A new addition to the Mayfair dining scene, Novikov is a vast restaurant on Berkley Street which encompasses two restaurants and a bar. (It really is big).
Us Brits probably haven’t heard of Novikov, but in Russia the group is kind of a big deal. Arkady Novikov heads up the Novikov Restaurant Group which boasts a portfolio of over 50 different locations in Russia and St Petersburg. Arkady employs 7,000 people. Gordon Ramsay has nothing on this guy. Novikov London is his first venture outside of mother Russia.
The place has gone for a two birds with one stone theme – there’s an Asian and an Italian restaurant, and a bar too where you can have a drink whilst pondering which sort of cuisine you fancy. The Asian restaurant serves food from all over Asia; sushi, sashimi, dim sum, the works. They’ve got everything covered.
For me the decision wasn’t a tricky one – Asian wins hands down. So off I trotted to try it out…
The restaurant is in keeping with its surroundings; it’s all very plush, very grand, very…expensive. It’s a stone’s throw from celeb’s fave Nobu and even serves their own take on the Nobu’s signature black cod (but more on that later…).
The place is staffed by an army of people who all appeared to have very specific tasks to perform. The sole purpose of two of which seemed to be presenting you with a menu. They were dressed differently to the rest of the army so you knew they were the menu people. If you don’t have a menu – they’re your ladies. The rest of the time they kept themselves occupied by staring and looking at a big piece of paper.
Thankfully I made it to my table and received a menu without incident. We were then asked if we wanted edamame beans. I said yes. There were more questions. What flavour edamame did I want? I didn’t mind. I went for salted. They were good. The boy described them as ‘like crack’ which is what he says when he likes something. He hasn’t tried crack to my knowledge.
We were also served an amuse bouche of cold pak choi in a sweet spicy sauce, which wasn’t offensive but really just tasted like it should’ve been hot…
Following a short interlude we received a wine list. The wine list was so big it had a contents page. Its weight was akin to that of a small hippo. I didn’t read it all. Life’s too short. It must’ve been adequate though, it had a contents page.
Next our waitress came over and asked if we wanted to visit the market. Odd, I thought, but followed her obligingly. ‘The market’ wasn’t actually a market but rather a display of the bounty of fresh ingredients from which the menu items originate. Fresh seafood was displayed on ice, and vegetables were sat in little baskets. If you liked the look of anything she could tell you how the chef would prepare it. She was most knowledgeable. Behind ‘the market’ was a glass wall where you could see an even bigger army preparing the dishes. I do love when restaurants go in for the ‘theatre’ aspect of dining. The market certainly fit the bill – but what of the food, I hear you cry!
To start we went for a selection of small plates. Dim sum with pork and crab, crab and avocado maki and salmon nigiri. Dim sum were very hot. We were warned three or four times. I suffered third degree burns regardless. The filling was juicy with a sweet kick – perfectly complemented by a chilli and ginger sauce. The boy described these as ‘like sex in his face’. Hmm.
Maki were not bad, but the texture a little offputting. They could’ve done with some crunch. There were no complaints about the nigiri but they weren’t particularly exciting (given the price they should’ve been).
We then ordered main courses. I had to try the black cod, because such a blatant attempt at another restaurants pride and joy must be sampled. We also tried braised pork belly and beef in a pepper sauce. I wanted to order some steamed veggies but was strongly advised against it. Our waitress was most insistent we went for broccoli instead. I’ve never been talked out of ordering a dish at a restaurant before. It was an interesting experience. If it’s that bad why’s it on the menu?
The black cod was, I can confirm, better than I’ve ever tasted. Perfect. Amazing. I would eat it every day. Sadly it costs £35, so I can’t. Pork belly was also very good, with tiny little bits of crackling on top. The beef was perfectly cooked in a rich Chinese-style pepper sauce… And the broccoli our waitress demanded I order turned out to be not bad either. A sweet sauce with a chilli kick, perfectly cooked veggies, no complaints there.
We were, by this point, rather on the stuffed side so sadly can’t comment on the desserts, however the menu offered some interesting options such as pineapple ravioli. What is this? Is it ravioli? Will we ever know? Probably not, because the food’s so good you’re unlikely to make it to dessert – but if anyone is brave enough to order desserts I’d love to know.
The Verdict: I loved it. I really did. I was hesitant. I wondered if it’d be more style than substance. The Guardian certainly thought so. But the food is amazing, the service is faultless and the atmosphere is great. There’s just one small problem… it ain’t cheap. Our bill came to over £200 *gasp* *shock* *horror*. But if you’re rich or it’s your birthday give it a try.
50a Berkeley Street,