Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Suffolk Spring Sportive Day 1. (Dingle Hill Tearooms, Dunwich, Jars of Clay, Woodbridge)

Dingle Hill Tea Rooms,
Dunwich,
Opening times Mon-Sun 09:00-17:00,
Recommended 
And
Jars Of Clay Café,
Woodbridge,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:30-17:00,
Recommended 
On one of my previous sportive (group rides) I foolishly suggested that a longer overnight trip might be fun. A number of my regular cycling guests agreed that this would be a good idea and so, in a fit of enthusiasm I came up with a date and a route for such an adventure.

I kept organisation down to a minimum by starting the ride from Crusader Towers in Norwich and by telling anyone who fancied coming to book themselves into the Premium inn North of Ipswich. Sending out a few emails with maps seemed to give the impression that I had spent a lot of time planning and organising everything, which I hadn't, although I did have 3 new cafe stops, plus a couple of old favourites for us to check out over the 2 day itinerary. 

So today a group of 7 expectant cycling guest turned up at Crusader Towers for their Cake Crusader Cycling Adventure (CCCA). As always I had planned into the schedule time for pre ride faffing about but this went on for 20 minutes longer than my schedule had allowed leaving little time for my briefing which I delivered in my health and safety hi-viz jacket.
Briefing in my hi-viz jacket
Under surprisingly sunny skies we set off in high spirits towards Bungay and our first stop. Things went remarkably smoothly and we soon covered the 18 miles to Earsham Hall cafe which I have reviewed before (see Sportive 16) and is a highly recommended stop.
All cycling guest so eager for cake they didn't hang around for photo
I was glad to see my cycling guests were keen to get down to business and dumped their bikes before charging inside to order cake and hot drinks. We had a selection of coffees and hot chocolates plus scones and coffee, lemon, and pistachio and almond cakes. I collected feedback from my cycling guests who's scoring put hot drinks slightly down and cakes slightly up from my last visit but overall Earsham Hall cafe had come out with exactly the same rating as before confirming that high standards were being retained.
Great selection of cake
Next we headed out to the Suffolk coast at Dunwich as the peloton stating to become more and more stretched out.
Peloton stretching out
At Dunwich we stopped for lunch at Dingle Hill tearooms which was nice and busy on a rare Spring sunny day. 
Outside Dingle Hill Tearooms
As always I first checked out the cakes to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was a nice range including an impressive looking strawberry and cream one.
Good cake selection
Sadly most of my cycling guests had seemed to have forgotten why they were here and selected soft drinks which as they are not served hot meant they could play no part in any Guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) reviewing. 
Soft cold drinks, this will simply not do!
To make matters worse little cake was ordered either with only lemon, Victoria sponge and strawberry represented. This was very disappointing and clearly they seemed to have forgotten why I bought them on the ride in the first place.
Just 3 cakes ordered
However the hot drinks and cakes we did have were all very good and Dingle Hills tearoom was a very good stop and highly recommended.
Preparing to set off on next leg of CCCA
From here we took a short detour to the beach in order to say we had seen the sea although it did require an extra hill to be conquered causing a few complaints. They would have been fine if they had eaten more cake at lunchtime I thought.
Dunwich beach
The peloton was now getting a bit tired as levels of chatter stopped and a regular question of how much further to the next cafe was being asked but we still made good progress to Jars of Clay cafe near Woodbridge. 
Outside Jars of Clay our final stop
This isn't just a cafe but provides pottery for you to decorate. However with a schedule to adhere to then, much to my cycling guests disappointment, I had to ban any ceramic painting activity and make sure cake and hot drink reviewing were our number one priority.
Cycling guest eager to get creative but not on my watch
After checking out a reasonably good ECS I was once again upset to see that few cakes and mainly tea had been chosen as the hot guest drinks.
Tea and cakes
If I organise another such ride I will have to make it clear that eating cake, drinking hot drinks and rating the venue were the priority and no one will be able to come unless they get with the programme or have a letter from a parent excusing them from reviewing activity.
Good drinks
The few qualifying items that had been purchased were all of a good quality and Jars of Clay cafe had made it three out of three for stops that I would recommend a visit to.

Up until now we had been lucky with the weather but with just two miles to go we were caught in a sleety down pour meaning we were all a bit soggy as we checked in at premier inn reception.

Over dinner everyone agreed they were a bit tired but had enjoyed their days riding. However to make the return leg to Norwich even more successful I insisted they remember the cafe reviewing brief and make sure they all fully caked tomorrow. Team doctor Dr Hans also suggested everyone take one of his special pills, no questions asked, as they would probably find tomorrow's ride easier if they did, which they all decided was an excellent idea.
Scores for Dingle Hill
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.5
8.0
7.5
8.00
7. 0
7.60
Scores for Jars of Clay
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
7.5
6.5
7.0
7.5
7.00
Route

Click here to down load 72 mile Norwicu to Ipswich via Dunwich gpx file for your gps

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

London marathon bore. (The Galley, Horning)

The Galley,
Horning,
Opening times Mon-Sat 09:00-17:00,
Sun 10:00-16:00,  
Recommended 
Now the London Marathon is out the way (did I mention I ran in it on Sunday) then today it was time to get back to some solid cafe cycle riding. However it did look like I might have to cancel as the recent weather forecasts had been predicting it would rain all day making it unlikely that my cycling guests, Chris (Mrs Crusader), Barry and Helen and their tandem, would agree to come out for a soaking. Fortunately overnight the forecast had improved and, with only the odd shower now predicted, everyone was happy to go.

Getting ready was proving harder for me as my legs were still refusing to bend after their recent exertions (did I mention I ran the London Marathon on Sunday). I could currently only go down stairs backwards and once on the flat only make any forward progress by impersonating the wooden tops (younger readers ask your parents). Climbing on and off the bike was no simple matter either and took some time to accomplish with associated yelps. It was therefore no surprise that myself and Chris were late setting off to our start of ride meeting point leaving Barry and Helen and their Tandem shivering by the side of the road until we eventually arrived.

Fortunately cycling turned out to be a lot easier than walking so I didn't hold the group up as we headed off to today's cafe stop, The Galley, in Horning. A couple of miles before we arrived the sky turned black. Fortunately Helen pointed out that as the wind was blowing the clouds away from us we would be ok and unlikely to get wet. As any experienced cyclist knows you never say things like that when out on a ride so I was well prepared when the sleet and hail attacked us as we rounded the next corner and only stopped again just as we arrived in Horning.

The Galley combines a craft shop, Deli and tearoom  and can be found on the main street. There isn't really a proper outdoor seating area but as it was a bit cold and damp today this was not really an issue so we headed inside.
Outside the Galley post hail storm (which was Helen's fault)
First I checked out the cakes so as to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score and was pleased to see all the big five, Chocolate, Carrot, Victoria, Lemon and Coffee were represented plus some other sponge cakes. As there were brownies, scones and flapjack (which I took away in case of emergency and also so I could test it for flapjack of the year 2016) as well I awarded a high ECS mark.
Large selection of out of focus cakes
We left the shop and counter part of the establishment by going through an arch into the indoor seating cafe area where we selected a table by the window before I took sometime falling into my seat. 
View of indoor seating area from where I was sitting as I was too stiff to get up
Our drinks arrived first, quickly followed by a re-enactment of a scene from Goldilocks and the three bears. Barry thought his cappuccino too hot, Chris thought her Mocha too cold and I thought my hot chocolate was just right. This was no reflection on the Galley drink temperature control standards just that Barry and Chris are hot drink temperature tarts (HDTT) who always go through this charade on every cafe cycle ride they come on and need to get over it.

Despite the HDTT temperature disagreements all the drinks were good and scored well with my hot chocolate having a proper chocolate taste to it.
Despite all the drinks being the same temperature some people are never happy
On the cakes front Chris had gone traditional opting for the chocolate cake, probably influenced by the addition of the chocolate button decorations. I, on the other hand, stepped away from tradition and, despite my fondness for gluten, choose the satsuma and almond gluten free cake, Barry and Helen and their tandem picked a bacon and sausage baguette to share. As a bacon and sausage baguette is clearly not cake they played no further part in cake reviewing today. My cake was very tasty and super moist whilst the chocolate cake was a good example of type without being exceptional.
Nice cakes
All in all the Galley was a very pleasant stop with an excellent selection of cakes and I recommend a visit.

Despite both Chris and Helen providing first class spectator support at the London Marathon on Sunday, (did I mention I ran in it) I felt that Barry and their tandem needed a mile by mile breakdown of my run.  

Showing surprising interest Barry asked me how you know if someone has run the London Marathon. I guessed at stiffness, funny walk, haggard look etc but apparently he said, you don't have to know as they will soon tell you all about it. Which I did. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.50
7.50
8.00
7.50
7.00
7.50
Route

Click here to download 41 mile Norwich Horning loop GPX file to your GPS

Friday, 22 April 2016

London Marathon registration. (Blue Rooms cafe, Epping)

The Blue Rooms Cafe,
Epping,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:00-16:00,
Sat-Sun 09:30-16:00
I know running isn't cycling and that as a rule you don't stop mid run for cake but I do like a good run nearly as much as a good cafe cycle ride. So this year I felt it was about time I gave the London Marathon another crack and, with the guidance from my marathon training plan, I have been putting in the stated miles to hopefully be in good shape when I approach the start line on Sunday.

However before you can run the London Marathon you need to register at the Excel centre and collect your race number and chip. This week my marathon training plan has told me I'm not allowed to do very much running and must perform something called tapering (resting) instead. I don't like to cut down on exercise so I decided I could kill two birds with one stone by cycling to the Excel to register as my marathon training plan said nothing about cutting down on cycling. I wouldn't cycle all the way from Norwich to London (I'm not mad) but, accompanied by cycling Guest Big George, we would drive to Epping and undertake a 50ish mile loop calling in at the Excel and some cafes.

With little traffic on the roads we arrived at the start point right on schedule and unloaded the bikes from the car boot. From here we spent the next 15 miles cycling down the tow paths of the River Lea down to Stratford. It was lovely having so much traffic free cycle path to enjoy but speed was an issue as the path was of varying quality and we didn't want to hit a pot hole and end up in the river.
Cycle path by side of the river Lea
As we approached the end of the River section we came across the Olympic stadium which was an unexpected treat. Unfortunately due to the excitement this generated I managed to miss the planned cafe stop and it wasn't until we had gone another couple of miles I realised my mistake meaning that we would now be only reviewing one cafe today. As the self proclaimed number one cafe cycle blogger in all of Norfolk I felt very embarrassed and ashamed.
Seeing the Olympic stadium made me miss the planned cafe stop. Very poor
With head bowed in shame we continued across a few busy roads before arriving at the Excel for London Marathon registration
About to enter Excel for registration
As it was Thursday registration was fairly quite and the fact I was still wearing my hi viz cycling gilet made me look like official so I was able to go straight to the front of the queue to collect my number. I handed over my form and once the lady had realised I was a runner and not a car park attendant she gave me my runners pack. She noticed that I was in start pen 2 and said, not loud enough for my liking, that I must be quiet a fast runner. I modestly agreed and decided that she clearly also wanted to hear about my near death experience, last years iornman and the article about it all in May's triathlon Plus magazine. So I kindly told her everything. She seemed surprisingly pleased when another run eventually arrived in my queue and I had to move on
'Did I mention there was an article about me in last months triathlon plus magazine?'
We had missed our scheduled morning cafe stop and were now in need of the energy giving powers of cake. Big George got very excited when I agreed we could go to Costa as the only cake based option available in the Excel. I obviously didn't bother to review it.
How can you rview things that come in paper and plastic?
The next part of the journey followed route 13 and 136 out of London. It was mainly on cycle paths kindly provided by Boris and made for safe if rather dull cycling.
A section of bicycle super highway
The fact the route was clearly sign posted was very liberating for Big George as he didn't have to rely on my cycle GPS based navigation and decided to take the lead. He soon changed his mind when we hit several miles into a strong head wind and was once again more than happy to shelter behind me.
One of many wooded sections of cycle path
The route now went trhrough many parks and woods before we returned to the roads for the final few miles and our only cafe stop of the day at the Blue Rooms cafe near Epping.
Outside the Blue Rooms cafe
On arrival we parked our bikes and went inside to check out the cakes. Disappointingly there were only two to choose from so I could only award a low effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Limited selection of cakes
I went for Banana and Walnut cake and Big George a bacon sandwich. As a bacon sandwich is clearly not cake, and we had cycled nearly 50 miles before a proper cafe cycle stop, Big George played no further part in any reviewing activity. Especially when he had a cup of tea, which always gets a 7 out of 10, as a guest hot drink being just a cup of tea.
Outdoor seating veranda area
We sat in the outside seating veranda area with nice views of Epping forest and I tried my hot chocolate which wasn't bad if not very chocolatey and my Banana and Walnut cake which was excellent.
Drinks and cakes to try
All in all the Blue rooms cafe had been a solid enough stop but I was disappointed that we had missed the cafe in Stratford as from the website and reviews it looked like a real contender. I am now going to have to qualify for the London marathon again next year just so I can have another go at finding it on the registration bike ride.

I'm running the London marathon in support of a cycling charity, World bicycle relief, and am very grateful for all the sponsorship I have received so far. If you would like to make a donation I would really appreciate it and it would help make me feel all the time I put into my cycle cafe research is helping a bigger cause than just advising us all where the best cake is. Thanks. http://fundraiseuk.worldbicyclerelief.org/kevin-frazer
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
7.00
4.50
8.00
6.50
6.40
route

click here to download 53 mile Waltham Abbey London loop gpx file to your gps

Friday, 15 April 2016

Looks like rain. (K'Teas Cafe, Poringland)

K’Teas Cafe,
Poringland,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:00-15:30
When I checked the weather forecast for today's cafe cycle ride it didn't look promising as rain was forecast throughout the day. The only positive was that it was saying only one blob for the first hour before moving on to two blobs for the rest of the time.
Rain forecast all day
Obviously I would never call off a planned cafe cycle ride due to a bit of rain, especially if it starts with only one blob, but it is not always straight forward to persuade a cycling guest (who I need for an official cafe review) that spending two to three hours getting cold and wet is a fun idea. Fortunately today's cycling guest was Big George and he is from Scotland where rain is a way of life, so was more than happy to set off on our trip.

We decided to limit our ride to a shorter than normal 30 mile route (we're not mad) taking in the newly opened K'Teas in the Poringland community centre. 

Despite having followed all my wet weather cycling guest cycling top tips it wasn't long before we were soaked. Just as I thought we couldn't get any wetter the rain got heavier so well done to the BBC weather site as they had predicted the rain moving up to the 2 blob level exactly on time, just a sham their sunshine track record isn't so hot.

When we got to Poringland I knew exactly where to go as I had visited the Cafe when it was under different management and called Frog on the Pond (see Cake Tuesday). It is at the back of the Poringland community centre. 
Outside K'Teas cafe which you can just make out through the rain
Dripping wet we went inside and straight to the counter to check out the cakes and award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. There was a lemon cake, some scones and cupcakes meaning the cake selection, and therefore ECS mark, were rather small. There was also only a choice of filter or instant coffee. I chose lemon cake with my hot chocolate and Big George a fruit scone with his coffee.
Rather small cake selection
We selected a table in the indoor seating area and I picked up the menu that had an introductory piece about the cafe and new team in charge. I love a good cafe name pun so assumed K'Teas was run by someone called Katie. Very good, I thought, until the menu told me that Karen and Keith were in charge, which was a bit of a let down, they could at least have pretending someone called Katie was involved.
Nice and bright indoor seating area at back of the community centre
Our drinks soon arrived but as mine was a standard Cadbury's drinking chocolate, and we never did decide if Big George had had filter or instant coffee, then the drinks quality marks were not too high although they did warm us up as we tried to dry off.
Drinks
My lemon cake was very nice and although Big Georges scone wasn't fresh out the oven the cake taste quality mark was good.
Cake and scone ready for tasting
Although we delayed setting off again as long as possible the rain was still hammering down so we reluctantly put back on our wet jackets and set off for our final drenching, which we duly received. I'm hoping all of my other cycling guest take note of Big George's excellent example and don't winge next time it is raining on a planned cafe cycle ride day.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.50
4.50
4.50
6.00
5.00
5.10
Today's route

Click link to down load 30 mile Norwich Poringland gpx file for your GPS




Thursday, 14 April 2016

Climbing practice. (Rocket House Cafe, Cromer)

Rocket House Cafe,
Cromer,
Opening times Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00,
Sat-Sun 09:00-17:00,  
Recommended 
As a keen cyclist one thing I really enjoy is watching the cycling on the telly, especially the mountain stages in the Grand Tours. I particular remember watching the last stage of the 2014 Giro (tour of Italy) when they went up monte Zoncoln which is considered one of the hardest climbs in Europe. I foolishly thought that I would like a go at it just to see how hard it is. Well in just 6 weeks time myself and Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) will be giving it a go as a result of an ill thought through conversation last year. 
Monte Zoncolon that doesn't look much like Norfolk
With this in mind I decided it was probably about time we did some hill climbing training but as Norfolk isn't renowned for it's mountains then finding somewhere appropriate isn't easy. In fact the only place with any gradients is the Cromer ridge (near Cromer) so that's where we headed today.

After leaving from Hard to Please House and with rain in the air, we cycled for about 20 miles before finding ourselves at the start of the planned training climb in West Runton. Andrew wisely suggested we remove our waterproofs so we didn't over heat on the way up which obviously meant that it started to rain for the only time all day. I set the gradient'o'meter function on my cycle computer to see how steep the hill got as we went up. As we climbed I shouted out the latest steepness reading, 9%,10%, 11% until we maxed out at 12 % on our half mile ascent. 
Looking back down our impressive training climb
Probably due to my London marathon training (did I mention I was running the London Marathon) at the top I said to a panting Andrew that, I didn't want to sound arrogant or patronising, but I hadn't found the climb very difficult. Andrew confirmed that I had sounded very arrogant and patronising and turned down my suggestion of going round again meaning our climbing training was now complete. Wet from the rain we put our waterproofs back on, just as the rain stopped, and headed straight for Cromer and today's cafe the Rocket House, which we found on the sea front.
Outside the Rocket House cafe
After locking our bikes we climbed the two flights of stairs (gradient unknown) up to the cafe area. The outside seating area has stunning views of the sea and pier but we opted to join the masses and reserve one of the last remaining lunchtime tables.
View out from outdoor seating area
As always I first checked out the cake selection in order to award the effective cake selection (ECS) score. It was spread out at the front and back of the counter with a number of good looking cakes so I awarded a good solid ECS mark.
Cake selection mainly on back shelf
I went for chocolate cake to go with my hot chocolate and Andrew millionaire shortbread to accompany his cappuccino. There was also flapjack which I purchased to test as part of my flapjack of the year 2016 competition.

The drinks and cakes soon arrived. I thought my hot chocolate a bit weak, especially compared to the run of hot chocolates made from real chocolate chips that I have had at several cafes recently. Andrew found his cappuccino to be a reasonably good example so I scored both the drinks appropriately.
Drinks nicely presented
On the cakes front my chocolate cake had some of the best chocolate topping I can remember. It was thick and a good chocolate taste with out being at all sickly like some icings can be. Andrew liked his millionaire shortbread but would have liked the shortbread bit to be a bit shorter.
Cakes ready to taste, with chocolate cake having a great topping
Although not cake, so forming no part in my cycle cafe rating system, I must report how much I enjoyed my lunchtime Cromer crab sandwich and chips which was the best crab sandwich I can remember and I'm very found of a bit of crab.
Fabulous crab sandwich
All in all the Rocket House cafe had proved a very good stop with the stunning views making it something special and I recommend a visit.

After the success of our half a mile of climbing training we decided to take the quick way back to Alysham before I drove back to Norwich for a quick afternoon nap, happy in the knowledge that if we can climb the Cromer ridge (0.5miles max gradient 12%) then Monte Zoncolon (6.5 miles average gradient 12%) will be a piece of cake, and I like cake.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.00
6.50
7.00
7.50
8.50
7.10
route

Click here to down load 36 mile Alysham Cromer loop GPX file for your GPS