Wednesday 27 October 2021


I have been an avid fan of the rapidly expanding Big Mamma restaurant empire ever since a dinner at one of their first restaurants in Paris many moons ago.

At that time Pink Mamma was the most hyped and talked about restaurant in town -  a feast for the eyes and a tasty dream on the plate, a flagship restaurant by two young restauranteurs who sought to bring a real sense of dolce vita and dining out FUN to stressed city dwellers and heck they hit a nerve!

Indeed, now the Big Mamma Group operates 13 restaurants across three countries and five cities, though this has thankfully not resulted in a "chain" feel to any of their operations. Yes, you can tell you are in a Big Mamma establishment - kitsch tableware, neon lights, walls lined with colourful glass bottles, yet each has a unique touch to them, a so concisely executed interior concept that result in almost every inch of the restaurants being "instagrammable" without ever trying too hard.

There are inevitably some downsides to this success. It is almost impossible to secure a table at their restaurants, regardless of location, unless you book a month in advance, and I have had a few meals more recently at their first two London restaurants, Gloria and Circolo Populare, were food was slightly disappointing (compared to the stellar meals I've had there when they first opened). Service as also sometimes felt a little overwhelmed, perhaps by the sheer volume of costumers, and not quite able to transport me to 70s Capri as much as in their first restaurants.

BUT I am always here to give a second chance, especially when Big Mamma had provided me with so many memorable dining experiences in the past, and quite honestly I was DYING to check out their newest London outpost, Ave Mario, the second I saw a few sneak peaks  of the Art Deco, more is more, neon lights, kitsch religious interiors and menu that screamed "extravagant Italian".

Of course, it wasn't quite as easy as walking in for a dinner on a random Friday night (in fact my friend Renee and  I attempted this not long after Ave Mario had first opened their doors and got quite bluntly told that there was no chance in hell we'd get a walk in table), but as a seasoned Londoner I know one has to plan strategically to get a table reservation and in the case of Ave Mario I quickly gathered that they release reservation at 12pm each day for exactly one month ahead. 

I set myself an alarm and calendar reminder and indeed managed to succesfully snag a dinner reservation to treat my dear friend Henry for his birthday, exactly one month ahead of our dinner, a little inconvenience and planning ahead that were however a thousand percent worth it for the unforgettable dinner we got to have! Know the tricks and you will get a table, just not last minute.

Anyways let's get to what is most important: how the hell was Ave Mario then? To make it short: it had all the magic (and then some) of my first dinner at Pink Mamma. Interiors are stunning -shiny, retro, exciting, sexy. Service was impeccable. Attentive without being annoying, friendly without being obnoxious and always there when we needed a top up or had a question about the menu. 

You don't even have to wait for a bill (a process of flagging down a waiter at the end of the meal I always find particularly tedious), you scan a QR code and settle your final bill online, no paper wasted and extremely pleasing to the millennial in me.

The food again was stunning. It's all about sharing plates here - the pizzas for example not as big as at the other "Mammas" but perfect as a shared starter. We had a wonderful version, the Saint Polpo, the most light and chewy dough topped with yellow datterini tomato sauce, mozzarella fior di latte, potato cream, octopus, Taggiasche olives, lemon, parsley.

Another winner were the Mac n truffle crochetta, Truffled maccheroni and cheese, deep fried for extra indulgence and formed into balls, a real must try for any truffle lovers. 

For mains we shared some outstanding pasta dishes which came in generous servings. The absolute star of the show was no doubt their incredible 'TAGLIARINI AL LIMONE E GRANCHIO', fresh tagliarini pasta with fresh local hand- picked crab and lemony butter sauce, which was a top 5 in my life sort of pasta dish (and that is saying a lot considering how many bowls I have devoured in my nearly 30 years) while our 'Funghi town' plate of Small ravioli parcels filled with ricotta and portobello mushrooms, light gorgonzola sauce and sauteed girolles was also pretty damn amazing.

A dessert of 'GIANT STRACCIATELLA GELATO' was a real spectacle to finish with, not only as all staff broke into an Italian happy birthday verse (again another sign of the attention to detail here, the birthday note on my booking more often than not would have been completely forgotten about, especially on a busy Friday service) but also because of the huge ice cream cake which appeared in front of us, marbled through and through with crunchy stracciatella chocolate. Carved out of this monstrosity we received a big slice of ice cream goodness which was then drizzled with the most luxuriously thick caramel sauce. I mean talk about making dinner interactive and fun! And the bloody thing also tasted great, no style over substance here though both come in large measures regardless.

What can I say, Ave Mario was a 10/10 for me, the sort of restaurant we all desperately need post lockdown, fun yet culinarily sophisticated and worth the 1 month wait for a table. Trust me on this one!

Tuesday 19 October 2021


I always like to bring a baked kind of present along when it comes to a good pal's birthday and knowing that my friend Henry was hosting a birthday / housewarming party and was a big fan of all things red velvet cake meant I simple HAD to make these red velvet brownies with white choc chunks! 

A super easy bake that won't take hours or leave you with a total kitchen mess and an impressive homemade, edible gift to bring a long for your nearest and dearest!


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk* discard the egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 200g roughly chopped white chocolate, I like proper choc chunk (reserving 50g to melt as topping)
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and position the oven rack in the middle of your oven.
  • Line an 8x8 inch (20x20 cm) metal baking pan with parchment paper, or line with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
  • Add the butter to a large bowl and microwave for 45-second intervals until melted. 
  • Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. 
  • Whisk vigorously for 20-30 seconds.
  • Whisk in the egg, extra egg yolk, vanilla extract and red food coloring.
  • Carefully fold in the flour and salt using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  • Whisk in the vinegar. 
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28-32 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs. 
  • Cool the brownies in the pan for at least 4 hours, or until completely cooled before slicing. 
  • For the topping melt the remaining white chocolate in the microwave in short intervals (making sure not to burn it).
  • Once fully melted carefully drizzle over the brownies and allow time to set.
  • To slice, lift the bars out of the pan using the overhang of the parchment paper/aluminum foil. 
  • Then cut with a sharp knife of a cutting board AND ENJOY!

Wednesday 13 October 2021


YAY! Finally a restaurant review again!

I am not going to lie, moving into my own place has in consequence meant considerably less budget to blow on snazzy meals out and lockdown additionally made me realise that I can cook pretty much anything, even if intricate, at home.

Of course a true restaurant experience is only in part about the food and my dinner at Paradise Now reiterated that. 

A great restaurant experience indeed is about the setting, the staff, the hype, the fellow diners, the fact you don’t have to clean up and the memory you create, a kind of memory that you won’t get in your own 4 walls.

The Paradise Now is as hyped as you can get as newly opened restaurant, especially when it is probably the coolest dining spot that has opened in Dusseldorf in, like, ever, and of course was on top of my list of places to visit on a recent weekend getaway to the motherland, a proper "treat yourself kind of weekend with the Mama involving all the food and wine and good times" which HAD TO include a dinner here.

First things first, The Paradise Now is SO 2021that it has neither a website or an online booking system, instead you get a very slick looking instagram which perfectly conveys the tightly conceptualised restaurant (you can see that a co-owner of the restaurant is a renown creative director) and a number to WhatsApp to try and book one of the coveted tables.

The restaurant is split into a main restaurant, a no bookings bistro and soon to open club, and if you are after a main restaurant table you either have to book literally a month in advance (I confidently attempted two weeks before our desired Friday night and failed) or know someone that knows someone…alas we decided to chance getting a table at the bistro by getting there early on a Friday evening around 6pm and after a quick look over by their doorman, managed to snag a table in the impressive bistro space.

Ok, some people will hate having to endure a Berghain style doorman to enter a restaurant but hey if it keeps the wrong kinda people out I am there for it, even if it is unusual.

But even if one is critical of their door policies, once inside it’s hard not to be wowed by the concept and interior design of The Paradise Now.

It’s 70’s LA cool crossed with Studio 54 glamour with a touch of hippie commune vibes thrown in but without an ounce gimmick. 

It’s almost like you’ve stepped into a completely different, very cool world, once you've made your way down a neon lit staircase and you will spend the evening fascinated by every detail of the dining experience, from the waiters clad in long white flowing gowns, to the disco and funk soundtrack on repeat, to the Pinterest worthy illustrations on the menu.

This is not to say everything about The Paradise Now was perfect. You could tell the kitchen and service were yet to become a well oiled machine. Our waitress was on her trial shift and while trying hard didn’t have much of a clue when it came to the menu and seemed pretty startled. 

Service was at times slow and us not sitting in the main restaurant meant we seemed second rate diners but as much as I hated some of the pretentiousness and slow service it didn’t outweigh the uniqueness of the space.

The food again showed signs of promise but tweaking was needed, portions were tiny, flavours were great. 4 pieces of seared tuna for 19 euros is never going to impress me, even if presented beautifully, a sort of overpricing you won’t even get away with in the most poncy West London restaurant. 

However a pumpkin risotto main with burrata and a starter of malfatti with nut butter were delicious, refined and decent in price.

But then again you don’t JUST go to The Paradise Now for the food - you go for the entire experience, from getting a table to leaving behind reality for a few hours. I can’t even imagine how cool the club is going to be once open.

In a way I hate how much I loved Paradise Now, in spite of of the many things I actual didn’t like, me and my mum have not stopped chatting about the place ever since paying the bill. 

As I said eating out can have a real magic about it and despite its flaws Paradise Now is bursting with just that magic.

I may as well get my table booked in now for my return in December because I will sure be back and if my dream 30th birthday weekend away with my nearest and dearest from London materialises (Corona please don't ruin this) I couldn't think of a better spot to ring in the new decade!

Thursday 7 October 2021


On my continuous quest to make veggie friendly versions of classic carnivore dishes, I was more than intrigued by these meatless "Swedish meatballs", served of course with mash and a sweet fruit jam.

A total comfort food dinner in its traditional form, I wasn't sure how the veggie balls, made from bulgur wheat, chickpeas, shiitake mushrooms, breadcrumbs, egg and lots of seasoning would compare, but honestly they had pretty convincing texture and were full of earthy flavours thanks to the mushrooms. 

They were even better when topped with a super easy yet delicious creamy stock sauce which really made it not only look but taste like the real thing!

I also whipped up a quick mashed potato and then plated the whole thing up with a sweet topping of cranberry jam - in Sweden lingonberry jam is used but cranberry does pretty much the same job, and even though the mix of the creamy, rich sauce, mash, balls and jam sounds odd it works SO WELL, trust me on this one.

I absolutely adored this dinner and at no point was I thinking that I was eating an inferior version of the real deal, indeed I think even a committed meat eater would be won over by this dinner.

A dinner perfect for colder autumn nights and one that will evoke memories of IKEA trips with no animals harmed!

Serves 2-3


  • 75g (½ cup) dry bulgur wheat (cooked and cooled, excess water removed)
  • 125 g (4.5 oz.) shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 (400 g/15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 50 g (⅓ cup) breadcrumbs
  • 60ml (¼ cup) sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 30 g (2tablespoon) unsalted butter 
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 350 ml (1 ½ cup) vegetable stock 
  • 2 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Buttery potato mash
  • Lingonberry or cranberry jam / sauce 


  • Heat the oven to 190C
  • In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until finely chopped, but not pureed. 
  • Remove them from the food processor into a large bowl. 
  • Do the same with the chickpeas.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients into the bowl over the mushrooms and chickpeas and mix well with a spatula until blended. 
  • Form into meatballs, arrange them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown. 
  • You can spray them with a bit of oil if you want and turn them halfway so they bake evenly.

  • Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour when it's melted. 
  • Whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes until it thickens and starts to change color.
  • Add the vegetable stock, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it thickens. 
  • Add more stock if you want the gravy thinner.
  • When the sauce reaches the desired consistency, add the sour cream, Dijon mustard and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and make sure they are coated by gently spooning the gravy over them. Serve immediately over mashed potatoes and topped with the berry jam of your choice!