A prominent fixture on Mayfair’s Berkeley Street, Novikov Restaurant & Bar was the first venture for one of Russia’s most successful restaurant entreponeurs, Arkady Novikov, outside of his homeland. Myself and Creative Director of Quel Homme, Vincent Nuzzolese, were invited to visit.
Once through the stern exterior, we are taken through the large entrance and by pass a long warmly lit bar, to our right, and a large Japanese restaurant, buzzing with couples and families enjoying lunch, to our left. I take a peek through the dark ebony wood panelling, stone and dim lighting and see the Japanese open kitchen, fronted by an impressive display of fresh fish and vegetables. As inviting as this restaurant looked our destination was still to come.
Continuing through, we reach a set of stairs and descend down to The Italian Restaurant. A vast library of wines fill the corridor that ends with a glass fronted wine cellar. Myself and Vincent take a moment to nosey at the impressive selection and manage to resist the urge to climb the rolling ladder to peak at the higher shelves.
Immediately we see the large, bright and airy, restaurant and are escorted promptly to our table to the far side of the room. Tables are filled with bright burnt orange roses and fresh cherry tomatoes, walls are filled with golden mirrors and the arched ceiling, thanks to clever lighting, gives the illusion we are dining alfresco.
The colourful open kitchen offers a show for diners, lit with large stage like lights showcasing the large wood-oven and fresh fish and vegetables on display. From our seats we can see across the restaurant and although there are just two other bookings, there still seems to be a great energy in the room. The two largest tables are full of men in their 30s and 40s, enjoying pizza and pasta.
A flurry of waiters bring menus, selection of bread and a complimentary glass of champagne. As we wait for our starters to arrive, we gorge on focaccia and salty vegetable tapenade, soaking up the remaining oil in the dish with spongy white bread.
A generous plate of burrata, with Datterino tomatoes and olive oil, and a portion of fresh calamari, arrive at the table. The burrata, we are told, has been brought in from the Puglia region of Italy, and as expected is delicate and rich, complimented by flavoursome tomatoes. The soft calamari has been sprinkled with paprika, which adds kick and a fiery red colour.
It’s not long before our mains arrive. In front of me lands West Country caught seabass that has been gently seared with thyme, rosemary, olive oil and garlic, served with sweet cherry tomatoes. On the top is a crispy layer of flavour, with barely-done meat melting underneath. I chose a side of spinach cooked with garlic, which compliments the moist fish wonderfully. My guest is served steak, grilled simply using olive oil with a balsamic reduction, hidden by a bed of domestic rocket and shavings of parmesan. The rocket has a strong bitter taste, balanced with a side of creamy mash potato. Both mains are superb, and a decent size.
Thanks to a mix up with the kitchen three desserts find their way to our table. A rather unusual basil semifreddo with elderflower berries and pistachio crumble, green tea brûlée with berries served with guava sorbet, and a warm chocolate fondue. The stand out star is the subtle flavour of the smooth green tea brûlée and the sorbet is sweet and fresh.
Attentive staff in a bright welcoming space makes Novikov a must dine offering in Mayfair. Though the plates are powerful as are the prices, but for a special occasion it is well worth a visit.
QH RESTAURANT REVIEW: Novikov, Mayfair
by Calum Donoghue, 10 May 2015