little Red Roaster,
Norwich,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:00-17:00,
Highly Recommended 
As it was such a mild day I thought it would be a good chance to squeeze in a quick cafe cycle ride before proper winter turns up. I was able to persuade Chris (Mrs Crusader) to join me as today's cycling guest on the condition that I promised not to go too far. I therefore planned a short 20ish mile loop ending up at one of the many unvisited Norwich coffee shops currently on my cafe and tearoom to do list.

Unlike me she had not checked the weather forecast and had over layered setting off in cycle kit more appropriate for an Arctic expedition. This obviously led to much de zipping and layer removal as the ride progressed. Apparently the warm weather was my fault and I was handed a pile of her clothes to carry for the rest of the ride.

Despite these delays, in what seemed like no time, we completed our loop and were heading for the Little Red Roaster coffee shop. There are actually two Little Red Roaster coffee shops in Norwich but we were going to their first one in Grove Road.
Outside the Little Red Roaster by the continental style outdoor seating area
It certainly lived up to it's 'little' name as it has a bigger continental style outdoor seating area than the space available inside. Here there is a long table and a breakfast bar facility available where you can sit and watch the world go by. Which we did.
Breakfast bar facility
Once inside it was time to check out the cakes and award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was not the biggest selection with only a couple of cakes, brownies and flapjacks qualifying but they all looked very tempting so I could still award a decent ECS rating.
Cake selection
I went for toffee and banana and Chris choose raspberry and white chocolate to go with our hot chocolate and Mocha. These were all soon delivered to us in the breakfast bar area.
Cakes and drinks in breakfast bar area
The Hot chocolate was excellent and a proper chocolate tasting drink. I awarded a very high hot chocolate quality (HCQ) score. Chris thought her Mocha also tasting extremely nice but she likes her drinks to be nuclear thermally warm and this one was only hot so she docked half a mark off her guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) score for lack of temperature.

I moved on to the cake but to my horror, for the second cafe running, the cake had been served on top of the serviette rending it useless. 
Cake served on serviette. #keepcakeoffserviettes
Chris didn't know what the fuss was about and suggested I take the cake off the serviette before eating it. I explained this would not help as in the process of removing the cake my fingers would get crumby and as the napkin was now covered in cake I would have no way of wiping them clean (unless I did it on my trousers which she is always telling me off for so also a non starter). I just had to work through the cake to retrieve the serviette. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes.
Ruined Serviette
Despite the serviette issue the cakes were really good and I awarded a high cake taste quality (CTQ) rating.

All in all the little red rooster proved to be an excellent stop scoring well in all categories and earning a highly recommended status. Defiantly worth a visit.

I returned home and vowed to up my game on my keep cake off serviettes campaign as standards seem to have slipped. I checked my cafe cycle ride data spreadsheet to find that up until last week then this year, of the cafes providing serviettes, only 7 from 92 visited had placed the cake on the serviette but with two new examples of this practice in last two visits the number is now 9 out of 94 which is a shocking 10%. My work here is clearly not done.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.50
7.50
6.0
7.50
7.25
7.35
Route

click here to download 21 mile Norwich Barford loop gpx file for your GPS

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Egg Sandwich ? (Number 14, Wroxham)

Number 14,
Wroxham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-16:00,
Sun 10:00-16:00,
Recommended 
After all the recent excitement searching for the cheese scone of the year 2015 (see Cheese Scone Year winner announced) it was good to get back to some of my other cycle cafe projects.

Top of the list at the moment is to make progress on my cafe sticker album. This involves going to cafes named after their road number until I have got 1-100 in my collection. So far I have done 5,7,24,28 and 51 meaning I still have much work, and cycling, to do in order to visit the missing ninety-five.

To get things moving again then yesterday I was joined by cycling guest Big George for a ride out to Number 14 at Wroxham. 

On the ride out Big George was only interested in knowing if I had done my research on Number 14 to see if they had a fried egg sandwich on their menu. As Big George has probably accompanied me as a guest on over 50 cafe cycle rides I would had thought by now he may have noticed that I was only interested in cake and that as an egg sandwich is not cake I neither knew or cared if it was on the Number 14 menu.

The rest of the way was a pleasant ride through the woods north of Norwich until we arrived in Wroxham and found Number 14 on the main high street.
Outside Number 14 in Wroxham
There is a small outdoor seating area to one side and a few tables inside, where we managed to grab the last one available as even on a cold December day Number 14 seemed popular. I was particularly impressed by the chandelier that was an unexpected feature in cafe this size.
Unexpected chandelier
I checked out the cakes in order to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. There were 2 nice big sponges and some interesting slices plus scones so I awarded a reasonable ECS. I went for a slice of the large Victoria sponge.
My finger plus cakes and scones with slices available in chiller cabinet below
Meanwhile Big George was checking out the breakfast menu and ordered a bacon sandwich. I asked him why he had not gone for a fried egg sandwich after all the whinging. I pointed out that fried eggs were available as were sandwiches and I was sure the two could have been combined to fulfil his needs but apparently he didn't like to make a fuss. Well he had made enough fuss on the way out here so I felt so I felt he could have at least tried. 

Our drinks and my cake soon arrived. Big George thought his coffee was very good and gave a high guest hot drink quality (HHDQ) mark. My hot chocolate really needed to be a bit stronger as it was rather milky although still a reasonable drink.
Cakes and drinks plus not an egg Sandwich
The cake was very nice and grew on me the more I had. However it was served partially on the serviette rending it useless remember #keepcakeoffserviettes.
State of serviette after removing cake from it
We both really liked Number 14 and recommend it as a good venue if you are stopping off in Broadland.

We set off for the remaining 13 miles to get home but after the previous two days of riding in search of scones I was really feeling it which led to today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no. 38. If your cycling partner is tired make sure go just fast enough so they can't keep up and take advantage of your slip stream. Tough love but it will encourage them to train harder in future.

When I eventually got home I was completely spent but I will be implementing cycling guest cycling top tip no. 35 when I have recovered and am next out on a ride with Big George. To cheer myself up I got out my cafe sticker album and was able to fill in Number 14 leaving only another ninety four cafes to go to complete the set.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
7.50
6.0
7.00
6.5
6.60
Route

Click here to download 41 mile Norwich Wroxham loop GPX file for your gps

Friday, 11 December 2015

Cheese scone of the year 2015 winner announced


Cheese Scone Year winner 2015
I have spent the last two days gathering and tasting the best cheese scones from 2015 in order to crown the Cake Crusader cheese scone of the year.

The plan for the scone off was as follows
1. Revisit all the cheese scone short listed venues, by bike of course, and purchase two cheese scones to take away.
2. The scones will be collected over two rides on the 9th and 10th December. Unfortunately the scones are too far apart to do on a single trip at this time of year.
3. Back at Crusader Towers I will correctly reheat scones ready for tasting
4. Myself and fellow judges will then blind taste the scones and rank them purely on our tasting experience
5. Winning scone will be announced and awarded a coveted Cake Crusaders winners certificate in time for Christmas.

I started day 1 by catching the train to Beccles. I was one of several cyclists on the train and wondered if any of the others were doing their search for cheese scone of the year today as well. 
Bike loaded on train to Beccles ready to start scone collection
The first destination of the day was Market Row cafe where the scones were fresh out of the oven and the only triangle shaped ones, non round scones shouldn't work but somehow they do. I was pleased to have the gathering phase of my search under way.
Market Row Scone in the bag
Next it was on to Jesters of Bungay in Bungay and then Earsham Hall tearoom. It couldn't have been much better weather for scone gathering as the sky was clear and sun was out.
Perfect weather for collecting scones
The first three venues were within the first 7 miles of the planned 66 mile ride so it was a bit of a shock when I had to cycle another 20 miles, into the wind, to get to my next contender of Coco Mamas at Eye, which is also a chocolatier so I bought some chocolate as well.
Coco Mamas scones and chocolate
Next it was on to the Pennoyer centre at Pulham St Mary where I was presented with the biggest scones of the day which I somehow managed to get into my scone bike bag without any getting squashed. 
Large scones in large bag from the Pennoyer centre
The wind was now more in my favour as I headed North to the Garden Tea rooms at Wymondham and then on to the final stop of Pandoras in Norwich. After announcing the time table Mr Pandora had dropped a sconeshell by letting me know they normally shut at 3:30 in the winter. This meant I had to really put the hammer down to get there in time and although I was a couple of mins late they had my scones ready for 'the Cheese Scone Man' as I was referred to by the staff.
Final scones loaded on bike outside Pandoras
With all scones in place it was time for day 1 scone off. Thanks to organisations like FIFA and the IAAF it appears people don't seem to be prepared to give bribes any more so sadly none were offered through out the day meaning the taste off would have to be done fairly.
Day 1 scones lining up for semi final scone off
I was joined by judges Chris (Mrs Crusader), Jill (renowned self acclaimed cheese scone expert, apparently) and George (son). I correctly warmed all the scones and let the blind tasting begin. As you can imagine all the scones were excellent and it took a lot of tasting, comparing and retasting before we eventually got to the two to go through to tomorrows final. These were the ones from Market Row and Coco Mamas my only two Suffolk scones.

With day 1 finalists decided it was on to find who the day 2 (North Norfolk) challengers would be.

For Day 2 I was joined by North Norfolk cafe expert Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please). The weather had turned and the forecast was poor with heavy rain predicted. I brought plenty of plastic bags to protect the scones from sogginess. Andrew had previously asked me what would happen if it rains on collection day. I explained that we would get wet.

Our first stop was Heydon Tearooms,

quickly followed by Reepham station and two scones bagged up within the first few miles and no rain, yet.

Next came the long 20 mile ride into the wind all the way at to Great Walsingham cafe, unfortunately it also started to drizzle. As well as purchasing the scones we stopped for some lunch by the warm log burner. It was very relaxing and I therefore forgot to photograph the scone.

Our final stop was Byfords at Holt and my collection work was done.

By now the skys had turned grey and it was raining hard. As I had correctly predicted this meant we were wet but fortunately the scones were dry.
Damp and dark ride back to Hard to Please House in Alysham
Back at Hard to Please House Andrew popped our 4 scones into his Aga (appropriate warming technique for North Norfolk scones) so we could decide who would be going through to the grand final. I only wanted one more in the final but we couldn't decide between Heydon and Byfords so like an episode of Masterchef we put them both through.
Day 2 semi final scones about to be warmed
After 115 miles of cycling and two semi final scone offs complete I was confident at the prospect of a cracking final later with it being too close to call. I had a team of 4 top cheese scone judges lined up and we would be tasting blind so it should be a fair result.

So with scones safely packed it was now back to Crusader Towers (this time in the car, I'm not mad) to prepare for the final.

All 4 finalist were correctly warmed by me before giving a section of each scone to myself and each judge for ranking. It was a very hard decision with much retasting and discussion until eventually it was decided that the Market Row scone just edged out the Coca Mama scone to be declared the winner.
Cheese scone of the year finalists
The judges thought it had an excellent crumb and the right amount of cheese making it enjoyable to eat whilst leaving a pleasant cheesy taste in your mouth.

Funnily enough this was the first scone I purchased on day 1 so I could have just collected this one and saved myself 115 miles of cycling, but that's hindsight for you.

I have now had over 50 cheese scones this year so many congratulations to Market Row for beating off all the competition and winning the title of Cake Crusader Cheese Scone of the year 2015. Also a big thank you to the other 10 scone providers as they were all a joy to taste.

I will be emailing Market Row their Cake Crusader winners certificate (once I've made it) ready for Christmas.