Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Saturday, 16 December 2017

SROTY Final winner annouced

SROTY Finals 

It was the most dramatic final for a thing of the year since the competition started 3 years ago. This years thing was the sausage roll and over the year I have tried over 50 at the various cafes I have cycled to. 

After qualification finished last week the top 8 were selected for today's sausage roll off back at Crusader Towers. However before the final, thing of the year rules dictate that I must collect the finalists by bike and this is where the drama started.

On Wednesday I set off for the first 3 cafe finalists (Earsham Street Bungay, Gardeners Kitchen Bergh Apton and Little Pigs Poringland). I had gone less than a mile when I clipped the curb and flew off my bike on to the pavement. Unfortunately I landed on my face and felt my front tooth bend in my mouth, then my ribs landed on the phone in my top pocket causing me some pain. 

Despite some blood, a wobbly tooth and bruised ribs I decide to press on or the SROTY final would have to be cancelled. Although a bit dazed and in some pain I completed the the 38 mile ride and the first set of sausage rolls were in the bag. 
Sausage rolls collected from Gardener's Kitchen
After a rib resting day off I joined up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House for the North Norfolk sausage roll collection. Things didn't look good as it was a 60 mile ride, there was rain in the air and my ribs hurt but even though Andrew is a vegetarian he knew that the ride must go on and encouraged us to set off on another epic ride. There was a good sign as we were met by an early rainbow. I felt this was an excellent omen meaning we would find sausage rolls at the end of it. As it turned out what it actually meant was that it was about to rain, which it did.
Rainbow didn't have pots of sausage rolls at the end but just meant it was going to rain
As we approached Creake Abbey Cafe farm shop Andrew announced he had a puncture so I left him to mend it while I dashed off to collect the necessary sausage rolls. As I entered the farm shop the heavens opened and one of us got a soaking. To add to the drama there was only one super large sausage roll left and it was Christmas themed (with added cranberries and chestnuts) but as there was no alternative I had to go with it (although SROTY really requires the roll to be a non fancy one).
Andrew fixed his puncture while I brought the SR's
When I returned Andrew claimed he could no longer feel his extremities and seemed unconcerned that I had only managed to get a Christmas themed sausage roll.

We continued in a constant drizzle to the Great Walsingham Cafe for our next collection. Whilst there Andrew insisted we phone our last stop (Artemis in Cley) to make sure they had 3 rolls left as we were now past lunchtime. This was very wise as they had in fact sold out.
Sausage rolls collected at Great Walsingham
Fortunately my first reserve (Owl in Holt) was also in range so we replanned our route and headed there.

The Owl in Holt came up trumps as first reserve
Day two had been long, cold, wet and painful but very satisfying as I was still on track to be able to hold the final.

Today the plan was to go on a final 30 mile ride, with my tasting panel and official adjudicator, to collect the last two finalists (Four seasons in Wymondham and Piano in Ketteringham Hall) before the final would take place back at Crusader towers.

Once again things didn't go smoothly as after a few miles we hit a road that was covered in black ice and with cyclists sliding and a couple of falling off incidents the ride was abandoned. I was left to slide off to collect the last finalists.

Back at Crusader Towers with everything now in place the draw for the first round of the sausage roll off was made. Jenny (Vegetarian) supervised proceedings while my tasting team warmed up and cleansed their palates.
Crack sausage roll tasting team ready for the first round
The draw for the first round saw 
Earsham Street Cafe v Gardeners Kitchen
Little Pigs v Four Seasons
The Owl v Creake Abbey Cafe
Great Witchingham cafe v Piano Tearoom

Just to reach the knockout phase is a real achievement as all the sausage rolls were excellent. Earsham Street and Four seasons had comfortable early wins before The Owl v Creake Abbey sausage roll off, which proved to be a cracking tie. Some of the tasting team felt the christmas additions counted against Creake Abbey and they went out 4-3. The Great Witchingham v Piano match was a battle of the sausage roll giants (literally) and lived up to its 'tie of the round' billing with the judge's finding it hard to pick a winner but Great Witchingham eventually came out on top.
Sausage Rolls being prepared for first round action
The semi final draw was made with Earsham Street playing Great Walsingham cafe and The Owl against Four Seasons.

The Earsham Street v Great Walsingham clash was a classic match up and would have made a worthy final but in the end Earsham Street proved too strong and progressed through. In the other semi Four Seasons came out a 5-2 winner but it was an excellent showing from the Owl to get this far after its last minute call up to the finals.

After the finalists were heated up they were introduced to the crowd ready for the last tasting of the year.
Last two sausage rolls standing
It couldn't have been a closer match as the tasting team were split 4 votes to 3 but Earsham Street had just come out on top to be crowned champions and Sausage Roll of the Year winners.
Action from the SROTY final
Many congratulations to them and all the finalists in one of the best (or only) sausage roll off's anyone could remember taking part in.

I will shortly be announcing what thing of the year will be next year when I will return to something baked and sweet.















Friday, 1 December 2017

Weather warning. (The Sitting Room, Sheringham)

The Sitting Room,
Sheringham,
Opening times Mon-Sat 9:30-5, Sun 9:30-4,
Highly Recommended 
Yesterday morning I waited patiently for Andrew's (who is notoriously hard to please) text to arrive which would call off our planned ride due to the wind, sleet and snow being forecast, but it never arrived. Last time he called off it was on the basis that there might be a light shower (there wasn't). 

When setting off time had arrived and with no text forthcoming I was forced to leave for Hard to Please House in the rain. Maybe it wasn't so bad in Aylsham I thought.

When I arrived (in heavy rain) Andrew claimed he wouldn't dare call off another ride after the stick I gave him last time so with neither of us wanting to be the one to wimp out we were forced to go. The plan remained to head to Sheringham but at least we agreed to go the direct way.

As we left the the heavy rain turned to sleet which turn to hail which turned to snow all within the 12 mile ride to the cafe.

Our destination was The Sitting room which is next to an Art Gallery on the edge of Sheringham town centre.
Outside the Sitting Room
Inside was nicely appointed, although it may also have been because we were pleased to find somewhere dry that we both agreed it deserved a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score.
Good AAA as Andrew attemots to warm up
It was an interesting if not huge cake selection with some posh looking individual cakes available as well as traditional style sponge cakes. I went for cranberry and orange cake but Andrew went for a croissant which doesn't count as a cake (although keen followers of Cake Crusader rules know that it would before 9.00am).
Cake selection including croissants which aren't cakes
We squelched over to our seats to warm up. Andrew liked his cappuccino and croissant but my hot chocolate was much more what was required on a day like this and was excellent. The real bits of grated chocolate on the top were a nice touch. My cake was also very nice so good refreshment marks all round.
Excellent refreshments espically the hot chocolate
The sitting room had turned out to be a very good stop on such a wintery day and I highly recommend a visit.

We were not keen to leave but then the waitress suggested that we go. She was not being rude but said a storm was on it's way so felt we needed to make most of the current lull. As coastal folk know about these things we dashed back to our bikes and set off in the dry. At least, that is, until we got to the top of the road when the rain and snow started again and we got very cold and wet on our return to Hard to Please House. 
Arctic conditions as we set off from the Sitting Room
Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 64. To avoid getting frostbite and hypothermia on your cafe cycle ride be prepared to postpone it when arctic conditions are forecast.

Next time I plan to follow Cycling guest cycling top tip No. 64. 

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8
6
6.5
7.82
8.5
7.31
route to be published shortly

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Winter is coming. (Alby Tea rooms, Alby)

Alby Tea Rooms,
Alby,
Opening times Tue-Sun 10-4:00,
Recommended 
It was the first frosty morning of the year so I had to dig out all my warm layers for today's cafe cycle ride. I was joined by Big George as my cycling guest. Despite the cold we decided to head North today and would be going up to Alby which is beyond the Wall so hoped to avoid any white walkers. Winter is coming.

The leaves on the trees were all on the way out as we were treated to a magnificent display of autumn colours. Big George was so excited that he put on his orange cycle top in order to blend him. Can you spot him in the photo?
Fabulous winter colours and Big George
To keep warm we cycled hard so the 25 miles up to the Alby tea rooms flew past.

Alby tea rooms is part of the craft centre and gardens. It has a nice court yard outdoor seating area but it was too cold for that so we headed inside.
Outside Alby Tea Rooms in the outdoor seating couurt yard area
I was impressed with the cake selection which had a good range of interesting sponge cakes. I opted for Pistaccio as I can't resist green cake.
Good selection of sponge cakes
There were also some good looking sausage rolls which we tried for #SROTY and agreed that they could well find themselves in the sausage roll off in a few weeks time.
Potential finalist for #SROTY
We sat at a large table and I noticed that the tea rooms had been decorated with old vinyl records, singles and albums, in and out of their covers. Vinyl record decoration is clearly very 2017 as it is the second tea room I have been to decorated in this way in the last week. I wonder what 2018 will bring.

When our refreshments arrived Big George's cappuchino had the most froth I have ever seen but he said it was still a nice one. My hot chocolate wasn't as good but performed very well on the hot part as I burnt my mouth on the first sip.
Cakes and drinks ready for testing
The pistachio cake was nice and I'm sure Big George would have enjoyed his cake too if he could have been bothered to have one.

The Alby tea rooms was a very good stop on such a cold day and I recommend a visit.

As this was my third ride with Big George in the last two weeks we had long since run out of things to talk about so I made sure we returned at just a fast enough speed to make conversation difficult and therefore weren't embarrassed by the silence. I have decided not to ride with Big George again for at least a month by which time we hopefully would have done some new things to talk about.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5
7
8
7
7.2
6.84
route to be published shortly

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cheese scone hot or not? (Piano tearooms, Ketteringham)

Piano Tea Rooms,
Ketteringham
Opening times Wed-Sun 10-4:00,
Highly Recommended 
I had been trying for sometime to organise a ride to the recently opened Piano Tea Rooms at Ketteringham Hall but a combination of cycling guest availability and opening times had delayed my visit.

When golfing friend Tim mentioned he was keen to get back to cycling after a several year gap then it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a new cafe with a new cycling guest.

Tim has been going cycling mad over the last year but only at indoor spin cycle classes as he hasn't got a proper bike. As a man with a number of bikes (although I always have one less than I need) I was happy to lend him one for our 30 mile loop. 

After his cycling break I I was impressed how well Tim got going, it was just like riding a bike for him. It is always hard to judge what speed to go with a new cycling guest so my normal tactic is to go faster and faster until they can't keep up and then I know what pace to stay within. I had forgotten that in the world of indoor spin you must never show a weakness so no matter how fast I went Tim was determined to keep up meaning we made it to the Piano Tea Rooms in record time, although completed knackered.

The tea room is situated in the orangery on the side of Ketteringham hall. Outside there are lots of tables over looking the grounds. For a newly opened tea room on a Wednesday in mid November I was surprised how busy it was, which was a good sign.
In the outside seating area at the Piano Tea Room at Ketteringham Hall
The cake selection was very good, mainly big sponge cakes, and I awarded a high effective cake selection (ECS) mark. 
Good selection of sponge cakes
Owner Kim is a keen follower of the blog and knows my view on cheese scones in that I believe they are best served warm but she challenged me to try one of hers at room temperature, which I was happy to do along with a piece of toffee apple cake.

As a new cycling guest Tim clearly wanted to fit in and must have thought it was normal to order two items (or maybe he's just greedy) so he had apricot flapjack and coffee and walnut cake.

As it was busy inside and a mild day we opted for one of the outside tables to have our refreshments delivered to.

The drinks arrived first and my hot chocolate was a good one with a proper chocolate taste. Tim thought the flavour of his latte coffee was good but it wasn't hot enough for him to give top guest hot drink quality marks.

The cakes were superb, having good generous slices, with my toffee apple cake being the best cake I can remember enjoying this much for ages (and I have had a lot of cake). Tim also raved about his apricot flapjack as well. 
Cakes and drinks, although Tim had finished his coffee before I had a chance to snap it
But the question we all wanted answering was if the cheese scone could successfully operate at ambient temperature and I must say I felt it did easily carry it off being both light and cheesey although I still think it would have been even better if warmed.

I told Tim how lucky he was that we had gone to a top notch venue for his first ride and not to think all cafes and tearooms have views, cake and flapjack this good. As such I highly recommend a visit.

On the way back Tim said he had enjoyed the ride so much he was thinking of getting a new bike and doing more cycling outside in future, although if he always has two pieces of cake at his cafe stops he'll need to.

Ratings
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.1
6.5
8
9.2
8.2
8.00
Map of route



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

Monday, 13 November 2017

Mr X revealed. (Gluten Free Cafe, Norwich)

Gluten Free Café,
Norwich,
Opening times Mon-Wed 10-2:30,
Thur-Sat 10-8
Today was my third of 5 new cafe's I planned to visit over 8 days. I planned to meet the mysterious Mr X at a venue in Norwich. The ride was a short one as it was less than 2 miles from my house to our meeting point so not surprisingly rather uneventful.

I arrived at todays cafe of choice at Timber Hill in Norwich. As always Mr X had come in disguise, this time by losing a lot of weight since our last trip, so he was hard to spot. Once I had identified him he informed me our target cafe was shut on a Monday, as was my second choice. This left the Gluten Free Cafe as the only remaining option, so we went there.
Ready to check out the Gluten Free Cafe
The cake selection was a bit limited but there was the first appearance of Christmas cake this year so Mr X went for that while I choose Mississippi mud pie. It was hot chocolate and americano coffee on the drinks front.
Rather small cake selection
Feedback from readers have constantly asked me to reveal Mr X's identity although I can't do this as he should be at work creating shareholder value rather than tasting cakes with me. However he did say I could publish his photo so this is what Mr X looks like.
Cheers Mr X
Both our drinks were good and got decent marks
Good drinks
but the cakes were less impressive with my mississippi mud pie being particularly disappointing with rather too much icing. 
Cakes pre tasting
After we had finished our refreshments Mr X returned to the world of Big Business and I promised I would make sure I checked the opening times of my target cafes before our next catch up.
Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.8
7
5.5
6
6
6.26

Sunday, 12 November 2017

God's Own Country (Old Barn cafe, Malham and Old School House, Hebden)

Old Café Barn,
Malham,
Opening times Every day 9:30-5:30
Old School House Tearoom,
Hebden.
Opening times Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat-Sun 9-5,
Highly Recommended 
I always like to take the opportunity to expand my cycle cafe reviewing activities so when, over the summer, I met up with David, an old school friend, and it transpired that he not only lived in the Yorkshire dales but had recently taken up cycling I immediately invited myself to stay and demanded that he take me on a ride.

Things got more exciting earlier this week as while confirming my arrival time it turned out that he was due to get a shiny new bike the day before our ride. I was therefore somewhat distressed to receive a text during my journey up that reported he had fallen off on his first ride (trying to go too fast methinks) damaging both himself and his new steed.

On arrival David tried to show me a huge weeping friction burn and massive bruise on his hip but I was far more interested in getting his bike back in working order. Thanks to some Yorkshire tea and a bit of derailleur hanger bending we got it, if not him, back into shape ready for our ride the next day.

I was promised 60 miles of beautiful scenery, plenty of hills (including a rather tricky climb) plus a couple of cafes stops and I must report that David's route didn't disappoint. 
Part of the fabulous Yorkshire Dales route we went on
The weather was also perfect, with sunny blue skies, as we got our adventure underway. Early on we came to the corner where yesterdays tumble had occurred. I felt it important  we stop and reenact the incident for posterity. With cars and bikes whizzing by David surprisingly refused to lie in the middle of the road but still did his best to recreate the action. I don't think the photo did justice to his fall as he probably wasn't grinning like a cheshire cat when he hit the deck for real.
Reenacting the cycling crash incident of the day before
The scenery was absolutely fabulous with the sort of views we don't get in the flatlands of Norfolk. However there was also something familiar about it and I realised every where we went looked like a set from Postman Pat who was also from the dales. (Apparently he was from the Cumbrian dales and it this was actually Jane Austen country but I don't anything about her whereas I'm a big Pat fan).
You could imagine Pats bright red van coming over this bidge at any moment
We continued going up and down until we arrived at our first stop the Old Barn Cafe in Malham, which looked a bit like Greendale post office although there was no sign of Mrs Goggins.

The Old Barn Cafe minus Mrs Goggins 
I first got David to take the mandatory cafe photo before we locked our bikes. Inside the slightly dark stone building we found a pleasant dale tearoom style set up.
Inside the Old Barn Cafe
The cake selection was a good interesting one. As I had been warned that our big climb was just round the corner I decided to fuel up with a big lump of traditional fruit cake while David went for something called Yorkshire curd tart. I hadn't realised that there were curds in Yorkshire as I thought they were mainly from Iraq but apparently this curd is of the cheese variety and the tart also includes raisins.
A nice interesting cake selection
It was standard hot chocolate and americano coffee for drinks. My hot chocolate was nice if a little sweet and my cake was also good but slightly dry. David wasn't impressed by his coffee but felt it was excellent Yorkshire curd tart so had two pieces to help power him up the hill (although it didn't work). 
Drinks, fruit cake and double helping of Yorkshire curd tart
The Old Barn cafe was nice enough but probably not worth coming all the way from Norfolk  for. However this was more than made up for at our second stop later in the day.

Before then we had the small matter of Malham Cove to get over. It is a two mile climb averaging 6% but there is a 0.4 mile section in the middle that is all at 12-18% so quite a toughie. Now powered by fruit and curd based cake we wobbled our way up. As an excellent host David let me get to the top first and after I had read a short novel joined me at the summit.
David makes it to the top of  Malham Cove
It was certainly one of the hardest climbs I had done in the UK but I was informed that there are a lot tougher ones in the area on which to test yourself.

The ride now went along the top for sometime offering more spectacular views before another very steep section and then on to our second stop at the Old School house in Hebden. 
Our highest point on the way to Hebden
On arrival I pointed out how much it looked like the school in Greendale.
The Old School Tea room. 
Here we were greeted with some fabulous views out of the school hall window. It was very busy with most tables reserved but we were able to squeeze on to the comfy sofas.
View out of tea room window not done justice by the photo
The cake selection was very fine with a number of large sponge cakes to choose from. I opted for raspberry and white chocolate and David a traditional victoria sponge. It was also good to be offered a choice of dark or milk hot chocolate for which the correct answer is always dark.
A very fine cake selection
We returned to our sofa where we were joined by another couple who told us (yes honestly) that they first met as former pupils of this school before it sold tea and cake. What an opportunity to find out what life in a little dale school was like so I asked them if they had been taught by Jeff Pringle (Greendale school's teacher). Clearly they weren't Postman Pat fans as they looked at me blankly and quickly started to talk between themselves.
Our drinks and cakes on the table in the comfy sofa area
The drinks and cake were at the top end for taste and quality meaning excellent scores across the board and a place in my current cafe top ten. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

Refueled it was time for the final push. At this time of year, especially up North, the light starts to fade in the early afternoon and the temperature drops but just after we had gone up yet another short hill a bright red post van went past re-lighting the day .I was very excited as I sped off after it shouting 'it's Postman Pat' (it wasn't).
The light was starting to fade as we reached the end of our ride
With lights now switched on we returned safely to base and my short Yorkshire cafe cycle ride adventure was over. I told David that the combination of the scenery, cafes and a near Postman Pat sighting (oh and his company of course) had made it one of my favourite rides ever and I looked forward to inviting myself up again so he could take me on another one. He mumbled something about being busy for the next few years as I hopped in the car and sped off back to Norfolk.

Ratings
Old Barn Cafe
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.25
5
7.35
7.6
7.0
6.64
Old School Tearoom
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.1
8.05
8
8.35
8.1
8.12
Route
Click here to download 62 mile Burley Malham Cove loop GPX to your gps.