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/

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Thursday 30 March 2017

Sausage roll of the year update. (#SROTY)

SROTY update
As we reach the quarter point of the year I decided to focus today's cafe cycle ride on Sausage Roll of the year (SROTY) and give an update on where things stand including my current 10 finalists. For the ride I returned to two previously reviewed cafes which people had recommended to me as places where I could expect to find excellent sausage rolls.

I was joined by cycling guests Mrs Crusader, Barry and Helen and their new tandem. Barry is a well renowned sausage roll expert so I was pleased to have him on board.

We set off on a 32 mile loop via Loddon and headed for the Gardeners Kitchen at Green Pastures garden Centre in Burgh Apton (see Puncture repairs for previous review). It came 22 miles into the route which caused my guests to repeatedly ask "are we were nearly there yet" once we had past half way mark.

On arrival, despite a strong wind, Barry and Helen insisted we sit in the outdoor seating patio area which had to be opened by the friendly staff especially for us. 
Waiting for Sausage rolls in a windy outdoor seating patio area
The sausage rolls looked excellent and were delivered to us nicely warmed. In fact they were so tempting that we had eaten them all before I remembered to take a photo. I'm sure you can imagine what a very big sausage roll looks like as I have published enough photos of them recently, including one later in this post.

It scored very highly with the only debate being around the flakiness of the pastry. I like it very flakey so gave a high pastry rating but Barry was not happy that his pastry crumbs kept blowing of his plate. I didn't deduct any marks as it was him who wanted us to sit out in a gale in the first place.

The SROTY score easily put it into my current list of finalist, although it's still early days so who knows if it will still be there by the end of the year.

From Burgh Apton it was only a short ride to collect some more sausage rolls from Little Pigs cafe (see Spooky for previous review) in greater Poringland. 
Collecting sausage rolls from the Little pigs
I took these ones home to test with Mrs Crusader as an afternoon snack. Again the recommendation I had been given proved to be a good one as they also went into my current top ten.
Little Pigs sausage rolls about to be warmed
I have included a quick reminder of the rules for SROTY through this informative set of frequently asked questions.

Q. What is the scoring criteria for a sausage roll?
A. I shall be using the internationally recognised sausage roll rating system which rates meat, pastry, roll aesthetics and overall taste. The first 3 categories are out of 10 with overall taste being out of 20 to give a total mark out of 50. If my cycling guests have a sausage roll too then I tell them that I take the average score between all of us (although in reality I just ignore them).

Q. Surely a sausage roll isn't cake so why has it been selected for 2017 thing of the year?
A. Although sausage rolls will never be part of any self respecting cafe cake quality rating system I have noticed that many of my cycling guests prefer them to cake so as an equal opportunity blog I felt I needed to recognise this as part of my diversity programme. Although I will still insist on having a cake, scone or traybake at every cafe review I undertake.   

Q. Do vegetarian sausage rolls count?
A. Although several of my cycling guest are vegetarian and the Cake Crusader is an equal opportunity blog, with a diversity programme, there is a limit. So no.

Q. How does a sausage roll qualify for the competition? Can it only be from a cafe you are reviewing that day?
A. No. Any sausage roll bought from a cafe or tearoom will qualify but I must cycle there to pick it up. I don't have to stop for a cake or hot drink if I have previously reviewed the establishment. I plan to do some rides to take in several cafes to pick up a clutch of highly recommended sausage rolls. I will be testing some live at the cafes and some back in my secret underground bicycle workshop at Crusader Towers.

Q. Do all sausage rolls need to be eaten warm?
A. No although I will always go for warmed if offered and may warm them up if I take them back for testing, it is not compulsory.

Q. Are accompaniments such as pickle, chutney or mustard taken into account in the scoring.

Q. How will the winning sausage roll be decided?

A. Over the year the sausage roll's score will be added to my Sausage Roll of the Year mobile spreadsheet. Then in December 2017 I will revisit the cafes (by bike of course) that provided the best 10 sausage rolls and purchase some more. I will then hold two semi finals before the final sausage roll off to decide the winner.

Q. Is it the maker of the sausage roll or the cafe that sold it who will win the prize?
A. I am only interested in cafes so if you want to start awarding manufacturers prizes I suggest you start your own butchers based blog.

Q. What is the prize?
A. The winner will receive one of my coveted home made cake crusaders winner certificates which they can put on display (or in the bin) forever. 

So far this year I have had checked out 20 Sausage rolls for SROTY but I hope to get through about 100 before holding the Sausage roll off finals. The current leading ten cafes (in no particular order) are:

1. Little Pigs, Poringland
2. Gardeners Kitchen, Burgh Apton
3. Goodies, Pulham Market
4. Cley visitors centre, Cley
5. Itteringham community shop and cafe, Itteringham
6. Wymondham Garden centre, Wymondham
7. Byfords, Holt
8. Horatio's, Holt
9. East Hills Cafe, Brundall
10. Rocket Cafe, Cromer

I will give my next update mid year.

Todays route

Click here to download Loddon - Norwich loop GPX file to load on to your GPS

Friday 24 March 2017

Diet tips. (Horsey Mill, Horsey)

Horsey Mill,

Everyday 10:30-16:00 
It was very windy again today so I thought it would be appropriate to go to a cafe by a windmill. The nearest one that I could think of was the National Trust owned Horsey Mill. It would mean a nearly 60-mile round trip (half of which would be into the wind) but I was sure it would be worth it.

When today's cycling guest, Big George, arrived I told him of my plan. He was very excited to be going to a real windmill and readily agreed. Maybe I should have mentioned the 60-mile round trip part of the plan as well but I thought it best he didn't know about that bit as he may not have been so keen. 

On the way there Big George informed me he had decided to lose some weight and had installed a calorie counting app on his phone. He said he had already lost a few kilograms in the first couple of weeks. I know when someone tells you this you are meant to say 'oh, I thought it looked like you had lost a bit of weight' which I did, although it didn't.

Big George was very pleased so spent sometime telling me about his calorie counting strategy. After awhile he requested that I didn't tell anyone about our diet based chat as it wasn't in keeping with his hardman, beer drinking, rugby based image. I promised I would never speak of our conversation again.

After a long slog into the wind we arrived at the National Trust owned Horsey Mill. On arrival we discovered that the mill was having major repairs with little of it left and no sails. Big George was very disappointed to have come all this way without being able to go into the mill. I pointed out that he would have burnt a lot of calories getting here so at least his new calorie counting app would be happy.
Horsey Mill not looking very windmill like
However the tea room was in full working order so Horsey Mill currently just has a National Trust tea room as the only attraction there to visit. 
Outside the only attraction left that was the tea room
After locking our bikes and going inside we were greeted with more bad news as they only had a limited winter menu available so no cake or scones but only a few tray bakes and toasted teacakes available. The nice lady explained they only got a few visitors a day during the winter so it wasn't worth having things that go stale. This seemed fair enough although maybe if they had a proper attraction, like a working mill, then a few more people might turn up. I therefore decided to make a small donation to speed the work up.
Part of the limited winter cake selection
I had a toasted tea cake and some brownie. After Big George had checked his calorie counting app he decided he could have a toasted teacake with his coffee as long as he cycled another 30 miles today. Despite a toasted teacake having the word cake in it it is not a cake but a fruit based bread so does not qualify to be rated in may cake taste quality (CTQ) category.
Toasted tea cakes that are not actually cake
As with most NT properties these days our drinks were served in paper cups notwithstanding this our drinks were both good and scored well. 
Good drinks shame about the cups
The Brownie was excellent and I gave a good CTQ mark. But it wasn't all good news as it came served on it's serviette rendering it useless for crumb wiping purposes. I expected better from the National Trust and I will be writing to their staff training department shortly. Remember #Keepcakeoffserviettes.
Apart from no attraction, no cakes or scones, drinks in paper cups and cake on serviettes it was actually a very pleasant stop and worth the long ride. Although I suggest you might like to wait for the mill to be repaired and the in-season menu to be in operation before you go.

On the way back Big George gave me today's cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling Guest Cycling top tip No 61. If you want to complete a 60 mile bike ride without running out of energy then make sure you have more than just a toasted teacake at your mid ride refreshment stop.

Big George was clearly starting to fade but fortunately I always carry some spare energy gels for just such emergencies and kindly let Big George have one (for only £5). He was reluctant as the extra calories were not part of today's calorie plan but needs must and he told his calorie counting app that he would go without an evening meal instead.

With his energy supply topped up and wind behind we soon got home. Big George was pleased as he would now have time to update his new 'Big George's Diet Tips for hardmen, beer drinking, rugby fans ' blog with today's update.

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

Click here to download 56 mile Norwich Sea Palling loop Gpx file for your gps

Thursday 16 March 2017

Race to the top. (The Tea Room @Corner House, West Runton)

The Tea Room @Corner House,
West Runton,
Opening times Tue-Sun 10:30-16:00
As the search for Sausage roll of the year #SROTY continues it is important I also keep up with the day job of checking out as many cycle cafes as possible for the blog. For todays ride I would be doing both along with today's cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please).

We set off early from Hard to Please House in Alysham and headed North out to the bird spotting centre at Cley Next the Sea. I had been told that they did a mean sausage roll so wanted to collect one to check out later. It was my second visit there as Andrew had previously taken me to the centre to try and teach me the way of the twitcher (see Pink footed geese). On that trip I had discovered that bird spotting is not a sport and there are no winners so I couldn't see the point of it and have not done any bird watching since. Fortunately Sausage Roll tasting is a sport so I was happy to return today.
Collecting Sausage rolls from Cley Marshes
I put the sausage roll in my saddle bag for tasting later in my secret underground bicycle workshop underneath Crusader Towers (btw it turned out to be an excellent one). In the meantime it was time to head a long the coast road to today's cafe destination, the Tea Room @Corner House in West runton.
Outside the Tea Room @Corner House
Although out of season the Tea Room was very busy and we were lucky to get a table, which was a nice window one. We weren't far from the cakes so I was able to check them out without moving too far. It wasn't the biggest selection but it had several I liked the look of so very effective and I awarded a good Effective Cake selection (ECS) mark.
Cake Selection
I ordered Blueberry cake with my Hot Chocolate and Andrew the Lemon Drizzle cake with his cappuccino. When they brought our order the very nice staff engaged us on today's cycling exploits and correctly massaged our egos by pretending to be impressed about how far we had gone and the fact we were about to ride up the very big hill over the Cromer ridge.
Our drinks
My hot chocolate was a nice one as was Andrews cappuccino although he did say he was worried that he was getting harder to please these days. I assured him that that wasn't possible and not to worry. The cakes were excellent with the Blueberry one being one of the best so far this year. 
Excellent cakes
The Tea Room @ Corner house was a very good stop and the sandwiches we had for lunch were very nice too, so I recommend a visit.

Our next challenge was to get up the long hill which started right outside the Tea Rooms door. I was surprised when Andrew had left his change as a tip but now realised it was to lower his weight for the climb.
Halfway up the hill over the cromer ridge
Half way up I decided to take a photo of the hill and this allowed Andrew to get ahead. I didn't want him to beat me to the top but failed to catch him up as every time a car went past I had to stop them to explain that Andrew was only further ahead of me as I had stopped for a photo. Next time I will prepare some leaflets.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click here to download 40 mile Alysham Cley loop GPX file to your GPS

Thursday 9 March 2017

Blustery (The Apiary Cake and Coffee House, Harleston)

The Apiary Cake and Coffee House,
Opening times Mon-Sat 08:30-16:30 
The weather forecast suggested that wind might be an issue today but this warning was quickly forgotten as I looked up to a clear blue Norfolk sky during preparation for todays cafe cycle ride. It looked like perfect conditions to me.
Blue sky like the one above Norfolk today
I was to be joined by Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as today's cycling guest for a ride down to The Apiary Cake and Coffee House in Harleston which was a new cafe I had heard about.

As we set off Andrew told me he had already been on a ride this week and gone to his current favourite cafe, the highly rated Black Apollo, which can be found, not surprisingly, in Holt. Whilst there he had had a nice chat with Mrs Apollo which caused her to ask why he was notoriously hard to please. He claimed not to know the reason but if she had spent the morning with me listening to him rant on a serious of obscure topics she would have soon known.

With some wind assistance, and plenty of hot air, we soon arrived at Harleston and found The Apiary Cake and Coffee House on the high street. Andrew took some time taking the cafe photo as there was a lot of traffic, both motorised and pedestrian, that got in the way and he was not pleased.
Eventual photo from today's stop
The Apiary Cake and Coffee House had some cleverly designed outdoor seats but due to the wind we felt it would be safer to go inside. The decor obviously had a bee and honey theme because as everyone knows an apiary is a collection of beehives (at least thats what google said). 

I headed to the counter to check out the cake selection and it looked a good one. I was also pleased to see sausage rolls available, which I would check out later on my search for sausage roll of the year #SROTY.
Good cake selection
To keep with the bee theme I choose to have some honey and cherry cake with my hot chocolate. Andrew was less on message and must have thought the cafe was called 'The Warren' as he opted for carrot cake and a cappuccino.
Cakes and drinks, one on message one not
My hot chocolate was nice but could have been hotter while Andrews cappuccino was hot but could have been nicer once again showing how notoriously hard to please he is, especially when it comes to coffee. 

On the way home not only were we now into the wind but it had picked up in strength as well. This made it a real struggle and at times we seemed to be pedaling to stand still. I took a photo to show how strong the wind was although in hindsight, the wind can't really be seen, what with it being invisible. 
Just look at the strength of the wind
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
Map of route

Click here to down load 43 mile Norwich Harleston loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Spring has sprung (East Hills Cafe and Bistro, Brundall)

East Hills Café and Bistro,
Opening times Mon-Wed 09:30-16:00,
Thur-Sat 9:30-23:00, Sun 9:30-18:00
Highly Recommended 
After two weeks of wet and windy weather I was delighted to be woken this morning by both the alarm clock and actual sunshine pouring through the window.This was good news as not only was the alarm clock clearly working but I had arranged a cafe cycle ride and didn't want to have to call another one off due to inclement conditions.

Better still, the sun had remained out, although it was still a bit raw temperature wise, as myself and Mrs Crusader mounted our bikes to set off to meet Barry and Helen and their new tandem at their house. When we arrived they were both sitting on their shiny new bike, all ready to go. I asked how my good friend 'old tandem' was but they were rather evasive and I got no response. I am worried there may be a more sinister explanation for their sudden need for a new patio.

One thing for sure was that their new tandem was a lot faster and, with the help of a friendly wind we bombed along the lanes all the way out to Acle. Once here we turned back into the wind where, hindered by a number of unnecessary hills, progress became markedly slower. As tiredness set in, my cycling guests started to repeatedly question how far it was to todays target stop, The East Hills cafe and Bistro at Brundall. I refused to answer as I consider this is bad for cycling morale and I didn't know.

When we arrived in Brundall we turned off the main road and down to the river to find the cafe on the edge of the boat yard.
Outside today's destination
I had been planning to visit here last year only to discover that there had been a fire and the cafe had been shut for about 6 months for repairs. It had only been reopened for a couple of weeks but this didn't seem to have put the punters off as the place was packed, so we opted to sit in the very pleasant outdoor balcony seating area. 
Enjoying the views of the boat yard from the outdoor seating balcony
I had sensibly brought my own fire extinguisher, just incase, and left it with my cycling guests as I went inside to check out the cakes and place our order. There was a good selection of cakes including two of my favourites, pear and chocolate plus baked cheesecake, so I ordered a slice of each which I would kindly share some of with Mrs Crusader despite the fact she had wanted a cheese scone. I awarded a good effective cake selection (ECS) rating.
Part of today's cake selection
I was also pleased to see that their were four sausage rolls available which meant all my cycling guests could join in with rating them for sausage roll of the year #SROTY. My only concern was that it was shaped the wrong way with pastry running top to bottom rather than side to side. I obviously checked the SROTY rules but there was no mention of this being an issue so we were able to continue with our test.
Sausage roll with pastry going wrong way
The consensus was that it was the best sausage roll so far this year and looks certain to make it to the SROTY sausage roll off at the end of the year.

My hot chocolate and the selection of cycling guest hot drinks all scored well too. I was also impressed by the baked cheesecake which led to a high cake taste quality (CTQ) score.
Cakes and drinks
The East Hills cafe had proved to be an excellent start of Spring stop and I would highly recommend a visit (subject to it not burning down again) during the forthcoming cafe cycle season.

Hopefully Spring is now with us proper, as I have gambled on arranging two more rides this week. Although I expect it will now snow.

Scores based on 3 visits, last on 22/01/18
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click her to download 35 mile Norwich Acle loop GPX file for your GPS