Ever the romantic, I decided to surprise Mr. Canny with a trip to the Lake District over the New Year period. I always feel NYE in Newcastle is overrated; hating the idea of crowded pubs and queuing for entry into expensive venues. Last year we took an impromptu trip over to Penrith ate in a quaint tapas restaurant recommended to us by the B&B owner. I contacted Costas again this year before booking a hotel room to ensure they were able to accommodate Mr. Canny and, while the options were limited, found out the rather fantastic paella that we ate last year came in veggie form.
I’d organised for us to stay in a Shepherd Hut, but with the weather taking an unfortunate turn and many areas being flooded we ended up in a hotel at the last minute. It was probably for the best, taking the bump into account too. We travelled up on New Year’s Eve after I finished work, got ready, and ventured out into the town straight away. It was noticeably quieter than the year before, and when talking to local people they said that the weather had deterred the usual visitors over the festive period.
Costas is tucked down a side street in Penrith town centre. It is owned by local lady Karen and her Spanish husband Jesus, who is the chef. The interior is cluttered with nick nacks and the walls are lined with family photos alongside risque postcards. I remember walking in for the 1st time and thinking ‘What on Earth?!’, but it has a certain charm. The waitresses wear flamenco costumes and we were given garlands as we sat down at our table. A word of warning though, the high seating isn’t very comfortable for dining over long periods.
The atmosphere is very relaxed, and most tables share a jug of Sangria alongside their tapas. On our first visit we had Suckling Pig and a Meat Paella, which were both amazing. This time round we had Patatas Bravas (Spicy Potatoes) and a Green Salad to share, followed by Vegetable Paella (£10pp). The portion sizes are huge, and even we struggled to plough through the tapas before the Paella arrived. Karen did warn us as she’d done previously, but I was suffering from ‘eyes bigger than belly’ syndrome, clearly.
The potatoes were lovely, although they were spicy for a heartburn sufferer like me. Thankfully, Mr. Canny had asked for some bread to be served with the Paella, which is apparently the way people from the Basque region eat it. It arrived with our tapas, and was accompanied by some delicious mayo. This helped me share the ‘burden’ of finishing off the plentiful salad and potatoes.
The Paella, adorned with peppers and green beans, is served in the cooking pan. It means I got to enjoy the ‘crispy’ bits from the bottom of the dish. It took some work, but we managed to polish it all off. Usually Costas have a small firework display outside the restaurant to celebrate the New Year, but Karen had said because of the flooding and how quiet the town was they’d decided not to go ahead with their festivities this year. I must admit, I was disappointed as that was one of the reasons I had chosen to travel so far to see in 2016. That said, it felt good that we were supporting a business that had seen 70 covers cancel on what should have been the busiest night of the year for them.
New Year is welcomed in at 11pm in the restaurant, at the same time as in Spain. We were given 12 grapes (Las doce uvas de la suerte) to eat as the 12 chimes of Midnight rang out, which is supposed to lead to a year of prosperity. I couldn’t manage mine, but Raf made a valiant attempt. Hopefully this will mean a lottery win for us 🙂 Afterwards we wander back to our hotel and saw in the official New Year with a nice cuppa, before retiring to our comfy kingsize.
On our previous trip to the Lakes we had visited Lancrigg, a vegetarian hotel and restaurant. At the time Mr. Canny wasn’t vegan, but was interested in giving it a try. Overall, he said he was disappointed by the Oaxacan Mole he had, so I decided not to return with him. A quick Google search turned up numerous other dining establishments we could try this time round, including an Italian restaurant/cinema in Ambleside. This was promptly booked for New Year’s Day.
Zeffirellis caters specifically for vegetarian and vegan diners. I was impressed with the extensive pizza and pasta menu when I was doing my research. I chose to book as I’d remembered Mr. Canny discussing how in Brazil one of their NY traditions is to eat lentils, which signify health. Spotting a lentil dish on offer, the deal was done.
The interior is Art Deco in style, with a rather ostentatious water walls backing on to the booth seating. We both agreed there were so many delicious sounding dishes to chose from that it was difficult to chose, but after the feast of the night before neither of us were prepared to go all out and have 3 courses. Mr. Canny decided on the lentil option, while I wanted to try out one of their pizzas.
The Pellini pizza had a thin crust and was generously topped with peppers and goats cheese. There was an adorable little boy sitting at the table beside us who saw my pizza and ordered the same thing, but was insistent on having the vegan version. When asked what he thought of it when he was finished, he said it was the ‘best pizza ever’. Heart melt moment 🙂
In fact, the vegan ‘Parmesan’ which was given to Mr. Canny to top his sauce was surprisingly edible to me. A lot of thought clearly goes into sourcing the plant based ingredients they use in the restaurant and in Fellini’s, a cafe the company also own. It’s a great place for anyone to eat if you find yourself in the area, and I can only hope Newcastle welcomes a vegan-friendly pizzeria in the near future. See our review of such an establishment in Edinburgh, proving there’s a definite market for one if other cities are leading the way.
The only criticism of the meal came with the final course. I had space for a pud and decided upon the Banoffee Pie. The chocolate sauce which topped the cream tasted cheap and synthetic, like the horrid ice cream toppings you buy from the supermarket. With such care taken with the menu and sourcing of ingredients I expected something show-stopping with dessert. Still, with a meal totalling £34 (including 2 glasses of wine) we were mightily impressed with Zeffirellis. We’re not sure what the allure of visiting a specifically vegetarian B&B is, so are intrigued by the offering at Ambleside Manor, their guest house. Maybe in the Summer?
Our final day was spent mooching round Lowther Castle & Gardens, a restoration project of an estate that was used up until recently as a chicken farm. At first I was reticent about walking round what is essentially a work-in-progress, but I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was. Mr. Canny especially liked the tree swings, although I avoided for obvious reasons. It was while walking through one section of the garden I saw a deer for the first time in my life, which was astonishing for me. There are sections that feel like the land that time forgot, with moss and ferns overtaking the landscape that Capability Brown once remodelled. We were also interested to learn that one of the original inhabitants way back in the 17th Century was a vegetarian, and devoted a huge section of the land to cultivating his own food. The cafe on-site was a decent affair and we were both able to grab food here before heading back to Gateshead. I hope you enjoy a few of our photos from Lowther and Windermere.
Thanks for reading,