Ave Mario sets the stage for an evening of entertainment from the minute you step through the door.
The stacked central bar and the upbeat Italian-speaking staff create a party atmosphere, while the black and white striped walls and clashing velvet banquette seating do nothing to dispel the feeling that you’re here for a fiesta, or festa if we’re doing things the Italian way.
Striking just the right balance between style and substance, Ave Mario’s menu is similar to its sibling sites’. Golden, sweet – and crucially, not chewy – calamari kicks things off alongside crunchy fried courgette flowers with a punchy aioli. If you’re here for the photo opportunities don’t skip the drinks, some of which come in cups fashioned into busts of lipstick wearing women.
Mains won’t surprise anyone, but there’s comfort in consistency. A rich, generously portioned pasta is luxuriously covered in a cream sauce with robustness coming from piles of black truffle crowing the plate (or actually, a copper pan, in this instance). Elsewhere, a spicy chorizo and aubergine pizza shuns the chew of trendy sourdough in favour of an airy, soft focaccia-like base that is topped with fresh ingredients for a pleasantly light finish.
Desserts feel specifically crafted for the spectacle with a 60cm drum of ice cream turning up to be carved tableside by an ever so slightly strained look waiter. Covered in caramel sauce and flecked with ripples of dark chocolate, this is a sort of posh Viennetta served in the portion size of your childhood dreams.
It’s not really the menu that makes Ave Mario, it’s the whole experience. It’s the rainbow lights around the toilets, the bespoke crockery in vegetable designs, the crowds of people there for a good time, and it’s the reasonably priced plates with their tongue-in-cheek titles. See: Queen’s Gambas, a prawn sweet take on prawn cocktail.
A carnival of colour and creativity, this is a place that’s likely to crown all the top lists of cool restaurants for some time to come so our advice would be to book it while you can.