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


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

BOTY build up and winner announced

BOTY 
December 2018
News of winner of brownie of the year

As we approach the end of another year I'm sure that most of your thoughts have turned to thinking about who will be the winner of this years Cake Crusaders thing of the year. After the previous things of Cheese scones, Flapjacks and Sausage Rolls then this year the focus has been on the chocolate brownie. 

As before I have visited many cafes in the Norfolk and North Suffolk area in my quest to find the best brownie and tested over 50. Qualification has been very close but results are now in.

Therefore this week, as thing of the year rules dictate, I am cycling to the top 8 brownie cafes to purchase brownies ready for the grand brownie off back at Crusader Towers on Saturday.

I will add to this post as events unfold over the week

Tuesday
Despite it being a rather cold and slightly icy morning I managed to persuade Mrs Crusader to join me on the first collection leg, by promising her an unprecedented 2 cafe stop for a less than 40 mile ride, outrageous!

First stop was Tabnabs in Mattishall which was only 14 miles away but I have to admit that by the time we got there I had lost contact with my extremities so was grateful for the excellent Hot chocolate and peanut cake. 
Mrs Crusader arriving at Tabnabs frozen to her bike
However the main purpose of our visit was to collect the brownies so I was pleased that they had plenty available and had the first finalists in the bag, literally.
First brownie finalists literally in the bag
Next stop was a few miles up the road as we set off for Hamptons at the Barn near  Bawdeswell. Here I was presented with a dilemma as they only had one piece of brownie left. As a rule I need 3 brownies from a cafe for a brownie off, one for each of the quarter, semis and final (if they get that far). I decided to go with the one piece available and make it into 3 rather small brownies for finals day. However I fear this could make it hard for them to win the title, but we shall see.
Proudly showing off the last remaining brownie at Hamptons
Next it was back East to the final stop of the day at the Urban Jungle Cafe in Costessey. On arrival I was relieved to see a stack of brownies on the counter so immediately purchased 3 in case there was a sudden rush before I left (although there wasn't). I then treated Mrs Crusader to a second coffee of the day before we returned to Crusader Towers to label and store the first contestants.
The Urban Jungle brownies ready for transporting
Apart from having a couple less brownies then I had hoped for then today had gone remarkably smoothly. Especially compared with last year when on the corresponding ride I fell off my bike, smashed a tooth and broke a rib (although I still went on to collect the requisite sausage rolls on my bike during the week).

Thursday
Today it was time to head North to purchase brownies in the North Norfolk region. I also sent Mrs Crusader off on an urgent special brownie related mission.

I met up with Andrew at Hard to Please House. We were both pleased to find that although it was cold and windy there was no sign of the frosty and icy conditions from earlier in the week. However we had a decision to make; it would be a 78 mile ride to today's brownie venues or we could go half way in the car and do a more manageable 38 mile trip. It took many seconds and no discussion for us to agree that the 38 miles would be the ride of choice.

We drove to Creake Abbey at the centre of a figure of eight loop and set off to Thornham Deli. As a busy cafe and shop I was confident they would have plenty of brownies and was not disappointed as I purchased three from the top of the stack.
Thornham Deli make it into the bag
Our second stop was Stiffkey stores which was the smallest venue of any of my finalists. I was concerned that they may not have lots of cakes at this time of year and would not have the three brownies that I required. I therefore had come up with a plan to mitigate the risk of Stiffkey Stores (or any of my other finalists) not have any brownies when I visited. I believe this sort of plan is now called a backstop.

The first phase of the backstop was to send Mrs Crusader (in her car) to The Galley in Horning which had just missed out on the finals by only 0.1 of a mark. On the way to Stiffkey I received a text to confirm 3 backstop brownies had been successfully acquired. If there was to be a need to use them I just hoped my team of brownie judges would accept the backstop being implemented as I believe this is not always the case with backstop plans.
Receiving confirmation that the backstop plan was in place
After another 14 miles of hard pedalling, into the wind, along the coast road we made it to Stiffkey stores. I needn't have worried as they had 6 brownies left plus another 4 white chocolate ones. I quickly bought 3 traditional ones and some well earned refreshments. Despite being hard to please, Andrew thought his coffee and carrot cake were both exceptional. My banana cake was pretty good too which bodes well for their chances in the brownie off. I updated the Stiffkey stores marks with today's rating which confirmed their highly recommended status.
Very excited to have completed all my brownie collections today
I was glad I had got the brownies when we first arrived in the store as when we left, 20 mins later, they had all been sold! 

Tomorrow is the final collection run when hopefully the last 3 finalists can come up with the goods although its comforting to know I now have a fully functioning backstop if they don't. 

Friday
I was hoping that everything would go smoothly as I set off to collect brownies from the final three contenders. But as history tells us this was never going to be the case.

Today's brownie collection cycling guest was Big George so I wasn't surprised when I got the text explaining that he had overslept and would be a bit late. When he did eventually turn up he told me that yesterday he had fallen off his bike on a greasy road. I asked if everything was OK and for some reason he told me that he was a bit bruised but otherwise fine which didn't answer my question as I only wanted to know about his bike.

When, shortly after, we reached our first hill we discovered that everything was not alright as when Big George put his bike into the big cog at the back the rear derailleur caught in the wheel and the whole thing snapped off. The bike was well and truly out of action. However nothing can stop the collection of a thing of the year so I cycled back home and collected Big George and his now useless bike in my car before lending him a working machine for the day.
Big George and broken bike being rescued
We were now an hour late so I hoped this would not impact any future brownie purchasing but of course it did.

First stop was the Courtyard cafe in Attleborough. Here they had spiced up their classic brownie (the one that had qualified for the finals) with some nuts to make it a festive brownie. Before purchasing I checked the rules which clearly state that the addition of nuts or fruit to your brownie is allowed so the next set of brownies were in the bag.
On the way to the next brownie stop
From here it was on to the Cadence cafe in Old Buckenham where we were given a very warm welcome by Kong who was expecting us and popped the next set of brownies into a bag. She claimed that she had also been trying brownies at different cafes but still thought these were the best she had had. I felt there might be a slight bias so rather than just go with her word the brownie off would still go ahead tomorrow.
Kong packing the Cadence Cafe brownies
This just left the last set to be collected from the Piano tearooms at Kettering hall. Thanks to our earlier delays I just hoped the Piano tearooms would still have some brownies left.

But when we got there they didn't as they had just sold the last one. This was a shame as they were real contenders, but at least I had yesterday's backstop brownies which could now be implemented to complete the final eight. 
What no brownies!
Then just as we were leaving Mrs Piano came after us. She had not been at the counter when we were informed of the lack of brownie but knowing the purpose of our mission kindly said we could have a couple from tomorrows supply. This was a lovely gesture although as Mrs Piano said she wasn't after any extra brownie points (see what she did there). 

Fantastic news as I now had a full set of finalists and could warm up for the finals by eating the backstop brownies this afternoon.
The backstop brownies from the Galley in Horning
I now have a pile of brownies ready for the big brownie off tomorrow, I'm so excited I don't expect to get much sleep tonight. Watch this space to see what happens
Tomorrows finalists ready for the brownie off
Finals day

Brownie finals day was finally here as my team of 7 crack brownie tastiers turned up on time for a pre tasting warm up ride.

In freezing conditions we cycled over to one of my new favourite cafes, Teles Patisserie in a field near Surlingham where we enjoyed some portuguese treats (but no brownie). If you have never been I highly recommend a visit.
Brownie tasting team at Teles patisserie
It was then back to Crusader Towers for the brownie off. 

Once everyone had a palate cleansing cup of tea or coffee then the first round draw was made and approved by the official adjudication team. There were some cracking looking ties with the tie of the round looking likely to be the North Norfolk battle between Stiffkey stores and Thornham deli.
1st round brownie off draw
With the opening ceremony over we kicked off with Hamptons at the Barn vs Piano Tearooms. You may remember Hamptons had come into the finals with only one piece of brownie so would struggle if they made it all the way to the final. However the Piano Tearooms proved too strong with a 5-2 win.
Piano and Hamptons take to the field
Next the Jungle cafe took on Cadence cafe in a very tight match but Cadence just crept through 4-3.

In the Tabnabs vs Courtyard tea rooms in Attleborough game we saw the biggest difference of opinion. Tabnabs had put up a gooey brownie whereas the courtyard entry had been spiced up for christmas and was the only festive brownie on show today. This went down well with some of the judges but Tabnabs more traditional approach took the round 5-2.

This just left Stiffkey to battle Thornham deli in a David vs Goliath face off and to my surprise Stiffkey came out comfortable 5-2 winners.
Much discussion about courtyards festive brownie
To be clear brownie off tasting rules state that it must be done without the tastiers knowing which brownie is which so no cafe bias can occur and I strongly enforced this rule today.

The semi final draw was done and first up was Cadence vs Tabnabs. These were two very different style brownies but the lighter more gooey one from Tabnabs won out 5-2.
Semi final brownies being prepared
In the other semi it was the same story as Stiffkey Stores racked up a 5-2 win over the piano's darker and firmer brownie as the two lightest colour brownies made it into the finals.

It took some persuasion to get the judges to have one more set of tasting as most of the tasters were struggling to eat any more brownie but they all manned up as Tabnabs and Stiffkey took to the field.
Action from the brownie off final
It was a really close final going one way then the other but by the narrowest of margins Stiffkey Stores came out on top by 4-3.

This was probably the most exciting (and only) brownie off anyone could remember and all the judges agreed that any of the brownies on show today would have been worthy winners so thanks to all those that took part but in the end there can only be one champion so congratulations to Stiffkey Stores.

When the excitement has calmed down I will be announcing what thing of the year in 2019 will be so watch this space.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Wrong way round (Past and Present Tearoom, Long Stratton)

Past and Present Vintage Tea Room,
Long Stratton,
Mon-Fri 9:00-4:00, Sat 9:00-3:00 
On one of my earliest rides as The Cake Crusader I took Big George to a Victorian based tearoom near Bungay. This was a mistake. I remember Big George sitting in his Lycra while talking (to himself) about Rugby, as he failed to blend into the 19th century theme. He got so confused he even ordered tea as he didn't think they had cappuccino back then. By the time we left he was quite pale and, although the tearoom was very nice, Big George made it clear that I was never to take him to such a venue again. (see A matter of taste).

However that was nearly 5 years ago and today I had planned a visit to the Past and Present vintage tea room in Long Stratton. I hoped Big George had recovered from the previous experience as I had invited him to be my cycling guest.

Recently the weather had turned rather chilly so we kept today's ride to a comfortable 35 miles on a route to Long Stratton via Pulham Market.

I was expecting the refreshment stop to come after about two thirds of the ride so was surprised when we approached Long Stratton after only 15 miles. I realised I had been following the route on my cycling GPS the wrong way round. I wasn't ready for a stop yet and so had to go off piste and make up a new route which I managed to do without Big George spotting the change, although he was surprised how often we appeared to be crossing the A140.

After the correct miles had been achieved we were ready to stop at the Past and Present Vintage Tea Room which was also on the A140 and required yet another crossing.
Outside Tea room on A140
Inside we hadn't gone so far back in time as before as the decor and staff were more 1940's which Big George seemed happier with. It was rather packed inside as there was a big mother and baby group in but we were found the last table for two available. The outdoor seating area on the pavement seemed a bit cold and wet today.

There was a large cake display cabinet with some of the biggest sponge cakes I have ever seen. However I opted for the more manageable sized farmhouse slice. Big George had a flat white with a sausage roll (as he continued his cake boycott which has now been going on for several years although neither of us can now remember why).
Cake display cabinet with some very large cakes
My hot chocolate was nice but Big George felt his flat white was too white and not strong enough. I enjoyed the farmhouse slice and would guess that the unfeasibly large sponge cakes would be good to.
Cake and drinks 
With the mother and baby group starting to discuss their plans for Christmas we decided it was time to leave what had been a pleasant stop. Our next challenge was to cross the A140 again.

I was relieved Big George had survived his latest trip back in time and therefore happily agreed to another ride in a couple of weeks where I promised that less A road crossing would be involved.
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.6
5.6
6.8
7.2
6
6.44
Route (we should have done) to be published shortly

View 37 Miles Pulham st Mary in a larger map

Click link to download 37 mile Norwich Pulham St Mary loop GPX file for your GPS

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

What no Hall! (The Coffee House, Bury St Edmunds)

The Coffee House,
Bury St Edmunds,
Mon-Fri 7:30-5:00, Sat 8:30-4:00,
Sun 09:00-2:00
Recommended
You may recall that earlier this year Myself and Mrs Crusader cycled across India to see if I could find a cup of tea worth more than 7 out of 10 (See My special rides page). On the trip we met some new friends (Cliff and Sharon) who foolishly gave me there contact details. As a result, then yesterday, we met up for a reunion ride where they joined Mrs Crusader as my cycling guests.

We met up at Knettishall Heath near Thetford which was roughly equal distance between our homes. From here the plan was to cycle down to a Coffee shop on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds at Moreton Hall.

As I have visited about 200 cafes in Norfolk I have been running out of new places to go to so in the morning I put an appeal out for some new cafe suggestions on my Facebook page and Twitter feed. I was grateful for a lot of new ideas although they will take me sometime to work through (however don't let this put you off sending me more recommendations). One of these was the Coffee House at Morton Hall in Bury St Edmunds. As luck would have it that was where I had planned to go on this ride so I was pleased to have one ticked off already.

It was a bit windy as we left Knettishall Heath car park and headed south. Apparently the wind made it difficult to hear me recount how I got up the Tourmalet first on my trip across the Pyrenees in the summer on another of this years special rides.  
On the way to Bury St Edmunds where the wind made it hard to hear the conversations
After telling the story for the 3rd or 4th time we found The Coffee House through an underpass. Mrs Crusader was very disappointed that it wasn't in the courtyard of a stately home as it turned out that Moreton Hall was a district of Bury as the Moreton Hall Housing estate had been built on the original land and the Hall was now a school.
Outside the Coffee Shop
Despite this there was a nice warm and friendly welcome inside giving a high Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) mark. The cake selection was presented in an impressive cake display case and had a good range of cakes and slices so I awarded a good ECS mark.
Cake selection in a cake selection display case
I went for chocolate and caramel cake while Mrs Crusader choose carrot and walnut to have with her americano. Cliff and Sharon both had flapjack with their americanos.

The cakes and drinks turned up in record time. 
Cake and drinks
My hot chocolate was a good one but the americanos were felt to be a bit weak. This reminded me of  a cycling guest cycling top tip passed on to me by the Old Rock Shop cafe in Cromer.

Cycling guest cycling top tip no 68. To avoid having to moan to your cycling host about weak coffee ask the barista for an extra shot to make sure it's strong enough.

When Cliff decided he wanted a second cup he followed cycling guests cycling top tip no 68 and was far more impressed with his next drink upping the guest hot drink quality (GHDQ) rating.

The cakes all tasted nice but were a little on the dry side to score top marks.

Despite the lack of an actual Hall and courtyard, the Coffee House had performed well and I recommend a visit.

The ride back was much swifter as the wind was now in our favour so I was able to make sure everyone could now clearly here my Pyrenees tales. By the time I had finished we were back at the car with no time to hear about Cliff and Sharon's ride through Germany. I suggested we join up for another ride next Spring but Cliff said they were busy all next year and probably the year after but promised to give me a ring when they were next free, which I'm looking forward to already as I'm sure to have some more stories to tell them by then.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7
6
7.3
7.2
7.7
7.04

Route


Click here to download 37.5 mile Thetford Bury St Edmunds loop gpx file on your gps

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Am I still creaking? (Teles Patisserie, Surlingham)

Teles Patisserie,
Surlingham,
Tue-Sun 9:00-5:00,
Highly Recommended
At the end of my last post I left things on a real cliffhanger. I thought I had found the source of my annoying creaking noise in the rear wheel skewer of my bike but it was yet to be tested. So was it fixed? Had my greasing and spring replacement strategy done the job?

As I set off on today's cafe cycle ride to Surlingham it soon became apparent that my diagnosis had been wrong as within a few minutes the creak was back. I stopped several times on the route to make further adjustments but to no avail. By the time we got to Teles patisserie, next to the Surlingham farm shop, I was more than a little frustrated and had a headache from the din.
Outside Teles Patisserie in the outdoor seating area overlooking the farmyard
I don't believe there can be many Portuguese patisseries at the end of a track by a farm shop but that is where I found this one. There was a nice outdoor seating area but being November we went inside.
Indoor seating area
The cake selection was definitely more patisserie than tearoom but it was nice to see something different. Today's cycling guest, Mrs Crusader, went for a fruit tart with her americano while I picked the traditional Portuguese tart. I also had a Pao de Deus or bread of God (looked like a Portuguese scone) with cheese for my lunch while Mrs Crusader had a cheese and ham croissant.
Great selection of pastries and tarts
I noticed the 7 tables used a Portuguese municipality table identification system (PMTIS) and were at Sesimbra. However on further investigation only 5 of the 7 tables had been named. As everyone knows there are 308 municipalities in Portugal so hopefully the other two tables can easily be named and the PMTIS can be put into full operation with scope for another 301 tables in the future. Despite this we both liked the set up and awarded a high atmosphere and ambiance (AAA) score.
Our table name
When our food and drink arrived my Pao de Deus had only gone and been served on it's serviette (aghhhh!!!). I decided to forgive this as strictly speaking a Pao de Deus is not cake and it tasted fantastic. 
My Pao de Deus served on its serviette
Mrs Crusader thought her fruit tart was the best one she had ever had and my Portuguese tart was fabulous. Mrs Crusader was also impressed with her coffee but I felt my hot chocolate was only average and not up to the high standard of the rest of our refreshments.
Todays drinks and cakes
Teles Patisserie was a great find and I highly recommend a visit. It is probably the best Portuguese patisserie in the Surlingham area.

I spent the way back in silence (unlike my bike) as I planned a series of approaches to try and eradicate the bike creak, most of which seemed to involve a hammer.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.6
8
6.4
9
7.9
7.58
Route

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

Friday, 26 October 2018

What, no Arctic blast. (Lyng Stores, Lyng)

Lyng Stores,
Lyng,
Mon-Fri 7:30-7:00, Sat 8:00-7:00,
Sun 9:00-1:00
Yesterday the weather forecast lady told me that we would be getting an Arctic blast today. This was exciting news as I would be able to try out my new winter cycle boots and see if they keep my feet warm without the need for overshoes. I would be combing my footwear test with a trip to the Lyng stores which I had been recommended to try.

I got into my winter cycling garb for the first time this year and strapped on my new boots (which had some quite complicated laces and Velcro to negotiate). Big George was joining me as today's cycling guest but I was a little concerned when he turned up in his cycle shorts and no winter jacket! Did he not know there was an Arctic blast coming?
Big George was not dressed appropriately for an Arctic blast
After a few miles it appeared Big George had called it right as I had to take off my gloves and unzip my top as I was overheating. In fact the only part of me that was not boiling hot was my feet, which was a bit worrying.

Still hot we arrived at the Lyng shopping district were we found the Lyng stores.
Outside the Lyng stores in the outdoor seating area
There was an outdoor seating area plus a few tables inside, which was were we choose to sit today. The cake selection was rather small with the star attraction being a Bakewell tart (which isn't really cake) but I went for the chocolate chip muffin and Big George a cheese toastie (which definitely isn't cake).
Todays rather small cake selection
I had been recommended the coffee here but as I don't drink it I left it to Big George to decide. However for some reason he had gone for a standard white coffee (as it was cheapest) and therefore didn't get the full coffee experience. My hot chocolate was a bit on the milky side but still quite good. The Muffin was a fairly standard affair.
Today's cake and drinks
After scores were in the Lyng stores scored consistently with a number of other village store/cafe outlets I have visited such as the ones at Rocklands and Neatishead so I think my rating system is working well. I will probably be coming here again with a proper coffee drinker to give the Lyng stores a fairer test.

On the way home my bike developed an annoying rattle/creak noise. In fact it was so loud that I was actually tweeted by a follower on twitter saying he had seen me and wanted to know if it was my bike making all the noise. I tweeted back to confess that he was right on both counts. I think this now qualifies me as a Z rated local celebrity and I probably need an agent.

Back at Crusader Towers, in my secret underground workshop, I think I found the rattle/creak noise in the rear wheel skewer which I gave a damn good greasing. I will find out if it is fixed on my next ride, by which time the Arctic blast might have really turned up so I can get back to boot testing. Exciting times!

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.8
6.1
5.3
6.3
6.7
6.24
Route

Click here to down load 37 mile Norwich Lyng loop gpx file to your gps