Mamma’s Biscuit House looks at first to be just one of the dozens of identical cafes serving the upmarket Belgrade neighborhood of Dorćol. There are white wicker tables and chairs on the pavement outside, signs advertising free WiFi, and even USB charging stations. But a closer look reveals the artfully arranged windows displaying the cafe’s aspirations: to be the bakery of choice for Belgrade’s celebrations. Beautifully decorated cakes only hint at what might be inside.
Because Mamma’s doesn’t simply want to be the chosen place for major events; it hopes to be the spot where everyone comes for a spot of more ordinary indulgence. So while the cafe offers fresh juices, salads and sandwiches, it’s really more about relaxing with a sweet treat.
I admit I was hesitant. My years spent in Montenegro taught me that while a cake can appear delicious, all too often the inside is dry and lacking in flavor. But I visited Mamma’s before I knew that Belgrade, at least, differs from Montenegro’s coastal regions in this respect (I’ll have to do the all-too-dirty work of tasting other pastries throughout the country before I declare that this is prevalent throughout Serbia) (darn). Belgrade, so far, knows how to bake a cake. And Mamma’s makes some of the best.
The treats begin with a tiny chocolate biscuit served with the espresso, which arrives in quirky cups decorated with emojis. The espresso is strong and balanced — perhaps not as high-quality as the stuff popping up in Belgrade’s new coffee-focused cafes, but good enough. Besides, in places like this the coffee is meant as a supporting character, there to calm the palate between bites of intense sweetness. For this purpose, it works perfectly.
Mamma’s offers so many treats that it’s difficult to choose just a couple. One could get an assortment of kolaci, of course — the little cookies and bonbons, often topped with chocolate or ground nuts, or here decorated to look like animals or insects to captivate the kiddies. Then there’s at least 15 types of cut cakes on offer, most involving chocolate, but some filled with cream or highlighting seasonal fruits.
Our first choice were tiny, adorable tarts topped with chocolate jimmies and a glazed cherry. I’m pretty sure these were meant to be bite-sized or perhaps two-bite sweets, but they were so delicious I stretched them out longer. The shortbread crusts were baked to perfection, and weren’t either too dry or too sweet. The chocolate cream filling was perhaps a bit too sugary, but that’s what the espresso is for.
Then came the chocolate tart, which may be the best dessert I’ve had in Belgrade. The base was more of a brownie than a traditional tart crust, which only made the cake better. The slice came topped with a little chocolate bowl containing bright red berries, and drizzled with a little bit of chocolate and berry syrup. I was never clear on what the small berries were — sometimes it’s difficult to translate more obscure words from Serbian to English — but their tartness was a perfect foil to the rich, creamy tart.
You can get your cakes or cookies to go, or even order in advance, but unless you’re planning a party that really defeats the purpose. Like the better known cafe culture in Vienna, where afternoon cake is practically an obligation, having a treat at Mamma’s is also a time for relaxation. Sure, you can go on weekend evenings, when they do their best to make it more of a nightclub, but in the afternoon it’s a wonderful place for a break. The tables outside overlook one of Belgrade’s quieter, shadier streets, where you can ponder exactly what a few fresh coats of paint might do for this city. Inside the lighting is dim and the decor quirky, from fushia chaise lounges to a bright mural of giraffes. It could well be a terrific choice to escape a grey and rainy day.
Mamma’s Biscuit House
Address: Strahinjića Bana 72a, Belgrade
Hours: 9 a.m. – 1 a.m.