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

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Wrong day (Hamptons at the Barn, Bawdswell)

Hamptons at the Barn,
Bawdeswell,
Opening times Mon-Sun 10:00-17:30,
Highly Recommended 
Now that I have visited over 140 cafes or tearooms in the Eastern region, plus another 40 odd world wide, it is difficult to keep track when cafes close or change hands. I'm therefore always grateful to people who notify me of such changes, as happened recently when I was informed that a Cake Crusader top ten rated Cafe, Hamptons in Reepham (see come back in 3 years) had moved to Bawdeswell and was now called Hamptons at the Barn. 

This was the first time I had come across the same cafe, new venue scenario so I had to check the big book of cycle cafe rules to see what to do in such circumstances. Apparently the original scores should be voided and a new set of ratings started. Therefore in order to keep Hamptons on my list I would need to go to their new home. I had originally reviewed Hamptons with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) and as he had agreed to be yesterday's cycling guest it seemed like a good opportunity to make the 47 mile round trip and see if Hamptons, now at the Barn, would remain in my top 10.

I normally go riding with Andrew on a Thursday but due to another engagement, and the gale we were experiencing, we would be going on a Windsday. As we set off from Crusader Towers it was hard going as we were being buffeted in the wind so it was disappointing that we were slowed further when Andrew had an early puncture, although it did give me another opportunity to publish a photo of a man mending a bike,
Man mending a bike
It also led to a useful Cycling guest cycling top tip

Cycling guest cycling top tip No 42. To make sure you can get your freshly mended wheel smoothly on to your bike then put it back on before pumping up or the newly inflated tyre won't get past the brakes.  

On this occasion re-inflating was well under way before Andrew remembered, just in the nick of time, to use cycling guest cycling top tip No. 39, thus saving both time and the need for a rant.

Once we were able to set off again the wind continued to try and limit our progress so we had to pedal extra hard until we arrived at Hamptons at the Barn in Bawdeswell.

Parking bikes by the edge of the outdoor seating area
We parked our bikes on the edge of a nice looking outdoor seating area before heading inside. Hamptons at the Barn is both a cafe and home furnishing shop. The cafe bit was packed but the home furnishing bit completely empty. 
Cafe packed whilst home furnishings area remained empty
We were asked if we had booked a table and sheepishly had to admit that we had not. Unfortunately they had no free tables. This was not good but I did notice there were some breakfast bar style seats tucked under the cake counter so I asked if we could perch there and just have a bit of cake. To my relief the Barista took pity on us and kindly said that would be fine before clearing some of the cakes away to make space.
Perching at the cake selection area
Now at close proximity I checked the cake selection and it was excellent having a large number of items including some very interesting ones. I was able to awarded a very high effective cake selection (ECS) rating consistent with it's rating from back in the Reepham days.
Part of the excellent cake selection
I asked if they were always this busy and the Barista said they were even on a cold January day like this one. I did think they should convert the customer free home furnishings part of the barn into an indoor seating area but then I'm more cake than cushions so probably a little biased on that front, even though I'm clearly right.

To go with my hot chocolate I ordered courgette and lime cake and to go with his cappuccino Andrew went for chocolate, berry and beetroot brownie. They didn't have any flapjack to be rated for flapjack of the year 2016 but they did have something called a chocolate Nancy that looked like flapjack. I took some away for further examination at home and can now report that although it was very tasty and oat based it wasn't sticky enough to qualify as flapjack.

Although not part of my rating system we did order some baps for lunch causing more cakes to be removed from the cake display area to make room for us. I'm not sure we could now be considered as 'just perched having cake' but were actually causing full blown kitchen chaos, fortunately all the staff seemed very good humoured about it.
Hot chocolate and cappuccino
Our drinks were both very good and scored highly. Next we tried our cakes. Andrew was clearly still confused and disorientated by us not cycling on our normal day as to my amazement, rather than going into a normal cake based rant, he claimed his brownie was the best he had ever had and wanted to give it an unprecedented 10 out of 10 for cake taste quality (CTQ). It was an excellent brownie but praise like this was most unlike him and he had to go for a little walk to calm down. I get even more worried when I found him in a daze browsing for scented candles in the hopefully soon to be converted shop area.

Although my cake was very nice it wasn't as good as the brownie but with scores combined it still added up to a very high CTQ score.
Cake and best brownie ever
I entered the marks for Hamptons, now at the Barn, into the cafe ratings spreadsheet on my phone to find that Hamptons had performed even better in Bawdswell than it had in Reepham enabling it to move up into my current top 5 rated destinations. I not only highly recommend a visit but, to avoid disappointment, highly recommend booking as well.

As we set of back to Norwich the wind seemed to get stronger and the clouds darker giving some dramatic looking Norfolk skys to enjoy.
Dramatic sky to enjoy
It was still obvious that not doing our ride on the normal day of the week was causing Andrew issues. Not only had he given unusually high marks, stopped ranting the whole time and shown an unhealthy interest in home furnishings but was now talking about putting the bins out when he got home, which I happen to know would be a day early. We will definitely be going back to a Thursday for our next ride so that normal service can be resumed.
Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.00
8.00
9.00
8.50
7.00
8.10
Route

Click here to download 49 mile Norwich North Elmham loop gpx file for your GPS

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