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

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Thursday 19 March 2020

Difficult decesion (Ploughshare, Beeston)

Ploughshare Community pub and cafe,
Tuesday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 12-4

I know the current Coronavirus situation is no laughing matter and that we have been given guidelines to follow by the government re social distancing etc. After careful consideration I have decided to continue with my cafe cycle riding for the time being. I know we are still being encouraged to exercise in order to stay fit (especially cycling and running) and believe cycling is fairly safe as you are rarely within a couple of meters of any cycling guest when out on the road. 

I'm a little more nervous about visiting cafes so my rule of thumb will be to opt for takeaway when possible but in the more deserted locations, when there are only a couple of us, I might still go in (following all handwashing advice first of course).

I have always been keen to support the local cafe community so putting a few quid in their coffers at this time is important to me. I understand that not everyone will agree with me but it was within this context that yesterday, myself and Big George headed off on a 50 mile ride to Beeston, West of Dereham to one of the most remote locations I have been to.

A few months ago I had been invited to visit the community cafe and pub (the Ploughshare) in the village and this was my third attempt to do just that. The first one had ended in failure in early January, as they were still on their Christmas hols, and the second ride had been abandoned due to heavy rain so yesterday was third time lucky.

The way out was into the wind and it may just be coincidence but the roads seemed more desereted  than normal with the majority of vehicles we came across being delivery vans. It was a bit of a slog but we made it to the cafe/pub and went inside (and after a handwash) found the cafe area. 
Outside the empty ploughshare pub/cafe
Not surprisingly we were the only customers in either section. In the circumstances I felt it only fair to give a default 7 for ambiance and atmosphere rating. 
Big George enjoying his cafe in the cafe area
There was a nice range of cakes in the cake selection although only single slices of each was on display.
Cake selection limited to a slice of each
We ordered our standard hot chocolate and coffee and as I felt that there may not be many other opportunities for a while I also went for egg on toast in my search for egg on toast of the year.

Not surprisingly with no other customers the food and drinks soon arrived. The drinks were a little disappointing as it was Cadburys hot chocolate and fairly standard coffee. 
The hot drinks
The egg on toast was a good effort with the eggs nicely poached on some standard sliced brown bread.
Possibly my last EoT for a while
On the cake front I opted to take some brownie back to crusader towers and when I got to try them later they turned out to be some of the best brownie I have had with a great chocolate taste and a great brownie texture. So top marks on the cake front.
Takeaway brownie for sharing with Mrs Crusader back at Crusader Towers
It was a bit hard to rate the Ploughshare without knowing what things would have been like in more normal conditions but I certainly liked the set up and with such good cake I would recommend a visit.

As we left we were had genuine thanks from the staff for making the effort to visit and I felt rather sad about the struggle such places would be having over the coming months as we all find ourselves in this impossible situation.

As my diary is now rather empty I have arranged another 3 rides for next week but obviously any cafe visits will depend on further instructions and guidance from the government.

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

Click here to download 51 mile Norwich Beeston loop GPX file to your gps

Saturday 14 March 2020

What no gears. (Bircham Stores and Cafe, Great Bircham)

Bircham Stores and café,
Great Bircham,
Everyday 8:00-18:00,
Highly Recommended
With all the bad news and sporting cancellations I was relieved that the government had given the go ahead for yesterday's planned cafe cycle ride but it had plenty of it's own non virus related drama.

I had invited Big George to join me in North West Norfolk as I was keen to visit Bircham Stores and Cafe as it had been on my cafe to do list for some time. I was also hoping to get in some "Egg on toast of the year" action although a pre ride internet search had raised some doubt as to if it would be available.

The day started well as I added a new free car park to my list of "the top 10 free car parks to start a bike ride from". This was a very large car park at the Creake Abbey cafe and shops although I suspect you are meant to buy something there rather than just use the car park. As it has an excellent farm shop and I have previously highly recommended the cafe then this is no hardship (although we didn't actually go in today).
Part of the huge overflow car park field at Creake Abbey
I liked the car park and it rated well so shot straight into the top ten list although as it is only the 6th one I've visited it wasn't that much of an achievement. 

With the bikes unloaded we were on our way, or were we? I hadn't gone more than a few metres when I realised my di2 electronic gears weren't changing. Further investigation highlighted that I had a flat battery (for reasons too boring to explain, although it wasn't my fault!) leaving me with two choices. Either go straight home without a ride (NEVER!) or do the ride in the gear it was currently stuck in. Fortunately it was in a good gear for a single speed ride so this is what I attempted.

You may remember that on a previous ride, Big George had had a mechanical on his bike meaning he was stuck in one gear. To show solidarity that day, I had put my bike in the same gear and we did the ride with the same set up.

Remembering this Big George said he would join me in the same gear for the duration of the ride. However as we started up the first hill Big George pushed ahead and soon eased up the hill as I grinded up in my single gear. This was repeated on the next couple of hills until I realised his plan. He was trying to get far enough ahead so I didn't notice he was changing into an easier gear for most of each climb.
One of the many up and downs I had to contend with in a single gear
I challenged him and he soon admitted this was the case and that he just wasn't man enough to be able to resist the easier gears available to him (my words not his). As the ride continued he gave up even trying to pretend he was staying in a single gear and our cycling bond was broken, possibly forever, as this won't be forgotten next time his bike breaks on a ride (and it often does).

Our target stop came after 30 of our 40 mile loop so we were ready for refreshments when we arrived at Bircham Stores and Cafe in the village of Great Bircham.
Outside the stores entrance, the cafe entrance is a little further on but not as impressive
We were directed to the cafe part of the establishment where we were able to put our bikes into the outdoor seating courtyard area.

As Big George faffed with his bike I went inside where the friendly proprietor proudly spent some time going through the posh North Norfolk style menu and today's specials. I pretended to be interested but there was only one thing on my mind (and not on the menu). Fortunately I managed to hold my nerve and once he had finished his spiel I asked for egg on toast. I was clearly a disappointment but he was happy to oblige and confirmed they would be poached on brown. I also went for some ginger cake from a fine cake selection meaning a full cafe rating could be completed
The slices and tray bake part of the excellent cake selection
As always Big George refused any cake and stuck to the official menu options opting for scrambled egg and posh bacon accompanied by an Americano.

Big George though his coffee was excellent and gave a high guest hot drink score. My hot chocolate was a bit thin but was still good.
Today's hot drinks
The egg on toast probably had the nicest tasting eggs on my search to date but they could have done with a few seconds longer poaching for perfection. It was still an excellent EoT and went into my current top 5 so could be battling it out for the title in finals week come December.
The best tasting eggs to date in my search for EoT of the year
My ginger cake was very nice too with some proper pieces of stem ginger adding to the experience. However when it arrived it had only been gone and served on its serviette, (NOOOOOOO!), rendering it useless for crumb wiping activity. Records show that this is the first time I have had cake on serviette this year so my campaign is still going well. Despite this the Bircham Stores and Cafe was a really splendid stop with good drinks and great food so I would highly recommend a visit.
Ginger cake served on its serviette!!!!!!!!
It was only a short 10 mile and uneventful ride back to Creake Abbey although I felt the national speed limit sign on one stretch of road we came across was a little unnecessary.
Not sure anyone could get up to the national speed limit on this stretch of track
Hopefully the government will continue to allow cake crusader rides to happen as it looks like there will be little else to do in the coming weeks.
Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating

Click here to download 40 mile Creake Great Bircham loop GPX file on to your GPS