Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

I

Friday, 21 April 2017

Registration ride 2017. (Stour Space cafe, Stratford and Berwick Tearooms, Dagenham)

Stour Space Cafe,
Stratford,
Every day from 08:00-5:00,
Recommended 
and
Berwick Tearooms,
Dagenham,
Opening times Every day 10:00-4:00 
One thing I enjoy as much as cycling and cake is running races so I'm obviously pleased to be taking part in the London Marathon again this year as it is a jolly big running race. One thing you have to do before taking part, other than the training, is to register at the Excel centre in London.

This gives the ideal opportunity to combine cycling, cake and marathon preparations into a single days activity. To do this I planned to cycle to registration and review a couple of cafes en-route. I obviously won't be cycling all the way from Norwich, I'm not mad, so yesterday myself, with cycling guest Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please), drove to Epping Forest to start a 53 mile cafe cycle marathon registration ride.
About to set off from Epping Forest car park
Most of the first part of the ride went along canals down to the Olympic stadium in Stratford. Although the tracks aren't the smoothest it is traffic free and remarkable that you can go all that way virtually traffic free.
Cycling by the canals
Once at Stratford it was time for first cafe review of the day at Stour Space Gallery Cafe bar. 
Outside Stour Space Gallery Cafe Bar
It was a very bohemian style cafe where the local hipsters hang out. All the other clientele seemed to be doing pointless things on their laptops. While they did that I got out my phone to record the Stour Space Cafe ratings.
View from outside seating terrace area
The cake selection was small but interesting although I noticed the food menu was completely breakfast based, even the sandwiches came in croissants. This is the worst case I have found so far of breakfast time leakage. As far as I'm concerned breakfast should be done and dusted by 9.00am, possibly 9:30am on Sundays, after which all thoughts of fry ups, cereal or pastries should be banished as the mealtime agenda needs to move on to lunch or possibly elevenses and don't get me started or the abomination of Brunch. 
Small but effective cake selection
Despite it being past mid day all the hipsters were having fry up's or bacon butties (in croissants) but I wanted some proper lunch and the best I could manage was a goats cheese croissant and some banana bread, as did Andrew. I had still barely calmed down from the breakfast based menu fiasco when our food arrived; SERVED ON IT'S SERVIETTE!! This problem is more widespread than I thought and my work is clearly not done. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes.
Banana bread and croissant sandwich served on its serviette
However the food, especially the banana cake, was excellent. Our drinks looked really good and had excellent flavour but heat wise could only be described as tepid at best meaning reduced hot drinks marks.
Nice looking and tasting but not very hot drinks
Surprisingly even with these cafe faux pas's I still found Stour Space Gallery cafe bar a pleasant stop. With a less breakfast based menu, cakes and serviettes kept well apart and drinks made with boiling water it would have been one of the best. I just hope these are not cafe trends that will make there way out of London to Norfolk when we catch up in about 5 years time.

Our journey next continued across less interesting terrain as we cycled through London to the Thames where we found the Excel centre. I quickly popped in for London marathon registration process and collected my running number.
After successful marathon registration
Once completed we headed further East towards Dagenham and Romford. It was mainly on cycle paths including a stretch along cycling superhighway three which was all the more enjoyable as cars were in a long queue beside us.
Andrew cycling on a superhighway
As we reached the countryside we made it to our next stop, The Berwick Tea room which appeared to be about 400 miles too far south. 
Outside the Berwick tearoom
It was a fairly small brick building with a terrace outside. I noticed that inside it was packed with ladies having afternoon tea. Like a scene from a wild west salon, as we entered the chit chat immediately stopped and the ladies all glared at us. We got the feeling that men were not meant to enter the tea room area. We tried to order some cake and drinks but the lady refused to take our order and ushered us out to the terrace area where she said she would come and see us shortly. It was clear she was trying to save our embarrassment as we had broken all their rules by being in the ladies afternoon tea area uninvited and our place to eat and drink was outside. As we left there was a great deal of tutting before the chitter chatter picked up again. 
The 'ladies only tea and chatter' seating area
We sat outside and the lady came to take our order. I think we were a bit of a novelty as every few minutes a different lady came out of the kitchen with some excuse to see us. I don't think many men had ever braved the Berwick Tea rooms before and we obviously were a bit of a novelty.
The terrace area where the ladies seem to prefer the men to sit
The only coffee option on the menu was frothy coffee so Andrew went for tea. On the cake front we went for traditional coffee cake and chocolate cake. Not surprisingly our drinks came in china cups and saucers.
Drinks in an eclectic selection of china
The drinks were hotter than this morning's but not quite as nice. The cake was very nice with the coffee cake being the better of the two.
Chocolate and coffee cakes
The Berwick tearoom was definitely at the far end of the tearoom continuum (which is fine with me) and targeted more at a natterer than a cyclist as we had finished our refreshments before any of the ladies inside had left. However everyone was very friendly and we enjoyed our break.

The last few miles were fairly hilly and my legs questioned me as to if this was good marathon preparation.I told them I wasn't sure and would let them know sometime on Sunday which seemed to keep them happy. 

Scores for Stour Space Cafe
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.50
7.5
5.00
7.5
8.00
7.10
Scores for Berwick Tearoom
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
6.5
6.00
7.25
7.00
6.55
Route to be published shortly

Friday, 14 April 2017

Raptor Alert. (The moorings, Blakeney)

The Moorings,
Blakeney,
Tues-Sun from 10:30,
Recommended 
It was time for another double header cafe cycle ride. I have taken to combining my search for sausage roll of the year #SROTY with a new cafe review. In this way I'm hoping to get round all the recommended sausage roll cafes suggested to me. On this occasion I was going to sausage roll at the Walsingham Cafe before trying out the Moorings in Blakeney. I knew that The Walsingham cafe is famous for it's pies and as a sausage roll is basically a rolled up meat pie I expected they would be good too.

I met up with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) at Hard to Please House in Aylsham for the start of our ride.

Much to his disgust I had planned the route myself rather than let him take control. This was to make sure it was of a reasonable length and we didn't end up in Holt, again. Andrew tends to make the route up as we go along which often adds many miles to his estimated distance. He wasn't happy to have me telling him which way to go while on 'his cycling manor' so there was much tutting and disagreement as to the best way to go as we reached each junction.

It was a windy day and we were struggling as we headed directly into it. On one long stretch Andrew sarcastically pointed out I had selected the 'best' road to cycle down if the wind is from the West as we met the full force of it head on for several miles.

When we arrived at the Walsingham Cafe I popped in to get some sausage rolls while Andrew continued to sulk in the car park. 
Collecting sausage rolls from the Walsingham cafe
Note: The sausage rolls were tested back in my secret underground bicycle workshop back at Crusader Towers and they were as good as they looked so went into my current top ten sausage rolls for the end of year sausage roll off.
Fabulous sausage rolls
On the next part of the ride we came across a curious sign saying this was a Raptor viewing point. As the only Raptors I was aware of were dinosaurs I assumed Norfolk was now at the centre of some Jurassic Park style experiment so I excitedly suggested we stop in the hope of seeing a T-rex or the like.
I though I would be seeing some proper dinosaurs
Andrew told me that raptor was in fact the correct term for birds of prey and is derived from the Latin word rapere, meaning to take by force, as that is the way the grab their prey. (Everyday's a school day when you read this blog.)

Disappointed by the lack of dinosaur action we set off again to the coast where we found The Moorings on Blakeney High Street.
The moorings at Blakeney
There is no outdoor seating area so we went inside and checked out the cakes. The Moorings does lunches and evening meals as well as coffee and cake (but sadly not sausage rolls). The cake selection looked good, although not large in number, the key cake bases were covered and all looked tempting. It was therefore a very effective selection attracting a good effective cake selection (ECS) mark.
Good looking cakes in selection
I went for Coffee and Walnut while Andrew had carrot cake on the condition we swapped some of each so we could try both.

As it was lunchtime I also had a sausage sandwich whilst Andrew (who is not only notoriously hard to please but a vegetarian too) had avocado on toast. As we waited for our stuff to arrive I was subjected to a long rant about how it wasn't right that his avocado on toast cost more than my sausage sandwich as avocados are cheaper than sausages. I reminded him that we were on the North Norfolk coast where people expect to pay more for posh nosh such as avocado, so it was just the natural order of things.


We then got down to business as we rated our drinks and cakes. My hot chocolate was nice but Andrew thought his cappuccino needed to be a bit stronger. 
Hot chocolate rated higher than the coffee
The cakes were both excellent and some of the best so far this year. Strangely I prefered his carrot cake and Andrew my coffee and walnut one.
Some of the best cakes this year
Overall the Moorings was a very enjoyable stop and I would recommend a visit if you our out that way, especially if you like good cake.

On the way back we now had the wind behind and the Sun came out. We also saw a herd of raptors as apparently there were five buzzards flying above us. This was an impressive site but I would have rather seen a real dinosaur. 

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.85
5.5
7.00
8.40
7.25
7.00
route to be published

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Letter posting. (New Flavours, Dereham)

New Flavours,
Dereham,
Everyday 08:00-22:00,
Recommended 
I require certain things from my cafe cycle stops, the most important being cake. On the other hand Big George is not a big fan of sweet treats so doesn't always approve of my quaint tea room choices. I was therefore a bit nervous when he asked if he could pick the destination for today's ride. Big George is one of my most reliable cycling guests and as I am keen to keep him onside I reluctantly agreed. He said he knew of an excellent Portuguese cafe in Dereham so on a beautiful Spring morning we headed off there.
Beautiful Spring conditions we experienced today
The only jeopardy today was an urgent letter I had been given by Mrs Crusader which she asked me to post during the ride. I had put it in my back pocket and despite being reminded "don't forget to post the letter" just before we left I found it was still in my cycle top when I was looking for my bike lock key outside Big George's cafe of choice, New Flavours, just off the high street in Dereham.
Outside New Flavours cafe/restaurant in Dereham
I decided there must be post boxes in Dereham so would post it after our break and we went inside.

New Flavours is open for Breakfast all the way through to evening meals and does take away as well so I was worried it might be a Jack of all trades (but it wasn't). It has a very Portuguese feel with Portuguese TV on show (sound off but with subtitles, in Portuguese, so you still knew what was going on in Portugal), Portuguese newspapers, Portuguese posters but most importantly, in the cake selection, authentic Portuguese tarts.
Interesting selection of cakes but mainly Portuguese tarts
I love Portuguese tarts but as they are rather small I pointed at the other item I liked the look of and asked what it was. Apparently it was "normal cake" as it seems they only have the one type in Portugal as most people just eat the tarts, so I had a piece of that as well.

True to form Big George didn't go with cake but ordered a fried egg sandwich to go with his cappuccino.

Everything was looking good until my cake and tart turned up. They had only gone and served them on the serviette rending it useless. I added Portugal to the growing list of countries I will have to sort out once I have eradicated the problem here in the UK.
Cake and tart on serviette. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes
Big Georges egg sandwich also arrived in the same style but he didn't seem bothered as he claimed it was the best egg sandwich he had had anywhere in Norfolk. I photoed it to add to my Big Georges egg sandwich album which I hope to publish in a retrospective collection one day.
Fabulous double egg egg sandwich
Our drinks were very large, very hot and pretty good in taste. The normal cake was excellent but the highlight was the Portuguese tart which was fabulous. It was clear that New Flavours delivered a high quality product and if there were more types of cake in Portugal they would have rated even higher. Its well worth a visit.
Cakes and drinks
As it was Big George's turn to pay it became clear why he had requested we came here as our drinks, cakes and egg sandwich only came to £7.20 which is about half our normal bill. I decided that I wouldn't invite him when I cycle to have tea at the Ritz, if I ever do.

On the way back we discussed the various garden projects we were planning as it is traditional to think about doing gardening at Easter even if progress rarely gets past the compulsory visit to the Garden centre.

When I got home Mrs Crusader asked if I had remembered to post her urgent letter. "Of course I had" I said as I hurriedly headed back out to the Pillar Box at the end of our street.
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.0
7.0
4.50
8.50
7.0
6.60
Route

Click link to download 37 mile Norwich Dereham loop GPX file for your GPS