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

Friday 16 December 2016

Royal appointment. (The Rendezvous, Hunstanton)

The Rendezvous Cafe,
With the excitement of Flapjack of the year 2016 starting to die down then it was back to traditional cafe cycle riding today. One of the areas with least coverage on my location map is North West Norfolk as it is a long way to cycle to in one go but it needed to be visited. Therefore I hatched a cunning plan where I would drive halfway before finishing the rest of the journey on bike. Today's cycling guest, Big George, is a fan of cycling somewhere new so was easily convinced to join me.

So, this morning I got up early and once Big George had arrived we set off for Fakenham where we parked the car and set off on a 50 mile round trip during which we would be reviewing a yet to be decided cafe in Hunstanton.

It was good cycling conditions for the time of year with no rain, a reasonable temperature and little wind. The only downside was the amount of mist and fog making it difficult to appreciate the lovely views that were probably there.
Dull and misty but excellent cycling conditions
On the way up we went through the Burnhams and right through the village where local hero Lord Nelson was born. We even went past the pub he had clearly been named after and probably drank at as a boy. 

Village sign showing Lord Nelson was born here
Progress continued to be good and we got into Hunstanton right on schedule. The fog and mist meant you couldn't see the sea properly which was a shame after coming all this way. Instead we headed to Hunstanton high street to find a cafe.

The first one we came across was The Rendezvous so we parked the bikes and went inside.
Outside the Rendezvous which was the first cafe we found
Normally I try and check the cake selection before going into an un-researched stop but I couldn't see properly through the window due to the Father Christmas stickers so decided to risk it. This turned out to be a mistake as there was only carrot cake, chocolate cake or fruit scone to chose from so I had to award a low effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Rather small Cake selection to chose from
As we had come to Hunstanton out of season we were the only people in the cafe so had to talk in a whisper as we did the ratings. I went for carrot cake with my hot chocolate while Big George opted for a filter coffee and fried breakfast. I have explained to Big George many times that a fried breakfast is not cake. He claimed he had got confused when ordering and meant to ask for a scone, it's almost as if he does it on purpose to avoid joining in with any of my exciting cake based reviewing activity. 
Big George got confused again and forgot a fried breakfast isn't cake
Drinks and cakes were standard fare with Big George's coffee being the best received and he did enjoy his fried breakfast. The Rendezvous was nice enough but I don't think I have found a top rated cafe for this corner of Norfolk yet.
My carrot cake.
On the return we would be going past Sandringham where the Queen will be for Christmas. Since the misunderstanding when the Queen missed me cycle past on the epic ride to St Andrews earlier this year (see Great ride North day 1) she has been very apologetic and promised we could meet up next time I was in the area. I had texted ahead to let her know I was coming and everything was in place when a text message from Liz flashed up on my phone. Apparently Phil had been helping make this year's Christmas pud down in the royal kitchens and more of the brandy had ended up in him than the mixing bowl. She said that she was having to now pop round to Asda to buy another bottle so would have to postpone our catch up again.

It was disappointing news but hopefully it will be third time lucky when I next cycle up this way. The rest of the ride was very pleasant as we cycled down a lot of lovely country lanes only disturbed when we were overtaken by a series of Range Rovers which are clearly the only type of car allowed in the area.

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

Click here to downlaod 54 mile Fakenham Hunstanton Loop gpx file for your GPS

Thursday 15 December 2016

Flapjack of the year 2016 winner.

Flapjack of the year winner
After the excitement of the semi finals (see previous two posts, Semi Final 1 and Semi Final 2) then we were all hoping for a cracking flapjack off final today and it didn't disappoint.

Proceedings kicked off with the opening ceremony as all the finalists lined up ready for the national anthems. They were then presented to my team of 5 flapjack experts who would soon be eating them.
Flapjacks lining up at the opening ceremony
The four finalists were from Pandora's Kitchen of Norwich (Maple and Walnut), Bridgestones of Potter Heigham (Nutty), Funky Mackerel of Sheringham (Banana) and Art Cafe of Glandford (Apricot).

The flapjack was divided up between the judges who tasted each before entering a round of heated debate to decide the winner. In the end it was an almost unanimous decision that the Funky Mackerel Banana flapjack was the best of a very high quality bunch. As an added bonus it was also the biggest so plenty to enjoy.
Winning flapjack, photo taken before it was eaten
So many congratulations to them and also a well done to all the finalists as it was a close fought affair. If you are in Sheringham I recommend you go and check out their flapjack.
Funky Mackerel cafe winner of flapjack of the year 2016
Look out for news of what next years thing of the year will be as I think it will cause a real stir in the cycle cafe world.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Flapjack of the year 2016 second semi final

Flapjack of the year 2nd Semi Final
Todays second semi final for flapjack of the year 2016 was concentrated in North Norfolk and featured some real power houses in the world of cycle cafes and flapjack. I was joined today by Chris (Mrs Crusader) who would be keeping an eye on proceedings and making sure there was no foul play.

Due to the short length of the days at this time of year we set off in the car to Alysham ready for a 40 mile loop to collect our 4 pieces of flapjack for todays semi final. It would occur back at Crusader Towers later in the day when my panel of flapjack experts would again be joining me for tasting.

We parked in Alysham car park and headed the short distance to our first stop which was Biddy's that had delivered an excellent apricot and white chocolate earlier in the year. However disaster struck as they said they didn't have any flapjack today.
What no flap jack, at Biddys today
After a similar flapjack noshow incident yesterday then today I had a back up plan and had introduced a reserve flapjack cafe that could step in at short notice. This would be Itteringham community cafe whose flapjack had only just missed out on the semi final stage. Fortunately it came up trumps with some festive mince meat flapjack.
Itteringham community cafe came off the bench to provide some flapjack for the semi final
The flapjack experts liked the very different taste that this flapjack had to all the others in the competition but would it be good enough to make it through to the final.
Itteringham cafe mince meat flapjack
It was now another 15 miles or so cycle up to the coast. The weather was dull and chilly but fortunately we only had light winds so made it to Sheringham about an hour later. No flapjack competition worth it's salt could possibly not include the Funky Mackerel cafe on the sea front in the final line up. It is renowned for its flapjack and normally has 5 or 6 different flavours on offer. I went for Banana flavour.
Flapjack successfully collected at the seaside
The Funky Mackerel banana flapjack was by far the biggest and impressed the judges with its texture and taste too.
Funky Mackerels enormous banana flapjack
Next it was along the coast road to Wiveton Hall for their chocolate flapjack. The road has some fantastic views over the marshes to the sea and we were joined by a number of migrating geese who were flying home for Christmas. When we got to Wiveton hall I discovered it was not only the geese who disappeared over the winter as the staff at Wiveton hall had also migrated and there was a notice saying the cafe is now shut until March! I didn't have a second reserve cafe so there would again be only 3 pieces of flapjack in the second semi.
Empty slot where the Wiveton Hall chocolate flapjack should have been
The final stop was a mile or so further down the road at the Art cafe for some of their apricot flapjack.
Ready to collect the last flapjack of the day
The flapjack experts particularly like the fact that this flapjack wasn't too sweet which is often an issue with this type of tray bake.
Art cafes tasty apricot flapjack
As we set off again for the return journey then the skies darkened and heavens opened as we got a proper soaking. I wasn't worried about myself or Chris but didn't want any soggy flapjack. I therefore took a moment to place each square into a waterproof sandwich bag before completing the route back to the car.

Mrs Crusader confirmed collection had been in line with flapjack off rules and (sadly) there had been no attempt to bribe or influence me in anyway.

Back at Crusader Towers I joined the rest of the panel of experts for the flapjack off where there was a lot of debate and soul searching before it was decided that the Art Cafe and Funky Mackerel would go through to the final.

The final flapjack off will take place over the next few days before the winner is announced at the weekend. So watch this space.

Monday 12 December 2016

Flapjack of the year 2016 first semi final

Flapjack of the year 1st Semi Final

After a year of research and having consumed many squares of flapjack then today it was finally time for the first semi final in the hunt for flapjack of the year 2016.

Four cafes had made it through qualifying for todays flapjack off. The best two would then go through to the final later this week. It would be a 50 mile round trip to purchase the flapjack before returning to Crusader Towers where a panel of flapjack experts would decide who would progress in the competition. 

I set off just after rush hour with a short leg to Pandora's Kitchen in Norwich. They were the only cafe who had also made the finals of cheese scone of the year 2015 showing fantastic consistency. They were hoping to make it all the way to the final this time round after falling at the semi final stage last year. 
Collect flapjack from Pandora's Kitchen
On arrival I was informed that the flapjack was just out the oven so I knew it was fresh. It was walnut and maple flavour and my panel of experts all thought it had a good crumb and clean flavours.
Pandoras Kitchens Walnut and Maple flapjack
From here It was along ride out to the coast to Smallsticks cafe which overlooks Happisburgh lighthouse. It is the cafe I have been to most times this year so it must be good as it's a 50 mile round trip.
You can see Happisburgh lighthouse from the smallsticks outdoor seating area
Their flapjack was cherry and coconut which was the marmite of today's flapjack as some of the panel of flapjack experts don't like coconut. Those who did found it a nice piece as it wasn't too sweet.
Smallsticks cherry and coconut flapjack
It was then back into Broadland and Potter Heigham to Bridgestones. When their flapjack was first shortlisted it was called Potters tearoom but it is now under new management so I wasn't sure if this would impact the flapjack. On arrival I was glad to see some good looking traybake was there.
Potters tea room is now called Bridge stones but still has excellent flapjack
My panel of experts enjoyed the nuttiness of the flapjack with plenty of ingredients on show.
Bridgestones Nutty flapjack 
The final stop of the day was at Salhouse Garden centre cafe. They were the last cafe I had gone to in the preliminary rounds so had snuck into the semis at the last minute. Unfortunately when I got there they had sold out of flapjack. The closest they had was coconut and raspberry slice or white chocolate tiffin so I bought some of those instead.
Outside Salhouse garden centre about to go and buy some flapjack from the cafe,
 but they didnt have any.
Sadly as neither coconut and raspberry slice or white chocolate tiffin is flapjack I had to immediately disqualify them from the competition.
White chocolate tiffin and coconut and raspberry slice from Salhouse garden centre cafe,
which are not flapjack
With the flapjack for the 1st semi final all safely on board it was back to Crusader Towers for the flapjack off. Any flapjack that had made it this far was obviously going to be good so it was a tough decision but in the end Pandoras and Bridgestones won out and will progress to meet the winners of tomorrow's second semi final in the great flapjack off final later in the week.

Friday 2 December 2016

South of the Border. (The Granary, Snape)

The Granary Tearooms,
Opening times Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00, 
Sun 10:00-16:30
As I have now visited over 200 cafes and tearooms it's not surprising that I'm beginning to run out of easy pickings and now need to go further afield on my cafe cycle rides in order to find new places to review. Therefore today I decided it was time to grab my passport and go over the border into Suffolk. An early start was needed to make the most of the available daylight which put today's cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) into a particularly bad mood as he had had to set off an hour earlier than me in order to drive to Crusader Towers. Once he arrived we loaded the bikes into my car and set off to the border.

An hour later we had sucessful got through security and customs on the way to our start point which was the small village of Walpole on Sustrans cycle route 42. I was already exhausted as on the drive down Andrew ranted about the latest national and international news stories and there was a lot to cover. Normally if I get overwhelmed by his outbursts I can cycle off but this isn't an option in the car where I was a captive rantee.

It was nice to be on different roads for a change and we first headed off to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast where we went down to the beach to take the ubiquitous photo. Over the years I have taken the same photo many times and had started to notice that there is always exactly the same aesthetically pleasing red boat in everyone.  I now suspect that it is not a real boat but one placed there by the Suffolk tourist board to attract unsuspecting visitors like me. This sort of cheap scam would never happen in Cromer I thought.
Standard  Dunwich beach photo with pretend red boat
You may remember that as well as being the self appointed number one cycle cafe reviewer (in the Norfolk area) I'm also a great fan of ruined Abbeys and have a spreadsheet of ratings to prove it (see ruined Abbey off). I was therefore very excited when we went past Leiston ruined Abbey as I could add it to my growing list (currently standing at 3) of ruined Abbeys I have cycled past. I have to admit that this was my least favourite ruined Abbey to date as the ruins weren't symmetrical enough for my tastes, although nothing my sledge hammer couldn't resolve if English Heritage want to give me a ring.
Leiston ruined Abbey which needs some better symmetry to move up my ruined Abbey league table
From here it was down to Snape Maltings to review today's cycle cafe; The Granary Tea rooms. Snape Maltings is famous for having a concert hall in the middle of nowhere and as a result a whole collection of shops, galleries and restaurants have grown up around it.
Lots of  shops, galleries, restaurants and a concert hall can be found at Snape Maltings
The Granary tea room is one such outlet and could be found right at the end through a tiny door.
Outside the Granary tearooms before trying to squeeze in through the tiny white door
Cycling guest cycling top tip no 57. If going into a tearoom based in an old building with tiny doors consider keeping your bicycle helmet on to avoid a nasty bump on the head.

Unfortunately I had failed to follow cycling guest cycling top tip no 57 and was still in a bit of a daze as I went to check out the cakes so that I could award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. The selection appeared good on quantity but a lot of it was slice and biscuit based with a lack of big sponge cakes which added up to a good, if not outstanding, ECS mark. 
Cake selection but only two sponge cakes
I opted for carrot cake and Andrew went for Bakewell slice with his capuchino. We then selected seats in the large indoor seating area as it was too cold to sit outside.
Large indoor seating area
Andrew was in his most hard to please mood as he wasn't happy with his coffee (too weak) or Bakewell slice which he felt had seen better days. I, on the other hand, thought my hot chocolate was a good one and my carrot cake was nice as well.
Cakes and drinks
Overall The Granary tearooms had performed reasonable well although I think the tearoom is aimed more at people visiting the whole Maltings complex as their primary destination and not the other way round. 

From here we returned to Walpole on Sustrans route 41 and both agreed it had been an excellent route and, subject to obtaining visas, we should come back to Suffolk more often. 

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Click here to download 37 mile Walpole Snape loop gpx file to your gps

Tuesday 29 November 2016

So long old friend. (Salhouse Garden Centre tearoom, Salhouse)

Salhouse Garden Centre Tearooms,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:30-16:30, 
Sun 10:00-15:45
The weather man on the telly had told me that today would be the first proper cold day of the winter and when I looked out of the window this morning it was clear that Jack Frost had indeed been busy overnight. Fortunately it was just cold and not icey so the conditions would not impact my planned cafe cycle ride with Chris (Mrs Crusader) plus Barry and Helen and their Tandem. It would be the last time that Barry and Helen's Tandem would be coming on a ride with me as they pick up a new young bike from the Tandem breeders just before Christmas. I asked Barry what would be happening to the current Tandem and he mumbled something about a sack, bricks and the river. Remember Tandems are for life not just Christmas.

Despite double socking and gloving my extremities were all very cold as we set off to our meeting point and they didn't fully recover until we got back home, as despite the clear blue sunny skies the temperature never warmed up.
It may have looked like a warm day but it was freezing
Today's ride would be a shortish one visiting the Salhouse Barn tearooms at the Salhouse Garden centre. On the way there we went past the Olive Tree Cafe in Tunstead. Their facebook page had said that they were temporarily closed for staff training although they have been since the end of July. I was keen to see if they had reopened as by now the staff would be some of the best trained in the world and this would surely up their already good Atmosphere and Ambiance rating. Sadly as we cycled past there were For Sale signs up, clearly they had spent too much time and money on staff training and the business had now gone under. I will therefore be removing it from the blog and adding it to the closed cafe archive so as not to confuse future cafe cyclists.

Still cold we continued the ride to Salhouse Garden centre and the Salhouse Barn Tearooms. There is both an indoor and outdoor seating area available with plenty of room but only one hardy customer had opted for outdoors and we decided not to join them and headed inside.
Outside the entrance to Salhouse Garden centre and tearooms
It was clearly a very popular destination as it was packed with people spending their grey pound on hot food on a cold Tuesday lunchtime. 
Busy indoor seating area
However I was more interested in the cakes so first checked out the range in order to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was a pretty good selection so I awarded a pretty good ECS before joining the back of the food queue.
Good cake selection
I went for Cherry and Almond cake with my hot chocolate whilst Chris and Helen both went for Mochas, one with chocolate and one with coffee cake. For once Barry had a coffee (cappuccino) and hadn't gone for his normal sausage roll but a cornish pasty instead. As a cornish pasty still isn't cake Barry played no further part in any cake rating activity. As Barry and Helen mercilessly tucked into their cake and pasty their Tandem said it was too sad to be able to eat anything on it's last ever cafe cycle ride so patiently waited for us by the Christmas trees.

Our drinks performed very well on the 'being really hot on a really cold day' front but not so well on the strength side as they were all a bit milky. The cakes were reasonably good but just the wrong side of the dry to moist continuum.
Cakes and drinks
I also tried some of the Salhouse Barn tearooms flapjack which was very good indeed. You will have to wait for another week to see if it made it onto my final short list for the flapjack of the year flapjack off next month (see flapjack news).

As we left the cafe the old folk were still queuing up to get in so the Salhouse Barn seems to be doing a lot of things right and I don't expect that I'll need to be adding it to my closed cafe archive anytime soon.

We finished the last few miles of our ride before Barry and Helen and their Tandem turned off for home. Before they left I said a last good bye to Tandem, and with a tear in my eye we took a moment to remember the many enjoyable rides we had been on together. However age eventually catches up with us all and there is no way for anyone to avoid ending up in that great bike rack in the sky (or possibly rusting at the bottom of a river) just Barry and Helen's Tandem will be going there sooner than it realises.

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Click here to down load 26 mile Norwich Tunstead loop GPX file for your GPS

Saturday 26 November 2016

Where are the Cake Based Bargains? (Four Seasons Coffee Shop, Wymondham)

Four Seasons Coffee Shop,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-16:00, Sun 10:00-15:00,
Todays cycling guest, Big George, nearly always introduces a time constraint on our rides, normally for urgent housework, which results in having to cycle to a strict deadline that inevitably leads to panic towards the end of a trip. However today he had managed to have his urgent appointment, this time the dentist, before we set off so we would not be leaving until mid morning. To avoid any issues from the short daylight hours I had opted for a quick ride to the newly opened Four Seasons Coffee shop at the Wymondham garden centre.

As I waited patiently for Big George to appear I received one of his normal excuses texts to inform me that the dentist was running 15 minutes and therefore so was he. After a further hour I was beginning to worry that something had cropped up as there was still no sign of him. It is not uncommon for some urgent hoovering or dusting to distract him, but when he did eventually arrive he blamed the traffic although there was a tell tale smell of Mr Sheen in the air.

Today was also Black Friday, despite the sun being out and a clear blue sky, so I was hoping for some excellent cake based bargains (CBBs) on this special day. I worried in case there would be ugly scenes at Wymondham Garden centre as people battle for the last piece of Victoria sponge on special offer, although I felt that with Big George delaying our start all the best CBB's would have gone anyway. 

As it was a shortish ride and we had the wind with us most of the way we made good progress to our target destination
outside Wymondham Garden centre wher the Four Seasons cafe can be found
The four seasons coffee shop is not only a nice cafe but has an educational name as well helping you remember how many seasons there are during the year. By the look of things at the Wymondham garden centre one of the years longest seasons is Christmas. Most of the indoor area was dedicated to it and it took all my powers of persuasion to get Big George past Mechanical Santa who was currently reading a story. I promised to give him a sweet if he came straight to the coffee shop and handed over a humbug from my pocket.
Mechanical Santa reading a story to an empty audience
The Four Seasons coffee house is located on the side of the garden centre but only has an indoor seating area although I suspect they may have outdoor seating in the three warmer seasons.

As I suspected we had arrived too late in the day and must have missed any CBBs that may have been available as there was no sign of any special offers however there was an excellent cake selections with some exciting looking offerings so I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) score. 
Very good cake selection
I choose Walnut Latte cake as I didn't know that Walnut Latte was a thing until now. Big George had an americano coffee and a scone. In the queue he told me he couldn't decide between cheese or fruit scone but then out of left field at the last second went for the cherry ones.

Our food and drinks soon arrived and were a mixed bunch. All of it good but my hot chocolate was a bit too weak for top marks and we didn't get the hit of cherry we were expecting from the scone. However Big George thought his coffee was top notch as I did with my cake. As an aside the sausage roll and cheese sandwich we had for our lunch were both excellent although as a sausage roll and cheese sandwich are clearly not cake they played no part in the overall cafe rating.
Cakes and drinks
The Four Seasons coffee house was a very good stop especially if you wanted some lunch or christmas decorations as well, so I recommend a visit.

As we left I craftily went a different way out of the shop so that Big George wouldn't be distracted by Mechanical Santa and we set off back home. This time we were into a strong wind which fortunately meant I couldn't really hear anything as Big George shared news of his Black Friday Vacuum cleaner research.

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

Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Attleborough loop gpx file for your GPS