Novikov is the eponymous expansion of Arkady Novikov’s 50-strong Moscow restaurant empire into London and onto the streets of Mayfair. And why forge an empire with a restaurant focussing single-mindedly on just one cuisine, when you can exercise bold Russian authority and get two for the price of one. Novikov caters to two flavours, an Asian restaurant located on the ground level and there’s also an Italian restaurant tucked away a level below, between the glittering bar and the Asian restaurant.
An open kitchen on one side of the Asian restaurant has the best view of the floor, with fresh fish and seafood glistening on ice and crates of fresh fruit and vegetables stacked up high with a large team of busy chefs inside going about their business, sautéing, chopping and plating up. The seafood display is not merely decorative though, if neither Asian or Italian cuisine strike your fancy, then there’s the additional option to choose from the fresh display made up to either your own choice of taste or to the chef’s recommendation.
But the menu itself is extensive and far from even thinking about the extensive seafood display, we’re entirely bewildered. The charming staff are on hand to help and with some guidance from us on our preferences, we’re soon settled in with drinks and some Spicy Hot Edamame and interestingly, raw vegetables and some sauces. Once the waiter lets me know that they have fresh young coconut in, I’m instantly sold, it’s reminiscent of being on holiday and I’m transported back to Asia.
The sashimi to start is somewhat of a signature course at Novikov, chef Jeff Tyler having trained in the art of tuna in Tokyo. The staff recommend the Hamachi carpaccio with truffle, a literally melt-in-your mouth sashimi, which though very tasty, is a tad overpowered by the truffle, leaving none of the delicate fishy taste behind. Totally different in flavour and texture were the Wagu Beef Tacos, arguably my favourite course of the evening. These were rich, spicy and given how messy it is to eat tacos, finger lickin’ good.
Given that our seats neighbour the magnificent fruits of the sea display, it’s perhaps inevitable that we’re inclined towards seafood for our mains – we’re informed that mains here are sharing portions between two, we opt for the signature Black Cod and Malaysian softshell crab, all washed down with a side of Baby Bok Choi and some steamed rice. The signature Black Cod is as fabulous as it looks, it’s melt in the mouth flavours retain the original firm texture of the meaty cod and it needs but the smallest helping of rice to make for heavenly mouthfuls and it’s hardly surprising that this is the course that we find ourselves diving into for additional helpings.
I’m at a loss to understand what makes the Malaysian softshell crab to be from that region as none of the flavours indicate it to be so – but the real beauty of this dish is the hay-like substance that comes with it and not for a million years would I have recognised it to be fried egg, either in texture or even taste. It adds a layer of complexity to the dish not found in the slightly bland crab, well-cooked but lacking in any flavour punch.
The bok choi lets the side down though, swimming in a pool of corn—starched liquid with a few slices of chilli for garnish, my local Chinese takeaway could have given this dish a run for its money (and won).
Desserts pick up the pace somewhat, what they lack on the dessert menu is something light but we’re talked into two of the signature items anyway, rich and calorific though they sound – a Green Tea Brulee with a side of Guava Sorbet and a Banana Crumble served with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Forget the lighter desserts, these are heavenly. We spend much of our time double dipping into each other’s desserts, comparing flavours and bites and ice creams. The green tea is not overpowering in my brulee, which I appreciate as I’m not a fan of the matcha trend taking over the nation. The guava sorbet is light and sweet and conveys the flavour of a sweet guava perfectly. The banana crumble is far richer and is that sort of wintry pudding that it’s all too easy to sink into, in front of a roaring fire. The salted caramel ice cream isn’t even required, such is the greatness of the crumble itself.
The service is attentive, perhaps a tad excessive with no fewer than 3 members of staff enquiring after our every need, but there’s no question that they are knowledgeable about the food and very invested in ensuring their guests have a good time. And you can’t really ask for anything less.
Suitably sated, we leave the buzzy bubble of Novikov, with its flashy décor, even more glamorous staff and out past the bouncers standing guard to something far more prosaic, a walk to the nearest tube station.
50A Berkeley Street Mayfair, London W1J 8HA
Tel 0207399 4330
This feature can also be read in edition #16 of Flush Magazine