Zeffirellis and Fellinis celebrate 40 years of food and film in Ambleside
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 March 2020
An Ambleside institution is marking a landmark anniversary this year
There will be celebrations in Ambleside this year when a family firm that runs five cinema screens and two popular restaurants celebrates 40 years in business.
Zeffirellis with Fellinis began life with one restaurant and a movie screen in a converted old-style cinema. Now they are at the heart of the town's cultural and social life, providing a daytime café, wine bar with free live jazz, and two hotels.
And all the food served is vegetarian.
Derek Hook, who started the original Zeffs in Compston Road, now concentrates on the country guest house where he lives at Yewfield, a few miles out of town, in whose gardens some of the produce for the restaurants is grown.
His sister Dorothy Smith is MD now and she has masterminded recent expansion, extensions, and the opening of a country-style vegetarian guest house on the edge of town, the Ambleside Manor.
Zeffs is a popular meeting place, and the restaurants - Zeffirellis in the main building, concentrating on pizza and pasta dishes - and Fellinis a couple of streets away, are busy, all year round. Fellinis offers a more sophisticated menu, what they call vegeterranean. Both have fans and returning visitors, many of them meat eaters who love the place, the ambience, the quality, so much that the word vegetarian barely registers. And both offer a meal and movie deal.
There are two cinema screens in the main building, a further two in a converted schoolhouse along the road, and the large cinema at Fellinis which concentrates on screenings of live theatre, ballet and opera, and art house movies, alongside the traditional mix shown nearby.
The scheduling means up to a dozen different films might be on offer in any one week, remarkable for a town of only 2600 permanent residents - although that's increased tenfold in high season.
Dorothy says: 'We operate our business sustainably with care for the environment at all stages, using organic produce wherever possible. Over the past two years we've used more produce grown in our Yewfield gardens, and concentrated on sourcing all food and other items locally. We've also extended menus to include a wider range of dishes.'
Dorothy worked with Hopscotch films and the Wordsworth family to launch the south Lakes' first film festival last autumn, Inward Eye. Derek Hook runs the Ambleside Days jazz festival which has been held for several years and attracts top musicians.
Zeffs hosted the premiere of the cult movie Withnail and I, back in 1987, and has been the venue for a number of special screenings.
The premiere of Downhill the Movie saw guests arrive in dinner jackets, evening dresses and hiking boots, on a green carpet of artificial grass.
Dorothy, with boundless energy as well as a keen eye for style in both food and décor, is now supervising plans for a conservatory dining area at the front of the main building and a larger balcony, while upgrading the sound systems in the cinemas and replacing all the seating.