Zeffirellis (Ambleside)

Zeffirellis is one of the largest vegetarian restaurants I've been to and it's pretty much always packed, so they must be doing something right. They've opened another vegetarian restaurant in Ambleside since I was there last it seems, though vegan choice there appears to suck.

Prices are reasonable (very good value if you go for a meal+cinema deal) and food quality generally quite good. I'm not convinced that they've majorly changed their menu since I first visited in '06 though, which could get a bit boring.

The decor is pretty garish - they've obviously spent quite a lot of money on it but for me it's only just on the right side of tasteful. Furniture is of good quality as is their cutlery (Robert Welch), but a design that feels like children's meets steakhouse (very bizarre).

Service is alright and food is mostly Italian (style). None of their pizzas are marked vegan on the menu, but all can be made vegan if you ask them to remove the cheese.

The photos in this review kind of suck - my new 3D camera takes lowsy 2D pictures at the best of times, let alone in low light.

We ordered a couple of starters, one of which was great, the other not so. A mixture of sweet and standard potato wedges with salad and tomato sauce:

was pretty good. Not the best wedges of all time, but above average. Tomato sauce was a bit boring and tasted like it was from a jar (they've a choice of other things but most are non-vegan). The salad was well dressed.

Never have I had focaccia that's tasted so like Tesco value white sliced bread. Both of us agreed that it was terribly underwhelming. Olives were alright.

I had a puy lentil rissole thing, because I remember it being really good in the past:

This time round though it was less so. It was too dry and the dish just really lacked something.

I didn't think their pizza was up to scratch compared to previous visits either, but Cherry loved it and I didn't get to eat much of it!

We shared a dessert of summer pudding and hummous:

Only kidding - it's "cashew cream". It tasted OK and it's nice that they've made an effort to have a vegan cream, but it could have done with being smoother as it was very hummous like in consistency. The summer pudding itself was very good indeed - one of the best I've had.

The bill came to £33 exc drinks. Slightly higher than average, but not painfully so.

It's a shame that they've only one vegan dessert (exc sorbet - groan) and the menu doesn't change much, but if you're in the area it's well worth a visit. If it's raining outside then the cinema deal is totally worth taking advantage of. As the weather was stunningly gorgeous during our visit however it'd have been a crime to have been sitting in the dark watching a film.

The Lakeland Pedlar (Keswick)

Less of a review, more of an endorsement for a sensibly priced vegetarian cafe I'd totally recommend.

Unfortunately it's far, far away.

Despite having once lived in Scotland, when I first travelled up to Cumbria from The Midlands in '06 it felt like I'd passed the edge of the earth and kept going. I quickly got used to the journey after a few visits however and it's since become one of my favourite parts of the country.

The Lakeland Pedlar is a no frills type cafe in Keswick; a short stroll from Derwent Water and some rather stunning views. I've probably been about 8 times over the years and it's pretty much a given that I'll end up there each time I visit.

Service is fast! Not suspiciously fast, but they've obviously got a pot of chilli on the go etc and plate up to order. Pricing is reasonable and portion sizes decent. It's located underneath a bike shop so probably picks up trade from cyclists as well as vegetarians (there's a large carpark next door for us unfit people).

It seems we arrived at just the right time for a choice of tables for Saturday lunch; people were queuing by the time we left. We ordered their nachos:

which could possibly be improved to the standards of Chesters with the inclusion of sour cream/guacamole/melty cheese, but is pretty decent all the same. We also had a 3 bean chilli wrap, which comes with a variety of salads:

Not being the world's greatest fan of salad, it's always refreshing to see a mixture of different types (pasta/couscous etc) rather than a few leaves.

Their garlic bread (ciabatta) is possibly the best in the UK (better than Terre-a-Terre - cheaper too):

Their chocolate cake IS the best I've tasted from a shop (better than Infinity) and the inclusion of icecream is welcome too (no prizes for guesses of which brand). The icing could be improved with use of this fudge icing, but again I'm picking now.

I generally find it difficult to get excited by flapjack, but I'm informed that it was very good.

Total bill was less than £25.

A welcomed difference from many vegetarian places is that they've generally a choice of desserts. They'd several cakes available when we were there. From memory their crumble isn't so great though (not to my taste).

I'm not used to this overly positive reviewing malarky - I'll write a scathing one about somewhere else soon, I promise.