Zeffirelli’s restaurant is located below the cinema of the same name, just outside the main shopping area of Ambleside. The menu has a Mediterranean theme, with most dishes being Italian. The menu is all vegetarian, including ten vegan dishes, though there is no particular emphasis placed on this either on line or in the restaurant itself.
The restaurant has two rooms, a smaller one at the front and a larger one at the back. Seating areas and décor are all quite lavish, including a glass-encased neon-lit waterfall, and seating arrangements encourage an atmosphere of relaxed chat. With there being only two of us dining, we were seated at one of the few square tables. Most are larger and circular.
We’d enjoyed lunch there a couple of times during previous visits to the Lake District, but this was to be our first evening meal there. We’d booked ahead; always a good idea as the restaurant is very popular and fills up quickly, this evening being no exception.
We took our time perusing the menu, which included a number of tempting choices for both starters and main courses. For starters I opted for the Zuppa Del Giorno (Soup of the day), which was spiced tomato and rosemary, while Jay chose the Arancini risotto balls with tomato salsa;
The soup was full of flavour and served with good quality bread and butter which was nice and soft as opposed to ‘straight from the fridge’: always a good sign.
Jay’s Arancini were superb, and possibly the best dish of the evening. Beautifully presented on an oblong plate, with the risotto balls being placed on top of the sauce and garnished with a parmesan crisp and fresh cress. They were coated in breadcrumbs, providing an initial crispy bite, followed by creamy chewiness of the rice, which had been mixed with mozzarella. We both would have been happy with these for both starters and mains.
The menu for the main course consisted of various styles of pasta and pizza, but a Vesuvian red bean chilli and aubergine and mozzarella parmigiana sounded tempting. In the end though, I went for a Pizza Castello, whie Jay ordered a Broccoli and Blue Cheese Lasagne;
My pizza had a ten inch base, which was the restaurant’s standard size, with toppings of tomato sauce, kale, sweet potato and goat’s cheese. A number of additional toppings were available for £1.25 each, so I added green pesto. The pizza base was quite bready and even in texture, lacking the hand-stretched appearance and crunch that I prefer on my pizza bases. The sweet potato didn’t quite work with the other toppings. I think this was because of the relatively thick texture of the base; the sweet potato tended to distract from the other flavours. I ended up picking it off my pizza and eating it as a sort of side dish. This greatly improved matters, and the sweet potato was far more enjoyable. I noticed for the first time a slight oily, buttery glaze and subtle sprinkling of dried herbs to bring them to life. Similarly, the pizza itself regained its edge, with the goats cheese, kale and pesto all working well with the tomato sauce.
Jay’s lasagne was comfort food of the highest order, served in a big square bowl. The blue cheese was the predominant flavour, as expected, but it worked very well with the broccoli which added a much needed bite to the dish.
The dessert menu contained the Italian favourite Tiramisu, ice cream, cheesecake, cheese board and a selection of sundaes which seemed to be popular choice with our fellow diners. We opted instead for the Piccolo Dolce, which consisted of a small slice of pecan pie, a chocolate dipped strawberry and a scoop of ice cream served on a small spoon. As we were both quite full after our starters and mains, this proved a perfect choice. Unfortunately we were half way through it before we realised that we’d forgotten to photograph it. Apologies for that. It was served on an oblong plate, with the slice of pecan pie at one end, the strawberry in the middle and the spoon of ice cream at the other end. We both liked this a lot. It was a great idea and we were by no means the only diners to be ordering it.
We were both very happy at the end of the meal, which cost £42.35 in total. We didn’t order any wine but prices started from £4.45 for a glass, and £16.25 for a bottle of house wine. The usual beers, spirits, liqueurs, soft drinks are also available.
We would recommend Zeffirellis to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, but as mentioned earlier, booking is recommended as it gets very busy. Long may it continue.
Reviewed by Dee 4th Apri 2015