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


Sunday, 22 December 2019

Fruit Scone of the year Finals.

Fruit Scone Of The Year Final

Once again I have been in search of a thing of the year with this years thing being the fruit scone. I have sampled over 40 fruit scones from tea rooms and cafes that I have visited on my bike in order to find the best ones. Normally the top 8 make it through to finals day and I go and collect the finalists on a series of bike rides the week before. Sadly this year the weather has been so bad that it hasn't been possible to do this. The best I could manage was to collect 5 of the best in my car on Friday plus one more on Saturdays finals day ride.

The day started with a reasonable turn out of seven guest judges who would be coming on a short bike ride to the Orangery Tea Room before returning to Crusader Towers for the scone off. We were very lucky to have occasional cyclist Gwyn in our midst as she is a self proclaimed fruit scone expert so would be able to offer an extra dimension to the judging. 
Guest judges ready for pre scone off warm up ride
The ride itself proved uneventful, except for a few flooded roads to cope with.
One of several flooded roads on the route
So we were able to collect our final scone while I gave the judges their final briefing and we enjoyed some excellent cake at the Orangery tea room.
Judging panel having pre final briefing over tea and cake
With ride complete and scones safely in the bag it was back to the tasting room at Crusader Towers for the action to begin.

Despite being two scones down from the eight qualifiers there was still a quality field so we could expect some high calibre scone action. After consulting the thing off rule book a slightly different approach was required with two scones getting a bye in the first round. These were The Earsham Hall and Aldis Farm Shop Cafe ones as they were the highest ranking scones from the qualify.
Scones warming up before the action got underway
The draw for the first round was made and Old Hall Farm would be at home against the Orangery scone.
The draw for the first round being made
The scones were divided up and it was clear that the Orangery scone had a tension issue and crumbled badly when cut but it was still a tight battle. On first taste it looked like an easy win for the Orangery but the old Hall farm scone had a very pleasant aftertaste and came through in the end winning 4 votes to 3.
Voting taking place for a losing scone
The second match saw the Pennoyer centre play The Angel cake cafe. Self proclaimed fruit scone expert Gwyn gave some interesting insite saying one of the scones was a bit too floury for her and she was proved right as the less floury Pennoyer centre just held on to win 4 votes to 3.
Self proclaimed fruit scone expert Gwyn (Top right) gave a number of fascinating scone insights during the event.
At this point we lost Big George from the judging panel as he had to collect a new rabbit to start to be bonded with his existing one. You may remember a previous post 'Rabbit News' where Big George explained all about rabbit bonding which you can relive it here.

We now entered the semi final stage with our two seeded teams entering the draw. Incidentally for fruit scone off fact fans then a choice of butter or a vegetable based spread was provided for judges to put on their scone, but no jam!

First Earsham Hall played Old Hall Farm who couldn't come from behind twice and was soundly beaten 5-1.
First semi final line up
The other semi final was close but again the seeded team came through 4-2 with Aldis Farm Shop Cafe slightly sweeter scone winning out.

It was now time for the final but Mrs Crusader was in a sulk as she had voted for the losing scone in every round so refused to take any further part as apparently it was a waste of time.

With the tension mounting the two finalist were divide up and tasting got underway. 
The finalists divide up ready for the last tasting of the day
It was soon clear that there would be a winner as the Aldis Farm Shop Cafe scone won comfortably by 4 votes to 1 to be crowned Fruit Scone of The Year. I look forward to breaking the news to them.

It had been a great scone off although maybe it had been a mistake to have a big slice of cake at the Orangery first as most of the judges felt they didn't want to have another fruit scone in the foreseeable feature.

Fortunately they won't have to as next year the thing of the year will be heading in a new direction as I will going in search of Egg on Toast of the Year. The rules are currently being decided on so watch this space.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Tales from the East. (Bramleys Cafe and Cakery, Norwich)

Bramley’s Café and Cakery,
Norwich,
Wednesday-Sunday 10:00-15:30,
Highly Recommended
It's been a difficult time in the world of cycle cafe riding. Not only has the weather been dreadful but two of my regular cycling guests have been out of the country. One of them, Big George, has been in the Far East for a month but yesterday he was back, the weather set fair and a new cafe was on the agenda so he agreed to join me on a welcome home ride.

I decided to keep it to a fairly short one and was hoping to distract Big George with General Election based chat so I wouldn't have to hear too much about his trip. Unfortunately there was no stopping him as he set forth on a plethora of tales. Sadly I can't pass on any of his amusing stories and anecdotes on as I wasn't actually listening but he seemed to have had a good time.

Our route today went round west of Norwich and as far North as Weston Longville before returning back to Norwich. Unfortunately as well as being very cold then after a few miles it started to rain and before long we were both wet and frozen. Apparently this was worse for Big George as he had got used to the high temperatures he had enjoyed in Vietnam, yabba, yabba, yawn, yawn, zzzzzzzzzz.

While Big George regaled his stories I had entered a cryogenic zen like state so it felt we had got to the cafe in no time at all. We found it, Bramleys Cakery, at Hellesdon Barns near the Marriotts way cycle path.
Cold and wet standing in the outdoor seating area at Bramleys cakery
There was one table in a mini outdoor seating area but despite it being free we decided the heavy rain and our near hypothmic bodies meant inside would be a better option.

Inside had a cosy mountain log cabin feel (minus the mountains) where we selected a suitable table from where to start the drying off and warming up process.
Cosy wood cabin feel to the indoor seating area
The cake selection looked excellent and I had difficulty deciding which one to go for making it a very effective one. In the end I opted for the toffee apple cake and Big George had a cheese scone to go with his Latte. 
Today's extremely effective cake selection
There were also some excellent looking fruit scones which I took away to test out for Fruit Scone of the Year #FSOTY. It will be the final one I check out before deciding which scones to put forward for finals day. I will be announcing the finalists in the next couple of days.

Our drinks and cakes soon arrived and we both thought our drinks were very good and deserved high hots drinks marks. Big George doesn't normally have a milky coffee so was impressed with the latte's strength while my hot chocolate was nice and chocolaty too.
Good hot drinks
I had not come across the word cakery before but according to Professor Google it is a word so I was expecting good things from the cakes. Fortunately I was not disappointed as they were excellent with my toffee apple cake sponge being nice and moist while also featuring real apple and toffee. Big George has an interesting relationship with cheese scones. He often orders one before later remembering he doesn't really like them that much and regretting his choice but today he claimed this was one of the best ones he could remember and had no such regrets.
Excellent cake and scones
Despite being cold and wet then Bramleys Cakery had re motivated us for the rest of our ride and with their excellent drinks and cakes I highly recommend a visit.

Fortunately it was only a short ride across Norwich to the warmth of Crusader Towers. Big George still had time to tell me about the excellent full body massage he had had when in the Far East. Although I was impressed when he described the bending and pummeling he had undergone, especially the bit when the masseur walked up and down his back, he then let himself down badly by confessing he had finished with a cucumber based moisturising facial. It was therefore no surprise when he said he would be getting out the scented candles and having a hot bath once he got home. He did look worried when I said that I was so cold and wet I might join him, until I clarified "in my own bath".

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.7
7.5
8.2
8.5
7.0
7.78
Route

Click here to download 31 mile Norwich Weston Longville loop gpx file for your gps


Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Layering. (Old Hall Farm, Woodton)

Old Hall Farm,
Woodton,
Everyday 09:00-17:30,
Highly Recommended
Yesterday I continued my mission to try and get 250 visited and reviewed cafe on my locations map. Unfortunately the last couple of weeks have gone badly as it has been too cold and wet to visit any new ones and as part of my ongoing cafe audit I had found some more closed down cafes that I have had to remove from the map. My mother did say she had recently heard of a new cafe but on further questioning it transpired it was from reading my last blog post so didn't really help take my mission forward. 

However the good news was that although yesterday was rather cold the roads were frost free and there was no rain so I was able to arrange a trip. I was joined by Mrs Crusader, regular cycling guest Alastair and renowned trouble maker Jenny on a ride down to Old Hall Farm near Woodton.

Due to a poorly arranged dental appointment then renowned trouble maker Jenny could only cycle for an hour before she would have to return home. After an hour we were only 3 miles from the target cafe but she decided not to risk being late and to avoid causing trouble at the dentist she turned round as the rest of us continued for the last few miles to the farm.

The cafe is part of diary complex selling milk based products although we didn't get to see any cows today.
Outside Old Hall farm but no sign of any cows
There is an outdoor patio seating area be we opted for an indoor window seat with lovely views across the fields. The decor inside is rather functional in nature and not particularly bovine themed but still very pleasant on a cold day.
The indoor seating area in action
There was a good cake selection with the biggest, creamiest victoria sponge I've ever seen but none of us stepped up to the monster cake challenge as I went for carrot cake, Mrs Crusader had a Brownie and Alastair Cherry and Chocolate Cheesecake. (Note: Despite having the word cake in it I struggle to think of cheesecake as proper cake so his input would not have a big influence on today's cake taste mark). 
A fine cake selection featuring a huge Victoria Sponge
As well as the excellent looking cake selection there were fruits scones available which I took away for taste testing in my secret underground bicycle worksop back at Crusader Towers (Note they were extremely nice and could yet make it into fruit scone of the year finals day at the end of the month).

Mrs Crusader had a very nice americano, Alastair found it hard to find anything bad about his flat white so a high guest drinks score was awarded. I was initially delighted to see my hot chocolate was twice as big as their coffees but as a result it was a little on the weak side although still a good offering. The cakes were right up at the top end of my cake rating continuum even if Mrs Crusader thought her triple chocolate brownie was too chocolatey. As being too chocolaty is not a real thing I ignored her input.
Great cakes and drinks including my supersized hot chocolate
All in all Old Hall Farm cafe had really delivered on the refreshments front and the staff were very helpful and friendly too so I highly recommend a visit.

On the way back my cycling guests spent a lot of time stopping and faffing as layers started to come off as the temperature warmed up. This lead to today's Cycling Guest cycling top tip.

Cycling Guest Cycling Top Tip No. 71. To avoid spending your winter cycle ride putting on or taking off layers, whilst annoying your cycling host, then just wear a really good base layer and winter cycle jacket as with modern fabric technology this will regulate your temperature much more effectively. (Multi layering is so old school).

As I had followed cycling guest cycling top tip No. 71 I was toasty warm, without overheating, for the whole ride back home.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.0
8.5
7.8
9
7.0
7.86
Map of route
Click on link to download 31 mile Norwich Hedenham loop GPX file for your GPS

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Cold! (The Painted Barn, Barnham Broom)

Painted Barn,
Barnham Broom,
Mon-Sat 09:30-16:30,
Highly Recommended
In the winter Mrs Crusader has a strict 30 mile ride limit for any trips she is invited on. Therefore I'm always excited when I hear of new cafes in the Mrs Crusader winter ride goldilocks zone (MCWRGZ). So I couldn't believe my luck when last week I was told about two MCWRGZ cafes via my Facebook page.

I immediately arranged to visit the first one, The Painted Barn at Barnham Broom, for this week's ride.

However when I woke up this morning we had been visited by a slight frost. Don't get me wrong I'm always up for a bit of health and safety and don't fancy the thought of skidding off my bike but with the sun out I was confident conditions would be fine. Mrs Crusader was persuaded it would be ok but then I was contacted by the other cycling guests I had invited (and they know who they are) who had decided it was too risky and pulled out. Fortunately Mrs Crusader was still prepared to give it ago.

This put my cycle ride safety credentials under pressure so I was mighty relieved that road conditions did turn out to be acceptable (just) and although we rode cautiously it wasn't the road surface that was the main problem but the fact it was really, really cold. I had the quickest loss of feelings in my extremities on record (yes I have a spreadsheet for this) so when Mrs Crusader suggested we cut out part of my target 30 mile loop I was easily persuaded (although of course I pretended to be disappointed). In fact I had already planned a shortcut to Barnham Broom where we found the Painted Barn on the village outskirts.
Outside The Painted Barn and it was proper cold
The cafe is part of a barn complex that includes, a yoga centre and home furnishings shop so it was unsurprising when I found that I was the only bloke there and as more people turned up there seemed to be a midweek mid morning natterthon going on inside.


Inside the Painted Barn as the tables started to fill up
I obviously had more manly things to focus on so I went to check out the cake selection which had 3 of the big 5 sponges plus a good selection of scones (although sadly no fruit ones) and tray bakes resulting in a good effective cake selection mark.
The sponge cake part of today's cake selection
I went for Coffee and Walnut to accompany my hot chocolate while Mrs Crusader had Carrot cake with her black americano.
Very good cakes and drinks on offer
The cakes were very good and Mrs Crusader thought her coffee was at the top end of the black americano ratings. My hot chocolate was a good one too. The Painted Barn has only been open since the summer and although this was my first visit I'm sure to be back (especially as it is in the MCWRGZ) and I highly recommend a visit.
It was a very cold, crisp and short ride today
Now we were finally warm it was time to go outside again to refreeze. Fortunately it had warmed up a bit and any remaining slippery patches had gone so we could make quicker progress on the way home. Hopefully it will be warmer weather when I visit the second new MCWRGZ cafe in a fortnight's time when my less hardy cycling guest may even come to.
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.1
8.0
7.1
8.2
7.8
7.60
Route (we would have taken if it wasn't so cold)

Click here to down load 30 mile Norwich Barnham Broom loop GPX file to your GPS

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Birthday Boy. (Old Cobblers Cafe and Deli, Norwich)

Old Cobblers café and deli,
Norwich,
Everyday 08:00-16:00,
Highly Recommended
As the days get colder and the nights draw in then opportunities to get outside are becoming more limited. Therefore I have been using this extra time wisely to get my Cake Crusader admin up to date. In the process I have noticed I'm approaching two exciting landmarks. The first is that my blog has nearly been visited a quarter of a million times (probably mainly by bots from Russia and my mother) with only about 3000 to go. Secondly, after updating my locations map with recently visited cafes and removing all the closed ones I'm just 12 short of 250 active venues. I therefore think that with a bit of effort I might be able to hit these two milestones by Christmas.

If I do you will hear all about it, if not I probably won't mention it again. However as well as lots of cafe visits I will be going for a bit of a social media blitz on my facebook page and twitter feed too.

To start with then yesterday I was joined by Mrs Crusader and birthday boy Mick for a short loop into South Norfolk before searching for a cafe in Norwich.

Things started well as we set off on a crisp autumn sunny day but before long the skies darkened, the winds picked up and it started to pour with rain. As this was the first time since summer we had hit these conditions we were ill prepared and had a distinct lack of waterproof footwear and gloves. Unsurprisingly it wasn't look before we had all lost contact with our extremities and what had started as a lovely birthday gift for Mick had turned into an ordeal which was now just an unpleasant slog.

Conversation had come to a halt as we were pedaling as fast as we could towards today's target cafe area whilst being too numb to speak.

After what seemed like an eternity we made it back into Norwich's Golden triangle and headed for the nearest cafe on my potential list which was the Seedhouse cafe and deli (although it seemed to be being renamed to something cobbler related as it used to be a shoe repair outlet).
Freezing outside todays cafe venue
I sent Mrs Crusader and Mick inside to buy anything hot while I struggled to lock the bikes with my super feeling free fingers.

The Seedhouse cafe (which might be now called something cobbler related) had a hipster/vegan (in a goodway) feel and we awarded it a high atmosphere and ambiance score although we may have been biased just because it was warm and dry.

There were several seating options including outside, which was instantly dismissed, but we opted for the indoor breakfast bar style window seating area. The cake selection was a bit small but had a GF brownie (which I went for) and a sort of bakewell vegan cake that Mrs Crusader went for. 
Cake selection
As it was his birthday then as well as taking him on a lovely pneumonia inducing and character building bike ride Mrs Crusader gave Mick a small piece of her cake and bought him a flat white coffee. I think he was touched by our generous gifts.
My GF brownie, the vegan bakewell cake looked similar but lighter in colour
The hot chocolate did a good job of warming me up while Mick and Chris though their coffees were great. 
Todays drinks, we had to drink some of them to get warm enough to operate the camera
The cakes were excellent too and we all agreed that the Seedhouse (or cobbler based named cafe) was an excellent find and I highly recommend a visit.

Fortunately it was only a couple of miles back to Crusader towers where I spent the afternoon in the airing cupboard.

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.5
8.4
5.2
8.0
8.7
7.36
Map of Route


Click here to download 28 mile Norwich Wymondham loop GPX file for your GPS

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Mileage target. (Shambles Cafe Bar, North Walsham)

Shambles Café Bar,
North Walsham,
Open Tue-Sat 09:00-21:00, Sun 12-4.
Recommended
It was a day of high risk in the world of cycle cafe riding today. Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) had been told about a good cafe in North Walsham and as a well trained cycling guest thought we should check it out. On reviewing my recently updated Cake Crusader cafe location map (which now has 238 visited cafes on it) there was an obvious gap in the North Walsham area, so I agreed to the trip.

To add to the risk Andrew also said he would take charge of the route. I checked my "optimum ride length" table which showed that an Autumn ride should be between 30 and 40 miles so I requested the route to be in that range.

As soon as we left Hard to Please House in Aylsham it was clear that Andrew had not planned the route properly. He was allowing it to evolve dynamically as he didn't decide which way to go until we arrived at each junction. Clearly I did not approve of such a casual approach so to help him calibrate the ride distance I took to reporting into him on the completion of every 5 mile section.

As it was a lovely crisp Autumn day I didn't actually mind the prospect of additional miles if Andrew got a bit too gung ho with the route but obviously kept this to myself so as not to encourage him.
Lovely Autumn scene with a tractor and everything
Surprisingly as I announced the completion of our 20th mile we rolled into North Walsham where we found the Shambles Cafe Bar near a big church.
Standing in the outdoor continental style outdoor seating area outside the cafe
There was plenty of seating options including a continental style outdoor seating area, an outdoor courtyard area plus indoor seating which we opted for.

The virtual cake selection on the menu board was larger than the real thing but both the carrot cake and lemon drizzle looked excellent so we went for them to accompany my hot chocolate and Andrews Capuchino.
The actual cake selection available
Both our drinks were fairly standard examples and attracted fairly standard drink quality ratings. The cakes however were excellent and Andrew felt some of the finest he had had this year. 
Todays refreshments
My only concern was with the size of the cake fork as they had clearly been obtained for much bigger people or much bigger cake. As a clever way round this then Shambles had served the cake on saucers to make it look bigger although it wasn't fooling me.
Interesting plate and fork sizing approach in operation
Despite the mismatched sizing approach in operation it was a very pleasant stop and I would recommend a visit if you are in the area.

When it was time to head back I was looking forward to seeing where Andrew's route would end up in the agreed 30-40 mile criteria. It soon became clear that Andrew had bottled it and was taking a fairly direct route back to Aylsham. When it was apparent that we were going to undershoot the mileage requirement Andrew had to introduce a pointless loop and we just scraped in on 30.5 miles.

Although I admired Andrews free flowing routing approach the stress of not knowing if we be doing the right number of miles was too much and I required an extra long afternoon kip. I will be going back to pre planning all routes in future

Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6
6
6.2
8.4
7.0
6.72
Route

Click here to download 30 mile Aylsham North Walsham loop gpx file for your gps