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


Saturday, 26 May 2018

Norfolk cycle parkrun challenge stage 5. (Beach cafe, Gorleston )

Beach Cafe,
Gorleston,
Opening times Everyday 8-5 (shorter in Winter)
Recommended
You may recall that over the Summer I’m planning to cycle, then run, to every parkrun in Norfolk after a foolish suggestion from cycle parkrun guest Mark. Today we were off to the seaside for the Gorleston parkrun. It was a 30 mile ride so we left the official start point, Eaton Park bandstand, at 6.30.

Keeping up a good pace into the wind we arrived in plenty of time and gathered at the park by the prom for the start.
Parkrunners gathering at the start
The run is two laps along the top then back down the prom (which was into a strong headwind today). We were both happy with our performances, with series standing at 3-2 to Mark after my victory today.
At the finish of the parkrun at Gorleston
It was then back down the prom to today’s cafe which was the beach cafe right on the seafront. 
Outside the beach cafe on the seafront at Gorleston
My previous experience of beach cafes have not been good as they don’t have to try hard to get the trade in so I was pleasantly surprised with the large and excellent looking cake selection available today. It led to a rare 9 out of 10 for effective cake selection (ECS).There were also brownies available which I took away to test later as part of my search for brownie of the year #BOTY (and they were also very good).
Todays spectacular cake selection
We were joined in the cafe by two of Mark’s friends who had also performed on the prom today. Sadly they were having fried breakfast and had come by car so couldn’t take part in any cycle cafe reviewing.

I had chosen rhubarb crumble cake and Mark lime and zucchini cake to have with his latte.
Today's cakes and drinks
The cakes were good and after trying both I announced a cake taste quality (CTQ) mark of 7.9. Mark’s friend was intrigued by my scoring methods and asked what the cakes would have required to do to score an 8. I was glad he recognised my cake tasting expertised and willing explained that they would needed to have been 0.1 better for that mark. 

Sadly the drinks dragged the final score down a bit as neither my hot chocolate or Mark’s latte were very good and a bit on the weak side however I still thought it a very good beach cafe and recommend a visit. 

Next week our parkrun challenge heads North to Holkham and as it is a 40 mile ride a very early start will be required.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.8
4
9
7.9
8
6.94
Route
Click here to download 29 mile Norwich to Gorleston gpx file to your gps
Click here to download 30 mile Gorleston to Norwich gpx file to your gps

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Norfolk cycle parkrun challenge stage 4. (Courtyard cafe, Sheringham)

Courtyard Cafe,
Sheringham Park,
Opening times Everyday 10-5 (Weekends in Winter)
My friend Mark was looking for someone to join him on an attempt to cycle to, then run, every parkrun in Norfolk over the summer. He needed someone who liked cycling, enjoyed planning routes, was obsessed by stats and spreadsheets, and couldn’t resist a challenge. For some reason, I don't understand why, he thought of me and I quickly picked up the gauntlet. 

Today was the 4th cycle parkrun we had done, this time to Sheringham, but the first with a cafe I hadn't been to, hence the need for today's post.

As the official Norfolk cycle parkrun challenge rules (what I wrote) dictate then each ride needs to start from our home parkrun which means the bandstand at Eaton Park. I had calculated that we needed to leave at 7.00 am to get to the start in time so got up early and met Mark on time. Even that early in the morning it took longer than expected to get across Norwich so by the time we got into the country we were already on the clock.

Fortunately, although we were riding into the wind, it was a light one so with a bit more cycling effort than planned we made it to Sheringham Park in time to get ready for the run and hear the pre race briefing.
Sheringham parkrun pre race briefing
The run route was a very pretty one passing the colourful rhododendrons that were coming into bloom. As I have had an Achilles injury for the last few weeks (not that I like to talk about it) I struggled with the long downhill start but once we were on the flat I could get going and enjoy the views of the sea. There is a bit of a sting in the tail with a short steep uphill before the finish so I was pleased with my 14th place finish. Mark came in a minute and forty seconds behind me.
Another Norfolk parkrun completed
With parkrun complete it was time to test out the cafe. It was a National Trust jobby called The Courtyard cafe. I am now getting a bit fed up with Courtyard cafes as this is the 5th one I have been to in Norfolk which is getting confusing and causes data integrity issues on my ratings spreadsheet.
Outside another Courtyard Cafe with fellow runners already inside
Fortunately as we had finished towards the front of the run we got into the cafe early before a large queue formed. However the cake selection was a bit light with only Victoria sponge and carrot cake available. We shared a piece of each while Mark had an americano as his guest hot drink.
Rather small cake selection
We returned to the outdoor courtyard seating area where Mark demonstrated his rookie rating skills by getting all his proposed scores wrong. We did both think the carrot cake good but the sponge cake a bit dry although still decent enough. My hot chocolate was a poor Cadbury one but Mark felt his coffee was pretty good and strong. So a bit of a mixed bag.
Cakes and drinks
With parkrun run and the park cafe rated our work here was done as we returned to Norwich via the Marriotts way. Next week we head East to the Gorleston parkrun.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
4.9
7
5
7.1
7
6.20
route

Click here to download 25 mile Norwich to Sheringham gpx file for your gps
Click here to download 33 mile Sheringham to Norwich gpx file for your gps

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Late again. (The School House, Poringland)

Closed Down
With clear blue skies and bright sunshine, today looked like the perfect day for a cafe cycle ride, but don't be fooled. I had arranged a 35 mile loop in South Norfolk ending at the new community cafe (the School House) in Poringland. Today's cycling guest, Big George, sent me his normal "why I'll be late" text as I waited for him by the big wrought Iron gates at the end of Crusader Towers drive. It said "just setting off and will be with you in 5". The units of the 5 were not specified and it turned out they were each 6 minutes in length as we eventually left 30 minutes late.

Cycling guest cycling top tip 63. Before setting off on your ride check the weather forecast and don't be fooled by clear blue skies and bright sunshine as it could still be very cold.

Fortunately we had both sensibly followed cycling guest cycling top tip 63 and, for the first time, both had our gillets on as it was freezing. Especially if you were waiting in the cold for half an hour to start your ride.

To keep warm we cycled as fast as we could until we arrived at the School House cafe in Poringland
Outside the School House entrance
As the name suggests the School House cafe is housed in the old Poringland primary school building in presumably what was one of the classrooms. The decor is very bright and they have kept away from any old school theme which is good or bad depending on your taste but a bit too clinical for me.

The cake selection wasn't bad with several nice looking cake offerings. I went for banana and honey loaf and Big George ordered a cappuccino and egg sandwich, (on white with no garnish). As an egg sandwich (on white with no garnish) is not cake then he played no further part in cake reviewing.
Today's cake selection
We felt our drinks were both a bit on the weak side and my banana loaf seemed to be a fruit cake as I couldn't detect any banana, just sultaners but I may just have been given the wrong loaf. Either way it tasted very good but was a bit on the dry side. 
Cakes and drinks at the school house cafe
Although egg sandwiches play no part in my rating system Big George wanted it noted that it was an excellent one. So I have, maybe he should start his own egg sandwich based blog to save me the effort in future.

As we set off for home Big George asked what time it was as he had an urgent appointment at the barbers. Fortunately he had plenty of time but proudly announced he had brought extra money with he in case we were delayed and he had to go straight to his haircut. I questioned why he used the word we as I recalled being on schedule as I waited half an hour in the freezing cold to start the ride and without introducing any time pressures of my own.

I'm sure you will be glad to know that we did get back in plenty of time and by now Big George's hair should have been appropriately shortered.

Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.9
5
6.8
6.8
6.1
6.12
Route to be published shortly

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Posh cafe. (Courtyard Cafe, Holkham)

Courtyard Cafe,
Holkham,
Opening times Everyday 10-5
Recommended
(closed Jan-Mid Feb) 
Despite all the recent nice weather, I had managed to arrange a cafe cycle ride with Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) on the first chilly and windy day that we have had in ages. I had put Andrew in charge of logistics after requesting a route from Hard to Please House out to Holkham Hall cafe, as it was in his neck of the woods.

The ride started smoothly until we had gone about 10 miles when we were out of range of the roads that Andrew was familiar with. Here we had to stop and resort to using his photocopied map with crayoned route for guidance. After studying it for sometime Andrew confidently pointed in the proposed direction of travel and set off. Five minutes later, and after several left turns, we found ourselves back at the same point but this time heading in the opposite direction.
Andrew using the latest navigational system (he is familiar with)
I didn’t like to say anything and Andrew seemed happy that we were on track so we continued on our way and much to both of our surprises arrived at Holkham Hall with no further navigational incidents.
Andrew claimed it looked like the poshest cafe I had taken him to
Once within the hall grounds we soon found the courtyard cafe which was one of the biggest cafes I have been to.
Outside one of the cafe entrances
As well as the large indoor seating area and courtyard based outdoor seating area there were three tills in operation, which is two more than I’m used to.
Part of the courtyard based outdoor seating area
However, probably due to the recent good weather, there seemed to have been a rush on cakes. There were lots of labels describing what was meant to be there but next to these were empty spaces were the cake should have been. On the plus side there was brownie available to test for brownie of the year #BOTY although it wasn’t good enough to make it to the current potential finalists list.
Today's brownie offering
We both opted for the fruit cake and Andrew went for a tea as his hot drink.
Cakes with a few gaps
We paid, at till number 2, and returned to the courtyard to consume our fare.
Our cakes and hot chocolate
Both our drinks were decent but the fruit cake was a bit on the dry side. I don’t think we caught the Courtyard cafe on its best day and it would be interesting to come again when there are more cakes and someone to test the coffee. Fortunately I plan to do just this as I’m currently cycling to every parkrun in Norfolk (followed by run and cafe visit) and Holkham is happening in a few weeks time. So the jury is out until then. (Scores now include my parkrun visit).

On our way again we cycled down the mile long drive out of the hall. I checked my cycle computer and reported that our average speed had already dropped 0.3 mph in the short distance since lunch. Just then a Red Kite swooped out of the trees and gave us a full bird of prey display. Andrew was very excited to see such a rare sighting. As we set of again I told Andrew that it was unbelievable, as I couldn’t believe that Andrew had actually slowed down to watch a bird right after I had said our average speed had dropped. I was furious.

With the wind behind and no more raptors to distract us I made sure we recovered our average speed so was in much better mood when I got home to fill in the ride stats on my computer. I discovered this was the 4th Courtyard Cafe I had been to in Norfolk so I suggest a bit more imagination is needed in the local cafe naming department.

Scores based on 2 visits
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.6
7.05
6.85
6.9
7.48
6.98
Route

Click here to download 58 mile Aylsham Holkham loop GPX file for your gps.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Hard man image? (Vanilla Cafe, Debenham)

Vanilla cafe,
Debenham,
Opening Times
Mon-Sat 8-4
Recommended 
Last week Big George had called off our planned cafe cycle ride into darkest Suffolk sighting 3 reasons
1. He was feeling poorly
2. It was too far
3. It was due to rain all day

This was hardly in keeping with his hard man Scottish image but I had reluctantly agreed to rearrange the trip until yesterday. However by the time it was finished his beer drinking, rugby loving persona was in tatters.

I had replanned the route down from the original 58 miles to a more manageable 37 to keep within Big Georges current limits. The route was due to start from Hoxne (no I don't know how to pronounce it either) in North Suffolk so we had to drive there first.

On arrival we enthusiastically got the bikes out the back of the car and were soon enjoying the Suffolk countryside, which is very similar to Norfolk but with extra hills.


Getting ready to set off from Hoxne
Big George had a quick whinge about the wind direction but despite this we made good time down to Debenham for today's cafe stop. Please note Debenham is a place in Suffolk and we didn't just pop into the nearest department store. Our venue was The Vanilla cafe on the high Street.
Outside Vanilla cafe about to cause pavement gridlock
As there was nowhere to leave our bikes we propped them against the cafe sandwich board but foolishly didn’t follow cycling guests cycling top tip no. 65

Cycling guest cycling top tip no. 65. Never leave your bikes somewhere that narrows the width of the pavement as this will instantly attract all mobility scooters from miles around and cause total pavement gridlock.

I left Big George to wrestle with bikes and mobility scooters and went inside to check out the cakes and place our order.
Today's cake selection
As well as a good selection of cakes I was glad to see brownie available so I took some away for later testing in my secret underground bicycle workshop back at Crusader Towers.

I order Victoria sponge to go with my Hot Chocolate while Big George had a Cappuccino and a pain Au chocolat which isn't really cake but close enough for him.

We sat outside enjoying our refreshments and as our bikes were now safely parked away from the pavement no more mobility scooters appeared.
Today;s hot drink and cake selection
My Hot Chocolate was fairly standard but Big George thought his giant Cappuccino was particularly good. On the cake front then the Victoria sponge was a very large nice tasting piece while I ignored Big George’s view on the pain au chocolat as it wasn’t really cake. Overall the Vanilla cafe had proved to be a decent stop and I recommend  a visit.

As we set off again Big George asked me to guess what event, in the next couple of weeks, he had managed to get tickets for. I assumed it must be yet another Scottish Rugby match so was somewhat surprised to be told he had gone ticket crazy for the forthcoming Norfolk and Norwich cultural festival. As he listed each performance I became increasingly worried about his future image rights. I could just about understand one going to see a selection of 'Songs and poems from the sea' sung and spoken by people I've never heard of but I would find it harder to justify watching over an hour of artistic acrobatics in a large tent, although apparently this is done in the nude (the acrobatic bit not the watching) so could almost see the attraction. However how any self respecting so called Scottish hard man could sign up to sit through an interpretation of the “world in free-fall” via the media of dance is beyond me.

I explained I wouldn't be going to any events again this year as during all the performance art I have been to (which isn’t any) I always end up getting bored and thinking I would rather be at home with a good spreadsheet.

Unnerved by a discussion about art I changed the conversation back to Big George’s favourites of Rugby, beer and housework before insisting on a short detour to Cocoa Mama's cafe in Eye to collect some more brownie. To comfort myself I spent a happy afternoon brownie tasting and filling in the appropriate rows and columns in my #BOTY Excel.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5.5
7.5
6.8
7.37
7.05
6.84
Route
Click here to download 37 Mile Hoxne Debenham loop gpx file to your GPS

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

As predicted. (Un Cafe, Beeston)

Un Cafe,
Beeston,
Recommended
Opening times Mon-Sat 9:30-4:00 
After having to postpone last weeks cafe cycle ride due to unprecedented precipitation then I was relieved to see the sun had made it out today for the first time since 'the heatwave' we enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

This weekend will be the 3rd Annual Cake Crusader Spring Sportive (CCSS) where we will be having two 60 mile rides, overnighting at Thetford. As today's cycling guests, Mrs Crusader plus Barry and Helen and their tandem would be coming I decided to keep this ride on the short side to aide the long tapering programme they seem to have been on in the building up to the event.

On my last ride Big George got a puncture and in the blog post I wrote the following "As always I checked my records which show that my last cafe cycle puncture on a ride was a year ago (30th April 2017) whereas my cycling guests have now had seven in that time. I think we all know what will happen on my next ride."

What a stupid, stupid thing to have written as clearly the cycling gods were not going to let such a prediction pass and I got a puncture within the first 5 miles of today's ride. Things were made doubly frustrating as the tyres were very new and therefore took sometime to get on and off.
Mending my first puncture for over a year as Helen supervisies with 'useful suggestions'
Once fixed we rode through Broadland before reaching the new Norwich North Distributor road. Thanks to a badly designed cycle crossing point it took sometime to get across but once we had we found Un Cafe (a cafe) at the Beeston farm shop.
Un Cafe in a very modern style building
The staff asked if we wanted them to set up the outdoor seating. I wasn't sure if it was because they didn't like the look of us or if they were just being nice. I assumed the later and we went marched inside.
The potential outdoor seating area, available on request
The cake selection had a good number of sponge cakes but sadly no brownie to try for Brownie of the year 2018 (#BOTY). I had a blackberry sponge and Mrs Crusader coffee cake. As always Barry refused to take part in any cake reviewing nonsense and Helen was clearly confused and ordered a sausage roll, which was so 2017 (#SROTY).
Today's cake selection
Our refreshments soon arrived. I found the hot chocolate a bit on the weak side but the mocha and cappuccino ordered by my cycling guests both got a big thumbs up as they were very happy with their strength and taste.
Excellent coffee
The cakes were nice solid examples and got a decent cake taste quality (CTQ) score.
Cake, but I think you knew that
Un cafe (a cafe) was a nice stop, although not as french as the name suggested, and I recommend a visit.

The short ride back home had no further incident and hopefully it will be at least another year before my next puncture but I won't be making any predictions.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6
8
6.7
7.1
6.54
6.87

Route

Click here to download 31 Mile Norwich Beeston loop GPX file for your GPS