Chesters By The River – Vegan Restaurant – Skelwith Bridge

Excellent riverside restaurant where everything is vegan unless it’s marked as “vegan option” – in which case it’s veggie but available as vegan on request. The food is wonderfully crafted with plenty of choice. It’s popular, so get there early. Parking fills up fast.

Courgette Fritter, Peanut & Tamarind

Cuisine: Varied, everything either vegan or available as vegan option – wide variety curry, falafel, burger, pizzas, buddha bowl, salads. The breakfasts are great too.
Opening Hours: 8.30am-4.00pm
Location: Skelwith Bridge, Nr Ambleside, Cumbria. LA22 9NJ
Date Visited: October 2020
Price Range: £9-12 for a main course, £8 breakfast
Contact:  01539 434711
Website: chestersbytheriver.co.uk
WiFi: Yes
Charging: TBC

Chesters By The River is not in one of the main towns of the Lake District, being tucked in a little cluster of buildings around Skelwith Bridge near Ambleside. From the outside it’s not at all obvious that it specialises in vegan food so it would be easy to overlook. However, we’d suggest it’s up there with Kat’s Kitchen and Gandhi’s Cafe as one of the ‘must visit’ vegan restaurants in the Lake District.

Situated on the banks of the River Brathay, Chesters is light and spacious, somehow successfully balancing a modern yet rustic appearance. There is plenty of outdoor seating, some of which overlooks the river. This would be a wonderful on a warm day. Inside, the kitchen is open so you can see the chefs preparing the food.

We went for breakfast and tried out their less options – Mexican hash brown, guacamole, tomato & chipotle dressing and Courgette fritter, peanut and tamarind. Both were superb, filling and delicious combinations of flavours, unlike anything we’ve seen offered at other vegan restaurants. They have really thought about everything that goes onto the plate and how each taste will complement the others.

Mexican Hash Brown, Guacamole, Tomato & Chipotle dressing

It would be unfair for us to comment on their lunch dishes as we haven’t tried them (yet!), but if they’re anything close to as good as the breakfasts then they’d be well worth trying, and very good value for money.

The building also has a large ‘gift shop’ with a surprisingly good range of books, household items, gift cards, etc. It’s certainly a cut above the usual tourist fare. We picked up a few advance Christmas and birthday gifts for friends and family.

There is also a bakery behind the gift shop with a selection of savoury and sweet options. We didn’t ask specifically, but it would be safe to assume that much of it is vegan.

The biggest downside to Chesters is that parking can be difficult. There are parking spaces in the complex – both in front of Chesters and along a side lane – but they fill up fast in peak times. If you get there after midday it can be difficult to get a space and there is very little alternative parking on nearby roads.

Our advice would be to make Chesters the midway point of a good walk. It’s conveniently nestled on a flat area near the mouth of the Langdale valleys which means there are plenty of manageable hikes nearby even for those who don’t want to tackle big hills. Parking in Elterwater and walking along the river is a lovely and mostly flat walk.

Even if you take the hiking approach, be aware that on peak days (lunch at weekends during holiday times especially) there can be queues to be seated – particularly if the weather doesn’t suit sitting outside. Breakfast is easier to get in to.

So perhaps Chesters needs a bit more planning to visit than some of the other vegan restaurants in the Lake District, but it is absolutely worth it.

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