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, 31 May 2019

Success! (Flavours of Portugal, Brandon)

Brandon,
Open Tue-Sat 9-7, Sun 10-3

It had been a while since I had done a train bike ride as I had had a couple of bad railway experiences when I hadn't been allowed on the planned trains as they had too (two) many bikes on already. However Big George had noticed there was a strong wind from the West so had suggested that on Thursday we caught the train to Ely so we could be blown back. This sounded like a good opportunity to check out how easy bike train travel was now but in the end this was the least of our worries when we found ourselves in the middle of a field with one of our bikes in pieces.

The day had started badly. I arrived at Norwich station to find that there were now some posters up clearly stating only 4 bikes were allowed on the train to Cambridge (the one we wanted) on a first come first serve basis. As there was no sign of Big George I thought it best I got both our tickets so we could get to the front of the bike queue. When Big George turned up he was furious, he had recently got an old persons railcard and had been looking forward to using it today. The disappointment of not being able to try it out coupled with having to pay 50% more for his ticket than necessary made for a very frosty journey but much much worse was to come.

As there were never more than 4 bikes on the train at any point (more luck than judgement) then the train experience had been very straightforward as we arrived at Ely station on time.
Successfully arriving at Ely Station on time
We were soon off to a flying start down long straight roads with the wind pushing us along. However when planning the route I knew I needed to keep it as short as possible as I had a sports massage booked for 4.00pm. 
A typical long straight Fenland road to whizz along
Unfortunately the shortcut I had planned turned out to be down a heavily guarded private road. Never wanting to turn round it looked like a left turn down a muddy track a little further on would keep us on course. This was a bad plan as the muddy track turned into a field that ended in a ditch. 
The mud track had run out of track so we had to turn around
There was no choice but to turn round and go the long way instead. Big George was struggling as his rim brakes kept clogging with mud jamming his wheels. With my disc brake bike I had got a long way ahead and was just wondering where he had got to when I heard my phone ring. It was Big George to say his wheels had jammed up again but in trying to force them his derailleur had broken off. 

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago my derailleur had also broken off on the way back from Cambridge and that I had tried, and failed, to convert my bike to a single speed meaning that embarrassingly, it had to be transported home in the support wagon. So when Big George told me what had happened I pretended to be upset and alarmed (as we had no support wagon available) but really I was very excited as I would have a chance to bury the demons of my mechanical failure and this time do the repair successfully. It was almost like I had taken him there on purpose so this would happen.

With the experience of my previous chain shortening failure and subsequent YouTube research then this time I was confident of successful. I remembered the 3 key things when trying to get the bike to work with no derailleur in one gear: use the little cog at the front, the middle cog at the back and don’t make the chain too tight. After a bit of fiddling we had the chain the right length on the right cogs and it seemed to work. Well done me!!
Big George's bike now in single speed mode
With bike now rideable, at least in a single speed mode, then we were off again, or were we.

Cycling Guest Cycling top tip No 69: If your cycling host has just spent 30 mins getting your bike back on the road with a miracle repair then don’t cycle it straight through thick mud jamming it up again, as it is both rude and delays your journey by another 15 minutes.

Once Big George had un jammed his wheels and brakes from the latest mud clot then progress was good if a bit slow as Big George's legs were whirling round in the only gear now available to him. We decided to aim for Brandon as the nearest big train station. I was very proud of my handiwork as the chain never came off and it looked like we would successfully make it to the station in time for me to get to my massage.

But showing little regard for my deadline Big George decided to have a puncture. As I tutted, looked at my watch and sent texts, Big George got down to business and to my surprise got it fixed in record time.

When we got to Brandon (which was not on the original route) Big George insisted we went to his favourite Portuguese cafe which he has wanted to take me to for many years. It was almost as if he had arranged todays series of events on purpose so this would happen.

Flavours of Portugal has a continental style pavement seating area whereas inside is part shop, part cafe and this is where we choose to sit..
Todays unplanned cafe stop
There was a different sort of cake selection here which were mainly pastries rather than big sponge cakes. I obviously went for the classic portuguese tart.

Unfortunately I spied a tin of chocolate Nesquik so rather than bother ordering a hot chocolate and giving it 5 out of ten, I gave it that mark anyway and had a nice cup of tea.

Big George believed his coffee was one of the best in Norfolk, which is why he likes it here so much, and my portugese tart was excellent so it was a very good stop on such an eventful day.
Refreshments at Flavours of Portugal
While we enjoyed our refreshments Big George checked the train times and realised the next one left in 10 mins. I had a decision to make; if I went for the train and missed it I would have to cycle flat out for 30 miles to Wymondham to make my appointment. However If I went from the cafe then I could finish my tea and cake and have a more leisurely and shorter cycle there which is what I opted for.

So Big George downed his coffee and dashed off to the station (leaving me to pay) and here his story ends, I assume he got home at some point. I, on the other hand finished up and set off for an incident free ride across Breckland ending in a very pleasant sports massage before completing the trip home.

All in all it turned out to be a good day.

  1. I had proved I could do an emergency fix on a bike with a broken derailleur.
  2. Big George was very excited that he was able to use his old persons railcard after all and had eventually got me to his favourite Portuguese cafe in the Brandon area.
  3. I still managed my 60 mile ride as well as my sports massage.

In fact I have decided to always have a massage towards the end of a ride as my legs felt great for the final few miles home.
Scores
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5
8.5
4.8
7.8
6.5
6.44
No route as it all got a bit disjointed

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Bigger Hammer. (The Waterside, Rollesby)

The Waterside,
Rollesby,
Open Everyday 9-5,
Highly Recommended
After a week of nice weather I had picked the first dull and drizzling day for my latest cafe cycle ride on Friday. As the weather had been warm and sunny during the planning stage I had opted for a summer length ride of 50 miles. I had also chosen Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as my summer ride cycling guest.

As well as summer route and guest, I had also recently switched to using my summer bike. I had decided to give my other bike a service as it had had a hard winter and had completely broken on our ride back from Cambridge last week (see previous post). I always service my bikes myself as it saves a lot of money. Or it would do if I didn't keep buying the wrong parts, breaking them and then having to take the bike to the Local Bike Shop (LBS) to do the job properly.

This is why the car contained both my summer bike plus the frame of my winter bike with a stuck headset. I planned to take it to the LBS straight after the ride to have the stuck bearing casing removed (hopefully).

Once at Hard to Please House I explained my current bike repair predicament to Andrew who, rather smuggly, told me he had just had an excellent service (including a new headset) done by Evans for not much more than I paid for my new parts. 

I obviously ignored this and we set off into a strong wind, via the Norfolk Coast Road, to Rollesby. The most remarkable thing about the Norfolk Coast Road is that it never gets very near the coast and you rarely see the sea, although you do see lots of other things like Windmills.
Horsey Mill but not a glimpse of the sea during our ride down the so called coast road
It had been a 30 mile slog but we had got to The Waterfront cafe at Rollesby and were in need of refreshments and fuel. However we were now on the clock if I was going to get to the LBS in time for an extraction.
Outside the Waterside by Rollesby Broad
The Waterside is on the edge of Rollesby Broad with good views from the outdoor patio seating area, but it was too cold for that so I went inside. 
Views of the Broad from the outdoor seating area
I checked out the cake selection, it was a very good one with a lot of big cakes which were more at the dessert end of the cake range continuum (although they did have fruit scones for me to check out for fruit scone of the year).
Very tempting cakes
I next studied the menu as I also wanted a sandwich to fuel with. However despite being tight for time there was still no sign of Andrew who had gone outside to get as one with nature. On his return I suggested that next time he might like to get as one with nature after we have ordered as time was not our friend today.

Andrew was certainly at his most hard to please as despite the award of high effective cake selection (ECS) and Atmosphere and Ambiance (AAA) marks he decided that the coffee might not be very good as it could get busy here in the high season so he ordered tea which as you probably know is capped at 7 out of 10 for guest drink quality, what with it being just a cup of tea. To reassure you there appeared to be an impressive coffee machine and very competent staff so I'm sure the coffee will be good. If anyone has had one here then please let me have you mark out of ten.
Drinks featuring my hot chocolate an a pot of tea
Our drinks, fuel and cake arrived. My hot chocolate was fine but the chocolate and raspberry cake was exceptional and got the highest cake taste quality score this year. I was therefore very impressed with the waterside and I highly recommend a visit.
Top cake, especially if you are a fan of chocolate
Due to Andrews dilly dallying I had to put the hammer down on the way back to Aylsham and thanks also to the wind now being behind then we caught up the time in what was our fastest ride since last summer (well done us!).

I was therefore able to get the winter bike to top mechanic Andy who freed my parts. I promised not to reveal the secret of how he did it but some 'precision' tools were a key part of the process and I too will now be purchasing a bigger hammer.
Winter bike now ready for next servicing cock up
Scores
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.1
7
7.8
9.1
7.9
7.58


Route

Click her to download 52 mile Aylsham Hemsby loop gpx file to your GPS

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

And then there were three. (Coffee And Co, Newmarket and Tuddenham Nurseries Coffee shop)

Coffee and Co,
Newmarket,
Mon-Sat 8-4, Sun 10-2.30,
Tuddenham Nurseries Coffee Shop,
Tuddenham,
Everyday 9-4pm
On every early May bank holiday weekend, for the last few years, I have organised a group cycle ride to a Premier Inn in the region. We have  previously visited Premier Inns at such exotic locations as North Ipswich on the A140, Kings Lynn on the A47 and Thetford town centre but this year I have really upped our game and headed to Cambridge (City East) Premier Inn by the out of town shopping complex. 

Unfortunately the weather forecast for day 1 (Saturday) didn’t look good and for various reasons there had been a number of call offs meaning we were left with just seven starters for today’s trip.
My weekend cycling guests
There was still much excitement as my remaining six cycling guests gathered at Crusader Towers but the main topic was weather rather than the excellent route and cafe agenda I had put together. It looked like we would be wind assisted on the way there, but with some gusting cross winds, plus sleet and rain. Day 2 looked like being dry but into a strong wind for the return 75 miles. Much to my disapproval several bail out plans were discussed and international rescue put on standby.

When we eventually set off things started remarkably well. The first highlight was a chance to try out the new cycle superhighway between Hethersett and Wymondham which got a big thumbs up.
On the cycling superhighway towards Wymondham
From there we were blown down to our first cafe stop, Peppers in East Harling and timed it perfectly as the first hail storm of the day arrived when we were safely inside, however I was about to have the first of many bombshells on the trip.
Safely at our first cafe stop just before a bombshell
Last time I came here was Marmitegate when Big George ordered crumpet with Marmite (no I didn’t know it was a thing) and he decided they hadn’t put much marmite on. I was later contacted by the cafe to confess that due to a misunderstanding it was in fact a marmite free crumpet. As no one can understand a word Big George says then this was not surprising.

Today we avoided refreshment controversy and opted for scones and cakes plus a selection of hot drinks. I must say they were some of the best cakes and drinks I can remember moving Peppers well into the highly recommended cake crusader cafe category.
Fabulous cakes and drinks
It was now that the first Bombshell was dropped.Having experienced the wind behind Barry couldn’t face the thought of cycling another 75 miles into it tomorrow and would rather do 25 miles into it today. This meant Helen and their tandem had to bail out too, so here their story ends.

The remaining 5 of us set off again in high spirits as the sun was out and sky was blue. We foolishly commented that we had probably missed worst of the sleet and rain. This was a stupid thing to have done as the next 30 mile stretch of the ride had a number of sleet sessions only broken up by lots of rain. 
Cycling in the rain and sleet towards Newmarket
The terrain also started to get more bumpy until we reached a very long hill up to the top of the Gallops at Newmarket before a long descent into the flat racing capital. Today was the 2000 Guineas so the town was fairly quiet as we went in search of refreshments.
Waiting for my cycling guests at the top of Newmarkets gallops
We found them in a backstreet at the coffee and co cafe. It was a fairly standard cafe offering although it's cake selection had a fine array of tray bakes. I had the fully loaded, Mrs Crusader the millionaire shortbread and overnight sportive regular, Jenny some flapjack. 
Outside Coffee and Co cafe in Newmarket. Sadly Jenny photobombed the picture
When our refreshments arrived it became apparent Jenny had confused the staff and had mistakenly ordered double flapjack. This was just the latest of a long list of misdemeanours, including; not waiting at junctions, not cycling in a line for group photo, photobombing cafe photo, describing what she thought about coffee/cake instead of giving me a number for my spreadsheet and especially doing too much talking and not enough pedalling. I had to take her to one side and put her on a formal verbal cycling guest warning, and it doesn't get much more serious than that.
Cakes and drinks at Coffee and Co.
When I finally managed to gather the scores in from my cycling guests the general consensus was the cakes were good and the drinks average but the cafe had come at the right point in the ride meaning everyone was refuelled for the final push to Cambridge (City East) Premier Inn and all that it has to offer.
Final push to Cambridge with the sun now shinning
After more refuelling (it's not called eating when you are on a long bike ride) it was an early night as we prepared for what was expected to be a 75 mile ride in a wind tunnel, but as it happened it was far more dramatic than that!

My final two cycling guests were regulars Ali and son Tom. They had joined us on many trips including a couple of days on the Great Ride North back in 2015 but for this ride they had persuaded Deborah (Mrs Ali/Mummy Tom) to join us for an all expenses paid night of luxury and fine dining at the Cambridge (City East) Premier Inn in return for being our day 2 support vehicle.The main role for day 2 support was thought to be to transport our bags back to Norwich but Debra's role became far more important than that as the day unfolded.

Things started badly when Ali found he had a post breakfast puncture but was at least able to fix it in the pleasant surroundings of the premier inn reception. 
Transforming the reception at Cambridge (City East) Premier Inn into a bicycle workshop
Obviously our start was delayed but on the plus side the wind seemed to be a lot less fierce than forecast and we enjoyed a leisurely ride out of Cambridge along the river.
Leaving Cambridge via the river
as once again my 4 remaining cycling guests failed to get in a line.
I then noticed I too had a puncture requiring a further delay, especially as the tyre took a lot of effort and 4 different sets of tyre levers to get it free. However my credibility was restored by a faultless inflation with CO2.
More puncture action
Once on our way again I hoped that there would be no moral mechanicals today (if only) as Ali radioed ahead to Deborah in the support vehicle with our new cafe eta.

A few miles later we reached Newmarket when unexpectedly my back wheel locked up I saw my derailleur going round in the chain. For the less mechanically minded this is a very bad thing. A twig had got jammed in the chain causing the derailleur hanger to snap. The hanger is the weakest point and designed to break first to save the more expensive bits of the bike (like a bicycle collar bone).

I knew I was toast as there would be no way to get a new hanger especially on a Sunday. A nearby Halfords was contacted how said they could get one in by Wednesday or I could try making my bike into a single speed. 
Inspecting the damage as troublemaker Jenny photobombs yet another photo
Not wanting to spend the next three days on a Newmarket pavement I felt the single speed option seemed the better one. Meanwhile our support vehicle was summoned back from the cafe stop at Tuddenham Nurseries.

We worked out how to make it single speed as I fortunately had a chain tool that I could use to shorten the chain. However despite getting it set up as we planned the chain kept slipping and bike was unrideable. (note: back at Crusader Towers in my secret underground bicycle workshop I undertook some Youtube based research to discover that the only thing I had done wrong was use the big front cog rather than the small front cog and then it would have worked. Maybe next time)
Almost succeeding in making bike into a single speed one
At this point Ali decided he too was getting a bit tired and his knees were playing up so he  offered me his bike for the rest of the ride while he would hop into the support vehicle. Well I didn't need to be asked twice and after a quick seat adjustment the remaining 4 of us set off again to the cafe at Tuddenham Nursery.
Swapping bikes as my useless one was loaded into the support vehicle
It was a fairly standard garden centre cafe offering although this time the drinks were better than the cakes (even if we only tried the banana one) meaning it got exactly the same rating as Coffee and Co yesterday (you couldn't make it up).
Outside entrance to Tuddenham Nurseries coffee shop.
Photo had to be taken quickly to avoid Jenny photobombing although she still snuck in the background.
It was now Tom's turn to decide that the support vehicle looked more inviting than more cycling with old people so as they headed up the A11 we were now down to just 3. Me, Mrs Crusader and troublemaker Jenny.

We had arranged to meet up again at our final stop Cafe Cadence but this would require a fast paced dash across Suffolk and Norfolk to get there by closing time.It would also give the support vehicle time to collect Ali's spare bike so that he and Tom could cycle the remaining few miles back to Norwich from the final cafe stop.
My remaining two cycling guests.
I took particular care not to lose any more cycling guest as 4 out of 6 so far was a pretty poor record. However thanks to some excellent riding and no further drama we made it to the cafe in time. As always Cafe Cadence delivered great drinks, good fuel (sausage rolls and flapjack) and lovely views over the pond. 
Arriving at Cafe Cadence on Ali's shining bike
I was pleased Ali and Tom would be joining us again as finishing a ride with less than 50% of my cycling guests won't look good in my monthly report.
Back to 4 cycling guest for the last leg
The rest of the ride was event free and although we arrived back a little later than planned I rated the trip as a success. My my two hand picked cafe stops really delivering the goods, the route was a good one and everyone got home in one piece, sort of. 

I am now running out of Premier Inns to cycle to in the region so may need a new approach for next year. But first I will be spending many happy hours in my secret underground bicycle workshop rebuilding my bike.

Scores
Coffee and Co
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.1
6.4
6.9
7.1
6.6
6.62
Tuddenham Nurseries Coffee shop
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.3
7
6.4
6.5
5.9
6.62
Route to be published shortly

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Midsummer Murders. (Hoxne Tea room, Hoxne)

Hoxne,
Everyday 7:30-5:30,
Highly Recommended
Today I planned to go in search of the holy trinity of cafe cycle riding; a new free car park, a new cafe and a new fruit scone to try. This would not only make for a great cycle ride but mean 3 different spreadsheets to update. Life on a bike doesn't get better than that.

I was joined on the quest by Big George who was now on his summer bike, which we carefully loaded into the car as we set off down the A140 in search of todays free car park.
Tyrrells Wood Car Park
We found it at Tyrrells Wood near Pulham Market and it was a little cracker. There may have only been room for a dozen or so cars but it was nicely hidden and offered up a number of riding opportunities in the South Norfolk North Suffolk area. It has gone straight in at number 3 in my top 10 best free car parks to start a bike ride from list (even though there are only 5).
Riding in the South Norfolk North Suffolk area
With the first part of the mission complete we set off on a 35 mile loop South into North Suffolk. The terrain was a bit bumpier than further North in South Norfolk but it was nice to be cycling in a less familiar region and we soon arrived in Hoxne and our target distention; the Hoxne Post Office Shop Deli Tea Room B and B, or the Hoxne POSDTRBAB for short.
Outside Hoxne POSDTRBAB
We looked for somewhere to leave the bikes but then spotted a notice in the POSDTRBAB window saying that cyclists should go right past the Phone Box library and park round the back of the POSDTRBAB. Which we did. On the way we checked the phone box library to see if they had a copy of the Cake Crusader book but they didn't, I expect it was out on loan.
Big George passing the Hoxne village Phone box library
After correctly following the direction we found ourselves in an outdoor seating area. The lawn need a bit of TLC, and some grass, it was tempting but we opted to sit inside where I first checked out the cakes.
The Hoxne  POSDTRBAB outdoor seating area
There was a nice selection of sponge cakes plus the final item on today's list, a fruit scone to successfully tick all my cycle ride boxes.
Todays sponge cake selection and useful bell
We placed our order of dark hot chocolate and coffee and walnut cake for me and a cup of tea and pastie for Big George. As a cup of tea always gets a 7 and a pastie is not cake he wasn't of much use in any cafe reviewing today.
Excellent cakes and drinks
The atmosphere inside was best described as a scene from mid summer murders. There was a very pleasant white bearded gentlemen taking orders, a couple of ladies on the table next to us discussing village matters before they were joined by a jovial man in a pink shirt who had come in to sell tickets for the next village hall concert. We agreed they all looked likely characters to be either the next victim or perpetrator of a country murder. When John Nettles walked in to buy a sausage roll and some local cheese, it was clear murder was a foot

Our drinks and food soon arrived but we ate them in silence as we waited for the inevitable scream to come from the kitchen where the body would surely soon be discovered.

For the record my hot chocolate was very good and the coffee and walnut cake excellent meaning the Hoxne POSDTRBAB had scored very well and I highly recommend a visit.

After a while and with no sign off any dead bodies we decided that maybe there wouldn't be a murder today and left the cast villagers to get on with their day to day village business.

With no more talk of country crime it was only a few more miles back to the car park in the woods. There was no one about and as we loaded our bikes back into the car it became  obviously this would be the natural location to hide the body (if there had been one). But there was no time to hang around as I needed to get back home as murder she wrote was on this afternoon.

Scores

Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
7.2
7
6.5
8.2
7.2
7.22
Route to be published shortly