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/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near-death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

Available on Amazon

Friday 25 August 2017

Rant Lite (Vera's Coffee shop, Stalham)

Vera’s Coffee Shop,
Opening times Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30,
Sat 8:30-4:00, Sun 9:30-3:00
Cycling guest have been at a premium this summer and I have not been able to ride with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) for sometime. I was therefore expecting a full blown rant-a-thon from him on yesterday's ride from Hard to Please House in Aylsham.

To make sure the trip went soothly I had planned both the route and the destination myself, despite knowing this would lead to much criticism of my road choices as I was in Andrews manor.

We were heading to Stalham in Broadland but first we rode out to the coast to lap up the summer seaside atmosphere. 
At the East coast. You can't see the wind in the photo but there was a lot of it.
As it was rather fresh and windy there didn't seem to be any summer seaside atmosphere so we continued towards Veras coffee shop at the Meades Garden centre on the far side of Stalham instead. Unfortunately the only way you can get to it by bike is along the busy A149. As a cafe cycle rider you are a slave to the establishments location which sometimes forces you on to such roads, but are any of us really free, are the birds just slaves to the sky? I think that's enough philosophy for now, what about the cake?

Once at Vera's things got off to a bad start as there was nowhere one could easily leave a bike so we hid ours behind some bags of potting compost and secured them with my extra heavy lock.
Outside Vera's, no bike in photo as it was hidden behind some John Inness No. 3
We made our way through the garden centre to Vera's which was extremely busy, probably with people who had found it too cold and lacking any summer seaside atmosphere for a day on the beach. I had only come after receiving a couple of recommendations to check out their sausage roll for #SROTY. 

At the counter I was impressed by a good cake selection which also had an excellent cake of the day (carrot) and scone of the day (date and walnut) feature. Andrew opted for the cake of the day with his cappuccino while I went for the date and walnut cake with my hot chocolate as I didn't fancy a scone.
Great cake selection including a cake of the day blackboard
I also purchased a couple of sausage rolls to take back to Crusader Towers to test later. (Which were very good and led to much debate with Mrs Crusader as to if they should make the final sausage roll off, especially as they were short crust and not flakey pastry. As I go to press the jury is still out.)
One of the sausage rolls being debated
The drinks were both of a good standard and the cakes excellent which was a pleasant surprise as garden centre cafes can be a bit hit and miss.
Drinks and cakes both scored hiighly
Vera's Coffee Shop had a very high quality product but wasn't a very cycling friendly stop so you need to be brave to cycle there.

We set off again on another long stretch of A149 before returning to quieter roads and I suddenly realised Andrew hadn't ranted or complained all ride. It wasn't until we were nearly back in Alysham and we passed the new MandS convenience store, built as part of a new garage on the Cromer road, that he could contain his ranting no longer as he described the queues that had formed when it first opened last week, which somehow led on to why he could never go in an Ikea and he was back on form.

As we were nearly back by now his ranting was curtailed and it will be another 3 weeks before we meet up again and I can hear the end of his thesis as to the evils of flat pack furniture.

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

Click here to download 38 mile Aylsham Stalham loop GPX file to your GPS

Saturday 12 August 2017

Mass review. (Cadence Cafe, Old Buckenham)

Café Cadence (now OB Cafe),
Old Buckenham,
Opening times Thur 9-3, Fri-Sat 9-5, Sun 9-4.30,
Highly Recommended 
One advantage of being a self appointed cycle cafe reviewer is that fellow cyclists and cafe fans often send their recommendations or news of new establishments opening. Recently I have had several emails and tweets telling me about Cafe Cadance that has recently opened in a field. Not only is it a new cafe, but it is cycle themed and an optimum distance from my house for a 40 mile bike ride to boot. 

So today I organised a group ride down to Old Buckenham to try it out. It was a high risk approach as I normal only take groups to cafes I have already been to but sometimes you just have to live on the edge.
My large group of cycling guests ready for some group reviewing
One drawback of a large peleton is the increased likelihood of a puncture so it was no surprise when less than 5 miles in Mrs Crusader's friend Tracey (on her first Cake Crusader ride) shouted the dreaded words 'Puncture' and the group came to a stop. As Mrs Crusader is a veteran of these things she knew exactly what to do and handed me Tracey's bike, pointed to the wheel to be fixed and then returned to chatting while I got down to work.
Fixing the puncture while everyone else stood around and chatted
Once back on our way there were no further incidents as we found Cafe Cadence in a van in the middle of a field just the other side of the aptly named Cake Street in Old Buckenham.
Outside Cafe Cadence at Old Buckingham Country park
I was very impressed with the setting, the excellent bike rack facility and the fact it sold puncture repair kits, inner tubes and lube so awarded a very high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) mark.
Our bikes part on the excellent bike rack facility
As the cafe is only van sized there was not much room for a large cake selection but what there was was excellently judged as chocolate cake, brownie and banana loaf are three of my favourites so I awarded the highest effective cake selection (ECS) score I could for a choice of 3 cake varieties.
Small but effective cake selection
On the drinks front I felt my hot chocolate was a bit weak although the other two cycling guest who had hot chocolate were far more positive. The remaining cycling guests were all over the place rating the Guest Hot Drink quality (GHDQ) but after much debate the consensus seemed to be it was good coffee and scored well. 
Cycling guests debating coffee and cake ratings
it would seem that a disadvantage of having your cafe in the middle of a field is that the drinks cool down quickly and every felt they could have been a bit hotter for really top marks.
Some of the coffee and cakes we enjoyed
The cakes were excellent with the banana loaf a real star. Once again my cycling guests started to debate the quality of their cake but as I had already updated the spreadsheet with my cake taste quality (CTQ) mark then frankly I had lost interest by now. Some of the newer cycling guests actually seeming to believe I cared about what they thought and have much to learn. 

Experienced cycling guest Big George is well aware of this and attempted to undermine things by refusing to have cake but a pain aux chocolat despite knowing full well that cake reviewing rules state that a pastry can only be rated as cake before 9.00am (see poor plans post if you want to know why). I obviously ignored his sarcastic attempts to give me a mark for it.

We all agreed the Cadence Cafe was an excellent cycle stop and I highly recommend a visit. It is definitely the best cafe in the middle of a field I have been to. 
Purchasing so lube for the ride home
I liked it so much I even bought some lube and was not only able to deal with my bikes chain but offer a good lubing to several other members of the group, who were a clearly a bit dry, for a squeak free ride home.

Note since my first visit a proper cafe building with an indoor seating area has been built.
New Cadence cafe building
Scores based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating


Click here to download 38 mile Norwich Old Buckenham loop GPX file to your GPS

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Its Official (Broken Egg Cafe , Harleston)

Broken Egg Cafe,
Opening times Every day 8:30-4:30

It has been a frustrating time in the world of cafe cycle riding as I have been unable to review a new cafe for over 3 weeks. This is not for the want of trying but I have been frustrated by closed cafes, last minute call offs and inclement weather. So it was a relief to finally get a successful trip in the bag.

Despite the lack of new cafes I have not been idle with several more sausage rolls tested for sausage roll of the year #SROTY and I have been planning a trip to find the best cafe in South Wales in September. As always I will need a cycling guest to accompany me and have chosen Mrs Crusader for this tour. Due to injury and ongoing toothache then Mrs Crusader has not been able to get out on her bike much so will need some serious training up, starting with this 60 mile round trip to Harleston (slightly longer than one shown below).

On the way we stopped at the Spoon cake cafe in Loddon.
Quick stop at Spoon cafe in Loddon
Here I was able to audit their current ratings (still very good) and check out their sausage roll offering. It was a good one but just missed out on my current finalist shortlist.
Sausage roll at Spoon cafe
From here we headed to the border, which gets a bit hilly, so Mrs Crusader started to flag as we hit one 'climb' after another. Using my excellent motivational skills I pointed out it wasn't as hilly as Wales will be, which for some reason didn't seem to help.

After nearly 40 miles we made it to today's target cafe the Broken Egg, just outside Harleston. It has an outdoor seating area but it was mainly filled with very young people on toy tractors so we opted to sit inside.
Outside Broken Egg near Harleston
I checked out the cake selection which had scones (fruit and cheese), a tart thing but only a single slice of cake (chocolate) so I couldn't award a very high effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Rather small cake selection with just one piece cake left
I obviously ordered the only piece of cake to have with my hot chocolate which meant that Mrs Crusader would have to do without and just have a Mocha coffee. I told her it was part of her new nutrition plan, which for some reason didn't seem to help.

They were very busy so our drinks took a little time to come, the very nice waitress lady was very apologetic about the delay and kept us fully up to date with progress.

When the drinks arrived they were both very good indeed. It was nice to have a hot chocolate that wasn't overly milky as is often the case and Mrs Crusader thought her Mocha was of a good strength too.
Very good drinks
As it was lunchtime,and the cafe specialised in egg based dishes, I had an omelet and Mrs Crusader posh eggs on salmon. Again it took a while to arrive but, despite it forming no part of my cafe ratings system, I have to admit it was one of the best omelets I have ever had.

Sometime later there was still no sign of my chocolate cake so I politely approached the counter to ask for it. The waitress lady was so busy apologising to me that she took her eye off the ball (or cake) and dropped it on the floor. Fortunately while we had been having lunch a victoria sponge had been baked and had appeared on the counter so I had some of that instead and must admit it too was excellent cake.
Fortunately a Victoria sponge had appeared before the chocolate cake dropping incident
The Broken Egg was a nice stop and it's food and drink were very good but we had spent a lot longer there than planned and this meant we might not get home before the forecast afternoon rain.

As we set off again it was clear the long stop had done Mrs Crusader no favours and with 10 miles to go she announced that she was knackered. I checked if she was just tired or officially knackered and unfortunately she confirmed the later. This was a shame as it meant forms had to be filled in to make her knackeredness officially official.
Mrs Crusader who was officially knackered
By the time admin was completed the first drops of rain had started to fall. Fortunately I knew that Mrs Crusader knew the way back from where we were so I could happily abandoned her to make sure I got home without the paperwork getting wet. 

I'm sure you will be glad to know that Mrs Crusader eventually got back and as she was officially knackered was allowed a sit down, while I planned her next training ride.

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