Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Friday, 16 December 2016

Royal appointment. (The Rendezvous, Hunstanton)

The Rendezvous Cafe,
Hunstanton
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.

Ratings
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.0
7.0
4.5
5.0
5.0
5.30
route

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 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 Macerals 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,
Snape,
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. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
5.0
6.5
6.5
7.0
6.40
Route
Click here to download 37 mile Walpole Snape loop gpx file to your gps