Nottinghamshire's top cafe isn't the easiest to get to but it's worth the effort
Visitors can expect great coffee, quality food, reasonable prices and unusual surroundings
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Nottinghamshire's number one cafe isn't the easiest to reach - if you're in a car that is. Down a single track road with fields on either side there's not many passing places if a vehicle is approaching in the opposite direction.
But it doesn't matter to most of the visitors, who arrive at Caffe Velo Verde on two wheels, eager to refuel before the next stage of their bike ride. The cycle-friendly pit-stop has expanded from a small indoor cafe with space for no more than 30 customers into a bigger venture with sheltered outdoor seating and an open-air courtyard... where the occasional visitor has been known to fall asleep in the sun.
The cafe, created on what was once a scrapyard years ago, can be found at Farmeco, in Screveton, near Newark. It has stepped it up a gear and blossomed since being taken over a month before the first lockdown. Sitting at the top of TripAdvisor, as Notts' number one cafe, it's not just a passing fancy. Caffe Velo Verde has held top spot for months and months. A cyclists' haven, exceptionally, and definitely, worth a visit are how reviewers describe it.
The food is simple but quality. Bacon and sausage cobs, porridge, waffles, salads, soup, sandwiches, and toasties are served. The sausage rolls are homemade and the hard-to-resist cakes are the work of local bakers. Coffee is supplied by a roaster, based near Ikea, called Coffee Central.
Owner Vini Butterworth, a trained chef who leaves the cycling to her husband Bill, said: "I think the food that we serve is good. Everything is made fresh to order. Our coffee is excellent. It's got to be good quality. We are fairly reasonably priced. We're not cheap but we're not massively expensive.
"We have beautiful surroundings here. We're on a farm. It's so relaxing to sit here. First thing in the morning it's peaceful, the sun's out and quite often people fall asleep sitting over there by the flowerbed."
The cafe is weather-dependent although some will brave the elements for a coffee and lunch in winter. But on a sunny Sunday in summer the bike racks will be packed. "We have bike locks and facilities for people to clean their bikes while they're here and we've got repair kits. We've got everything you need as a cyclist when you stop for a break," added Vini.
The takeover in February 2020 didn't exactly go to plan. Vini said: "We opened for a month in February, which weather-wise for cycling is appalling. We had three weeks of storms and then we got shut down. We were like 'oh my god - we have set fire to our money'."
With supermarket deliveries like gold dust back in March 2020, Vini and Bill rallied to supply weekly food boxes for villagers - a move that earned them a lot of goodwill. The rest of the time, while the cafe was closed, they cracked on with a revamp, remodelling the layout inside to create seating along a breakfast bar overlooking the kitchen, which has doubled in size.
Outside has seating for more than 100 with an array of quirky tables created out of reclaimed cable drums. A covered outdoor area has heaters and blankets for cooler days and a wall decorated with wooden jerseys in the colours of local cycling clubs - including one with a message from Olympic champion Ed Clancy, the most successful team pursuit cyclist in history.
Another has been signed by Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France winner, who featured the cafe on his Cycling Club podcast. The cafe itself is decked out with cycling memorabilia, with a bike above the kitchen entrance, frames that double as artwork and an advert for a bike restorer, and characterful black and white photos of past Tour de France winners through the decades.
As well as being favoured by cyclists, many en route to the Vale of Belvoir or using the cafe as a meeting spot between Notts and Lincolnshire, Caffe Velo Verde is a draw for locals, as one of the few places to socialise in the village. Members of the 'breakfast club' meet every day the cafe is open, sharing a seat around the big wooden 'sharing table'.
It's always a bowl of porridge for resident Frank Wilson, who lives opposite. He remembers when the site was a scrapyard and praised the transformation - and the food. "I like to get a good breakfast and it's a lovely bowl of porridge. There can be up to a dozen of us around this table," he said.
He's joined by Tim Sayers, who is not a cyclist but walks a mile from a neighbouring village for his daily porridge. Across the table is mum-of-two Rachel Hearse, who describes it as her second home. She said: "The kids come over and get an Oasis and Nutella waffle and then go and run round the maze. They know where they can go and can't go. It's a nice environment."
Around the corner GB rower Ashley Cowley is taking a break with a bowl of porridge topped with bananas. "It's fantastic," he said. Other sporting customers include members of the British speedskating team, who went for cycle rides in lockdown when they couldn't get onto the ice.
Flattered by the five star praise on TripAdvisor, Vini said she doesn't ask customers to leave a review. "We are very fortunate. We don't have a sign up or encourage people to review us.
Take a look around the number one cafe on TripAdvisor: Caffe Velo Verde
"We do completely understand our market, If you are out on a bike ride and you want to stop for something to eat, you want something quick, you want good quality but you want fast service and you want to be on your way in 20 minutes so we have a fast turnaround of customers and we have a high number of staff to service that and it seems to work."
It has been known for 40 cyclists to suddenly descend without warning, so Vini emphasised it would be helpful to have advance warning if large groups plan to visit. Of course, you don't have to be Lycra-clad to visit but car drivers need to hope they don't meet too many on-coming vehicles on the narrow track.
Caffe Velo Verde can be found off Lodge Lane. Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am to 4pm and most bank holidays.