Novikov: Fashionable Russian venture into Italian restaurant scene in London's Mayfair
Arkady Novikov is a well-establish restaurant owner from Russia. His multiple high-end dining spots in Moscow secured him discernible reputation as the “restaurant king of Russia”. His new opening in London with its grandeur and excellent service stirred the local restaurant scene significantly. First, the concept of two restaurants and a lounge under one roof is rare in London and second the service is superb.
I have dined at the Italian restaurants after encountering a number of red lights. Not only did the Asian restaurant got bad reviews from critics elsewhere, but also my friend who dined there on multiple occasions preferred much more the Italian to the Japanese. Moreover, its location just across from Nobu, the highly acclaimed international empire of high-end Japanese restaurants, does not make it easier for Novikov to compete. The Italian restaurant on the other hand was superb.
Atmosphere: Cool, fun, stylish and attentive service. Novikov is a vibrant place. Entering through the Asian restaurant (which is rumored not to be as good as the Italian), you will find almost a magical world of dining. Under the wooden roof, surrounded by real trees and wood logs for the oven you may forget that you are in the midst of a global city. The multiple nationalities and the buzz of the diners are the only reminders that you are in London. From business meals to family gatherings and dates, this restaurant attracts a diverse clientelle. The only thing they all have in common is that they are quite wealthy since Novikov is an expensive place to eat. With all that money in the room, you better dress well.
Food: Fresh, authentic and intriguing. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ingredients used to preparation of the dishes. The tomatoes were juicy, sweet and generous, the cheese fresh and delicate, the fish was tremendous considering that it was not a Mediterranean village I was eating it at. Simply, there was not a flaw in any of the dishes while the taste profile remained on the highest level.
My appetizer of Tomato salad with parmesan shavings & bottarga was delicious. The portion was big so I would not stress about the higher prices here. The olive oil in the salad was of a very high quality, the tomatoes were so juicy that I did not feel the dryness of the parmesan cheese, which was still on the more delicate side, and the bottarga (dried fish eggs) was interesting and intense.
The fish here is excellent and considering that the restaurant is located in the middle of London and not by the seaside, I would give it a huge credit. There are not many restaurants in big cities where the fish tastes as if it was just taken out of the sea. The Branzino baked in a slated crust in the oven is made for two people so if there are two of you at the table feeling like having a fish, go for it. It is served with a delicious tomato and caper topping mellowed by an olive oil. Just squeeze a bit of lemon all over and enjoy a superb fish as if you were sitting in Portofino or on the coast of Sicily.
We were either lucky or Zagat (the restaurant rating guide) needs to adjust its rating for this Italian hotspot, since not only some of the visitors’ comments were positive but even all the sides we ordered there were excellent and served in generous portions. The tomato salad was perhaps too big even for two, but if I did not have so many tomatoes in my starters I guess we would manage all of them. The grilled vegetables were perfectly cooked – not too burned (as some grilled veggies tent to be), not too oily, the balance was stricken just right.
I start to feel a bit too flattering towards Novikov, yet even the desserts are so delicious. In this case I did not mind the Asian influence as the Green tea brullee with guava sorbet was so elegant, soft and balanced that I would not think twice about ordering it again. The green tea added a Japanese touch to the French preparation of brûlée (custard-like texture with caramelised sugar on the top) and the guava sorbet added sweetness and fresh zing so one was ready to pay the bill and walk to the warm summer night of London.
Cuisine: Italian with a slight Asian twist.
Visit: September 2012
Price: Very high (the food at Novikov is not cheep even for London, but it is very good, so if you have the money spend it here without any regret)
Drinks: The wine-by-the-glass is more than satisfying. From Pinot Grigio to Nebiollo, the choice is wide. We went by-the-glass and skipped the pricey wine-by-the-bottle list, but if your pockets and valet are too heavy you can ease them with a pleasure from one of the great wines on offer.
Espresso, cappuccino, machiato and name it – all the Italian coffee specialities are served at Novikov; and if you feel more like a tea than stir off from Italy ad get one of the infusions.
Opening hours: Open all week, Italian restaurant 11.30am-11.30pm.
Contact: +44 (0) 20 7399 4330
Address: 50a Berkeley Street, London W1, UK