They’ve got Gloria, they’ve got Circolo Popolare and now everyone’s fave OTT French restaurant group have expanded their London empire by opening the Florence-inspired Ave Mario in Covent Garden. Of course it’s massive, with 295 covers spread across two terraces and three dining rooms.
And in typical Big Mamma style, it’s the interiors are maximalist – there’s the first room has black & white striped walls, red booths, plates and jugs in the shape of vegetables and a 3500-strong bottle wall; the second is a pink and red trattoria with velvet furnishings, check tiled floor and holiday posters on the wall; and a nightclubby, 70s-style mirrored room in the basement complete with counter dining. As you’d expect, the whole place was packed out and very vibey – these guys certainly know how to pull in a crowd.
The menu at Ave Mario is different to Gloria and Circolo but the names are still tongue in cheek, the portions are still big and the presentation is still made for the ‘gram. We started with the cichetti plate, featuring nibbles like gnocchi fritti, olives, anchovies and parmesan on, and the courgette flowers, which were crispy but not stuffed with anything so only really delivered on texture rather than taste.
One of the big Instagram dishes, giant carbonara ravioli, had run out by the time we got there so we went for the sideways lasagna as an alternative and sadly it wasn’t a patch on the one they serve at Gloria or on delivery from Napoli Gang. The truffle pizza, loaded with mushroom carpaccio, black garlic cream and fresh truffle, definitely hit the spot though and was as good as any Big Mamma pizza we’ve had before.
Ave Mario continues the group’s tradition of ridiculously oversized puds with the giant stracciatella gelato, which if you haven’t already seen it on socials, is a 60cm tall tower of fior di latte ice cream marbled with chocolate that gets carried to the table and portioned up. Yes it’s silly but you kinda have to go for it – when in Rome, or Florence – and it does actually taste very good too.
There’s no doubt that Ave Mario is a lot of fun – it’s clearly been designed for Instagram but it does look amazing and the service is super-friendly – but for us the food hasn’t quite hit the same levels as the looks.
15 Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8QG
Image credits : Lateef Photography and Jerome Galland