What can you tell us about Ave Mario?
It's the latest restaurant from Big Mamma, the group that originates from Paris, but specialises in Italian restaurants. It's already had two huge hits in London with Gloria (Shoreditch) and Circolo Popolare (Fitzrovia). Both are known for being no-holds-barred on their design and for going big on portion size without breaking the bank. Spoiler alert - that's not changing with Ave Mario.
Where is it?
It's in Covent Garden on Henrietta Street right next door to Frenchie. They've managed to carve out a pretty huge space for themselves out behind what looks like a fairly small entrance. But you'll definitely be able to spot that entrance...
So what's the set-up of this restaurant?
There are three main parts to the restaurant. The real place-to-be, we think, is the ground floor. That's pictured above and has all the hallmarks of a Big Mamma design - just throw everything at the room. Get a seat here if you can.
The mid-level of the restaurant is actually the most restrained design-wise, and probably best suited for larger groups. That's before you get to the basement. There you'll find the open kitchen and the bar - that area ups the glamour again for a more clubby feel. Oh, and it adds a mirrored ceiling throughout, because why not? Overall, the restaurant does feel a little smaller than Circolo Popolare, but they will have two terraces - at both the front and back.
So what about the food?
The food has many familiar elements that you'll recognise if you've been to a Big Mamma restaurant. The menu features all-Italian food and is quite affordable. Essentially, Big Mamma restaurants tend to offer good Italian food at decent prices and in large portions. Overall, that stays the same here (and even the more upscale dishes remain more affordable than you might see elsewhere). There are quite a few new additions to the menu - and we'll concentrate on those here...
Anything else worth picking out?
We just scratched the surface of the menu, but they do have a pizza section using 24-hour fermented dough, with options including Mamma be Extra (£11) which is deep San Marzano ragù, smoky stracciatella and basil ‘caviar’ or Asking for Truffle (£17) which is crème fraîche, fior di latte mozzarella, black garlic cream, mushroom carpaccio, fresh black truffle and chives.
Also, look out for the Filetto alla Rossini (£32). A fair few people were ordering this - it's 200g fillet of Cornish beef, with home-made pâté de foie and marsala sauce on a bed of wilted wild spinach.
What's it like for vegetarians or vegans?
You'll do much better if coming from a vegetarian standpoint, there are only a few vegan dishes like the house salad or one of the desserts, but there are plenty of vegetation options throughout the menu, and a fair amount of GF friendly dishes on the menu too.
What about dessert?
Their famed tiramisu is on the menu, but the new dish to finish off with is absolutely the ice cream cake...
What about drinks?
It's a fully Italian wine list and wines start at £24 for the house wine, a Sicilian Collina Delle Roseor a Sangiovese Rubicone and £33 a bottle for sparkling. You can also push things up to £96 for a Barolo D.O.C.G. 2015 if you're feeling spendy.
But cocktails are really where it's at with Ave Mario. The house cocktails, poured at the table like the Call Me Old Fashioned (Wild Turkey bourbon, ‘vin santo’ chianti-honey mix, bitter cherry, £9) are generous, but it's the new list of House Giant Cocktails that you really want to be trying. There's the Gindependent Women (£14) which is a frankly enormous gin and tonic that you're definitely going to be seeing on your social media of choice and then there's this:
Clearly, Big Mamma are onto another winner here, with tables booked up as soon as they're released (they book two weeks in advance). Everything that made the previous restaurants is here in spades - mad design, huge portions, value for money and a friendly staff. All that and there are a lot of new additions to the menu that make Ave Mario well worth a visit on its own. A massive hit, for sure - and a deserving one too.
More about Ave Mario
Where is it? 15 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8QG
How to book: Book online. Bookings open two weeks in advance and fill up fast - so be quick.
Hot Dinners ate as guests of Big Mamma. Prices are correct at the time of writing.
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