Fellinis is a Vegetarian Society approved vegetarian restaurant in the Lake District town of Ambleside which is considered to be ‘well stocked’ with fine eateries and Fellinis certainly sets itself apart from the others.
The menu was made up of, as you would expect, entirely vegetarian/vegan dishes (I confirmed this after finding out that the ‘parmesan custard’ used vegetarian hard cheese as opposed to traditional parmesan which usually contains rennet).
All of the dishes looked equally appealing but there was a lack of vegan options. I asked the waiting staff about this and they were quick to point out the ingredients which weren’t vegan and offer alternatives (without me being made to feel like it would have been a chore to change the recipes).
There was also a good choice of drinks with all of the wines being marked as vegetarian unless they were not.
The menu itself is cycled six weekly to ensure that the dishes are seasonal and uses only fresh ingredients with all of the bread and desserts being baked in house.
Venue, atmosphere and service
The venue itself is set in the picturesque Lakes town of Ambleside and has an independent arts cinema upstairs and, as a result, catches a lot of through traffic diners (if it isn’t fully booked!).
We were warmly welcomed by smartly dressed and attentive staff who sat us down at the immaculately dressed tables where all of the cutlery, crockery and glasses were pristine.
The decor in the restaurant was neutral and fairly plush with quiet jazz playing in the background all of which gave the impression that the owners are keen to let the food do the talking.
The staff themselves were extremely helpful and, to ensure that it wasn’t just us who they were offering this attention to, we listened out for the treatment of other tables which was equally as good. They remained friendly and obliging throughout the meal making sure to ask whether our dishes were okay as well as leaving an adequate amount of time between courses.
The volume in the restaurant remained quiet during the meal and there was a definite air of being in a well-run, clean restaurant.
Quality of food and taste
We decided to get a side dish with our meal and plumped for a basket of homemade bread with extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic reduction. To say that this was a good decision is putting it lightly. The bread had been freshly baked in house that day, was incredibly light yet crusty and extremely tasty whilst the balsamic reduction was sweet and the extra virgin olive oil of an extremely high standard (9 out of 10).
We opted for the griddled asparagus spears with rocket mayonnaise and radish salad and goats cheese crostini with orange chicory jam and a roasted beetroot and apple salad for our starters. The asparagus was cooked almost to perfection and was well accompanied by the rocket mayonnaise which, whilst tasting great, did not capture the peppery flavours of the rocket; you could see it but not taste it (7 out of 10). The goats cheese was placed on individual crostinis with the orange chicory jam and beetroot perfectly accompanying the strong tones of the cheese with a fresh and sweet burst of flavour. The only negative to be taken from the goats cheese was that the crostini themselves were a little on the greasy side but other than this it was an accomplished starter (8 out of 10).
The varieties of main courses again left us spoilt for choice but we eventually went for the polenta stacks layered with broad bean puree, wild mushrooms and roasted red peppers with caper sauce and savoury onion cups stuffed with mushroom pate topped with a light parmesan custard served with rich tomato sauce and sautéed potatoes. The polenta stacks were good (if not slightly soggy) but accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables which retained a flawless amount of their crunch. The broad bean puree and caper sauce gave a crisp note to this tasty dish but, unfortunately, the flavours were just a little lost due to a slight excess of oil (7 out of 10). The savoury onion cupssuffered from a similar issue to the polenta in that they were a little on the moist side but they were again accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables and some of the best cooked potatoes I have ever had. The wild mushrooms really stood apart from any of the other flavours in the dish with the parmesan and rich tomato sauce definitely taking a ‘back seat’ (7 out of 10).
Now on to the ideal finish to a very good meal…the desserts. We opted for the white chocolate cheesecake with orange cointreau topping and vanilla ice cream and themango, pineapple and passionfruit cup with cashew nut cream and were incredibly impressed with just how good these were. The white chocolate cheesecake was fluffy and flavoursome with a delightful light spiced cinnamon, nut and biscuit base. The accompanying ice cream and redcurrants provided a delicate yet sharp contrast to the richness of the cheesecake and this was what could quite easily be described as ‘the perfect dessert’ (10 out of 10). The mango, pineapple and passionfruit cup on the other hand provided a refreshing yet sweet ending to the meal with only the freshest fruit being used in a handmade snap basket and complimented by, as a lover of cashew nuts, a flawless cashew cream (9 out of 10).
Value for money
On the face of it, the menu looks like it could be a little overpriced but this is definitely not the case. Whilst the prices are by no means ‘cheap’ they are fair given the quality of the ingredients, the dishes presented and the overall dining experience.
This is unquestionably an upmarket restaurant but the pricing structure allows for experiencing a very good vegetarian meal for a decent price. The dishes were impeccably presented (not in too pretentious a manner) with robust flavours throughout.
The courses were all a good size and not at all what I had expected given that my expectation was ‘nouvelle cuisine’ portions whereas I left feeling very comfortably full.
The drinks menu was also reasonably priced with the cheapest bottle of house white coming in at £14.50, a spirit and mixer coming in at around £2.75 and soft drinks coming in at around £1.80.
Fellinis easily falls into the ‘very good’ category of restaurant and stands apart from the other eateries I have experienced in the Lake District to date. I would definitely go back there again with no issues as to price, ambience and value for money.
The starters and desserts were to die for and the choice of dishes left us pleasantly torn as to what to order with the only slight disappointment being the main courses that were slightly below the standards of the other courses.
Whilst waiting for our dessert we were approached by a man from Preston who was a self-professed ‘meat eater’ (as was the person who came to the restaurant with me) and he said, of his own volition, that it was “the best meal he has ever had” and that he would give it 9 out of 10. Indeed my company said that she would definitely come again and did not miss meat from the meal at all as well as “not having had a meal of that quality for years”.
The venue itself was suited to the food on offer and the staff were incredibly helpful and attentive providing an ideal and finished dining experience.
I would recommend this restaurant to anyone either living in, or visiting, the area without hesitation.
Fellinis is on Church Street, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9BT and you can get further information from their website at www.fellinisambleside.com.