REVIEW: NOVIKOV RESTAURANT, MAYFAIR
Even though I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in London, when I was informed that I would be reviewing Novikov in the heart of Mayfair, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Owned by Russian restaurant heavyweight Arkady Novikov, the self named Berkeley Street venue is one of over 50 he owns worldwide and since opening in December 2011, there has hardly been a day where Novikov is not heaving with London’s elite. The unusual thing is that Novikov is actually 2 restaurants in 1; a Chinese and Pan Asian on the ground floor; and a classic Italian on the floor below. I’ve chosen to dine in the Asian restaurant and can’t wait.
I arrive at Novikov at around 6pm and I’m pleasantly surprised to find the place is virtually empty. I take a mini tour of the venue and it’s only then that I realise how huge the restaurant and lounge bar is. The Asian restaurant is on the same level as you enter the building and has a delightful, modern feel, with the Italian down a small flight of stair; decorated with fake trees and greenery all around, it could be considered a large restaurant in its own right.
After the tour, we take our seats in the Asian restaurant, which is right next to the open plan kitchen and market area which showcases the live crustaceans, molluscs and rare vegetables on offer, that are even available to purchase. My attention is then turned to the menu, which is just as extravagant as everything else I have witnessed so far, with literally hundreds of dishes to choose from and seemingly no logical way of navigating. After 10 minutes, I am still none the wiser and concede that I will let our hospitable waitress decide.
To begin, we go for fresh clams, lobster tempura, scallop & chicken kebabs, and black cod rolls. All offered something different, and the freshness of the seafood really made these dishes stand out, however at £45 for half a lobster, the prices reflect the quality.
After finishing the first course, I look round and the restaurant is now packed to the rafters with businessmen, older gentlemen with statuesque young ladies, and a few sports stars turned TV personalities. This is merely a fleeting reflection as my attention turns back to food with the arrival of our main dishes of roasted duck, and Madagascan tiger prawn. The duck has a perfected crisped skin, and the tender breast meat below goes down a treat with the soy sauce condiment. The Madagascan prawn came in sweet and sour sauce which was not too overpowering unlike others I’ve tried, but my only complaint is that you only got 1, which at £12, is eye wateringly expensive. Of the side dishes, I highly recommend the purple sprouting broccoli, which has been cooked in a beautifully blended soy sauce.
By this point, my taste buds have truly been awakened, and for dessert I try the green tea brulee with guava sorbet, which is extraordinarily good, and my dining partner goes for the lemon tart, with pastry that simply melts in the mouth. A fitting end to a truly spectacular meal and once we finish, we decide to go to the bar below the 2 restaurants. The lounge bar is equally as (if not more) popular as the restaurants, and if you are willing to overlook the posing pouters, it offers an impressive range of spirits (especially vodka) and cocktails, which seem to have been made with all my favourite ingredients.
Overall, the Novikov experience has been not let me down. More than anything, I was most impressed with the service, which is without doubt the best I’ve ever received in London. Each course was served promptly, the tables were cleared with such discretion that I didn’t even notice, and when I accidently dropped my fork, my hand literally reached my knee before it was picked up and replaced- now that’s what I call service. However, as brilliant and attentive as our waitress was, I didn’t feel like I could relax fully with the patrolling Maitre D reminding me of my rather terrifying maths teacher in school, Mr Backhouse. I suppose a restaurant of this quality needs such figures to keep it running like a well oiled machine, but it was slightly disconcerting.
Unlike some of London’s elitist venues, I didn’t feel out of place in my modest evening wear, however I wouldn’t quite call it family friendly. It’s no secret that Novikov is expensive, but with the clientele they are trying to attract, this is part of the appeal. I have seen many restaurants in this area come and go, but Mr Novikov seems to have found a formula that works and I have a feeling that this restaurant is more than just the flavour of the month and may become a long standing fixture of the Mayfair dining scene.
Novikov Restaurant and Bar, 50 Berkeley St, W1. Nearest Tube: Green Park
Mains from £60pp excluding drinks. For more information and bookings visit www.novikovrestaurant.co.uk or phone 020 7399 4330