I was able to completely surprise Mr. Canny last week and arrange a visit to the Lake District without him suspecting a thing. After a lovely trip and meal on New Year’s Day I found out about a vegetarian guest house in the village of Ambleside. We vowed to return and stay, so I hatched a plan to celebrate his birthday there. Unfortunately our very cute gooseberry accompanied us along, but I was determined to make the break as memorable as I could with presents and fantastic food.
Ambleside Manor is Art Deco in style, with a few Chinese-style accents scattered throughout the hotel. This is a theme echoed in all of their establishments. Booked in on a Bed & Breakfast basis, I didn’t worry that Mr. Canny’s veganism would be accommodated. This was the first hotel we’d been to where soy butter, yoghurt and milk were available without making a special request. Even the complimentary toiletries in the bathroom were vegan-friendly – Neal’s Yard Remedies, in case you’re interested.
With plenty of parking and a resident deer in the grounds, it seems like Ambleside Manor could do no wrong in my eyes, but I was left disappointed by an additional charge of £23 for Dinky staying in the room with us. I could understand a toddler or small child attracting a charge, especially as they would also be dining at breakfast, but an 8 month baby hardly eats enough to justify this. I didn’t spend a lot of time researching prices in the area as I was determined to stay here regardless, so maybe £123 is fair for a one night stay in the area regardless.
Anyway, onto the most important thing for the Canny Food family – the food. We dined at Fellinis on the Saturday evening, a sister establishment of Ambleside Manor. As much as we enjoyed our previous visit to Zeffirellis, the other vegetarian restaurant in the village and also part of the same group, we definitely needed a change.
Touted as fine dining, I was worried about how Dinky would behave. I’m very conscious of dining out past a certain time as I appreciate other adults may not want their meals spoilt by a whingey baby. Children don’t often dine here, if the lack of a high chair is any sign, but staff kindly brought one from Zeffirellis for her.
Dubbed ‘Vegeterranean’, the menu has a definitely Mediterranean influence. With the beverages helpfully labelled with vegetarian and vegan – which is something the vast majority of restaurants could follow suit on – there also seemed to be a good mix of dishes that catered for both diets. There were also gluten-free options available too. Finding out Fellini’s is Vegetarian Society-approved meant I was comfortable any mentions of Parmesan or other ingredients not normally associated with being veggie would be suitable for me to eat.
I ordered the Grilled Halloumi (£6.45) to start, which was served on a bed of quinoa and garnished with orange slices. The red pepper added a sweetness to the quinoa salad, while the citrus zing balanced against the salty cheese.
Mr. Canny chose the Soup of the Day (£6.45), which was velvety smooth and deliciously creamy. Cauliflower is a great ingredient for vegan soups, making an unctuous base without the need for milk or cream. A generous grind from the pepper mill helped perk it up, and the freshly baked bread which accompanied was a decent standard.
Choosing a main was a difficult affair as they all sounded good. With dishes like Cauliflower ‘Steak’ and Vegetables in Cashew Cream and Ginger, we’d have happily eaten anything and everything available to us. I opted for the Nut Roast (£12.95), which benefited from the added sweetness of apricots in the mix. Served with creamy mashed potatoes, vegetables and a red onion gravy, this Wellington-style roast was exceptional. Mr. Canny and I always offer to swap if one prefers the other and they are both vegan, but this was one entree I was not prepared to give up!
His choice of Aubergine and Lentil Moussaka (£12.95) was also thoughtfully crafted. The usual ricotta was removed, but the dish didn’t suffer. Generous portions plated up, we almost didn’t order dessert until I promised to split the Avocado and Chocolate Mousse (£6.45) with Mr. Canny.
We usually feed Dinky ‘tasters’ of our food, and she definitely enjoyed this treat! The avocado ensured the mousse wasn’t too rich but was as smooth and creamy as is intended without the use of dairy. Heck, you could almost say this was a health food with the topping of pistachios and hulled strawberries 🙂
With drinks the total was £53, which is great value for money. We were told that Ambleside Manor have package deals available which include the cost of a dinner at Zeffirellis and/or Fellini’s, which sounds like a bargain way of trying out some of the best vegetarian and vegan food you will experience in the Lake District. The service was flawless, and the staff were clearly knowledgeable on veganism too.
Breakfast at Ambleside Manor included a Continental Breakfast (with croissants that were unfortunately not vegan-friendly, much to Mr. Canny’s chagrin), and a vegetarian Full English. Mr. Canny requested their Full Vegan, which came with what I think were Linda McCartney sausages.
This was a disappointment, and we’d hoped there would be a special option like Scrambled Tofu to replace the eggs not suitable for a vegan. With a selection of smoothies and juices on offer, as well as lots of cereals, there were still lots of choice and maybe some will eschew the cooked breakfast anyway. We were clearly being little piggies!
I can’t post about our trip without mentioning a ‘cake stop’ we made to Zeffirellis. I had a very indulgent (veggie) Chocolate Cake while meeting up with fellow food blogger Vegan Olive, who also happened to be staying at the same guest house as us. What a small world it is! Mr. Canny enjoyed his vegan Flapjack and Green Tea too, and at just under £8 we both agreed Fellini’s and Zeffirellis are great value for such a touristic locale.
Ambleside is clearly a ‘veggie heaven’ in the Lake District, with recently reviewed Rattle Gill Cafe close by and recommended cafe Greens a short drive away – or walk, if you’re so inclined. We’d heartily recommend all foodies, whether vegetarian or not, to try out Fellini’s or Zeffirellis. With quality ingredients and a skilled team in both kitchens, you will not feel meat is missing from the equation. Their restaurants have a lovely ambience if dining as a couple, but are also welcoming for families. I’d probably recommend pizzeria Zeffirellis if you have the kids in tow, however. It is one of the most popular eateries in the area too, so booking is advised. Here you will find vegan cheese pizza and pasta in abundance, or veggie-friendly cheese if you wish. You can also catch a film in one of their beautiful cinemas, if the weather is against you during your stay.
While I feel we don’t struggle for food options in our hometown of Newcastle, we would love to see a fine dining vegetarian restaurant like Fellini’s in the city. Like David Bann in Edinburgh, the team here are serving up exciting plates of food that wins praise from meat eaters and veggies alike. So jealous!
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