Novikov. A fine-dining restaurant shrouded in fame, fortune, and finesse. Located in the heart of Mayfair, this mammoth establishment takes after its renowned Russian owner, Arkady Novikov, and primarily serves the more affluent of London’s populace. (And the not-so-affluent food blogger or two). Arkady Novikov himself began as a not-so-affluent ex-serviceman qualified in catering and economics, who applied for a job at Mcdonald’s first Moscow branch in 1990. Having no clue as to what a “Mcdonald’s” actually was, he was subsequently rejected, after expressing how proficient he was at cooking French and Italian cuisine. (Because obviously, Mcdonalds dislikes anyone who dares to make real food). The result was a decision to “go it alone”, and Novikov subsequently began to create a vast empire of his own restaurants, of which his self-titled Mayfair establishment is a part of. It can be said then, that along with the Fillet-O-Fish, pandemic obesity and widespread clown phobias, the Novikov empire is amongst Mcdonald’s most significant contributions to the culinary world.
This dual-cuisine eatery hosts menus from East Asia and Italy in its respective, purpose-built Asian and Italian rooms, and promises to deliver an exemplary dining experience in the midst of an elegant backdrop. Armed with some disposable income left over from the preceding year, Steak and I decided to bravely indulge in the financial demands of Novikov last month, to celebrate a multitude of special occasions. Even after that justification, I can still feel you all judging me for visiting Novikov as a student. Even I, in hindsight, think we indulged in a little too much splendour, but hey, clothes and shelter are overrated anyway.
Note: The beef, chicken, lamb, and duck from the “Asian room” are certified halal, as is the lamb and chicken from the “Italian room”. Please do double-check in case this changes. Alcohol is served on the premises.
Steak and I chose to visit the Asian Room on this occasion, and to begin our feast beyond our means, we began with a portion of spiced chicken buns and some “spicy prawn moneybags”. The spiced chicken buns consisted of a spongy, soft dough which possessed a remarkably subtle and delicate sweetness, and contained a mildly spicy, soft grilled-chicken filling. It was an absolutely winning combination to say the least. The spicy prawn moneybags meanwhile, greeted us with the sticky, clean texture of its dumpling casing. It was incredibly moist, and contrasted well with the plentiful helping of thick prawns within, which delivered a pleasantly mild flavour.
For mains, Steak proceeded with a portion of egg-fried rice and salmon teriyaki, which was well-cooked, possessed a delicate, crispy skin, and was full of flavour.
I meanwhile, selected the roast truffle duck, and to accompany it – duck-fried rice. The only way I could have physically gotten more duck into my stomach would’ve been to visit Hyde park and swim around the serpentine with my mouth open. The duck-fried rice was firm yet moist, with a slightly greasy texture that was contrasted by crunchy carrots and soft duck and egg pieces. It was however, a slight touch too salty. The truffle duck was a rather interesting dish, consisting of tender duck pieces immersed in a bath of oil, herbs and spices, and dusted with flakes of truffle. The duck pieces were extremely tender, moist and well-cooked, with a deliciously crispy skin that soaked up the mild flavours of this broth incredibly well. The dish as a whole presented a pleasant array of contrasting textures, including that possessed by the thin, firm flakes of truffle, which also delivered a strong, earthy essence.
Roast truffle duck
Normally, a combination of being filled to the brim by main courses, and a desire to be frugal in terms of both finances and calorie intake leads to Steak and I sharing desserts on restaurant ventures. However, on this occasion, we decided to over-indulge (as if we weren’t already), and order one each – mainly because our desserts were on the house (I shall explain why later).
Our first victim was the nutella cheesecake, which consisted of three principle layers – a thin top layer of chocolate, a thick nutella-infused cream cheese body, and a hefty Oreo biscuit base, and was accompanied by a vibrant cherry sorbet and a handful of berries. The result was an array of contrasting textures that blended together seamlessly. The cheesecake was thick and moderately sweet, but unfortunately, the nutella flavour was rather weak. By contrast, the thick cherry sorbet possessed a very strong, very sharp acidic tang, and as a result, took complete dominance and overpowered the cheesecake completely. In combination, the only detectable presence of the cheesecake was its firmer texture, and a stronger, richer, and deeper flavour of nutella within the cheesecake would have created more balance between the two components.
Nutella cheesecake with cherry sorbet
The green tea crème brulee was far more delicate in its approach. Its firm, crispy skin of crystallised sugar broke to reveal a fairly smooth green tea pudding within, which possessed wonderful, creamy green tea flavours that were subtle upon the tongue. This contrasted will with the sharp sweetness of the crystallised sugar, and the accompanying guava sorbet. The guava sorbet was much better balanced against the crème brulee than the cherry sorbet was against the nutella cheesecake, and possessed a thick consistency, moderate sweetness, and a strong guava flavour that complemented the crème brulee.
Green tea creme brulee with guava sorbet
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Novikov is a high-flying, premium restaurant, and as such, you can expect to be greeted with some rather high-flying, premium prices – though this is entirely dependent upon which items you opt for, and which part of the restaurant you opt for at that. Our spiced chicken buns and spicy prawn moneybags came in at £7 and £6 respectively, whilst the salmon teriyaki and roast truffle duck cost £14 and £27 respectively, and our sides of rice both cost around £7-£8 each. Both desserts meanwhile, (though free for us), cost around £9-£10 originally. Generally, in the Asian room, dim sum and side dishes range from around £5-£12, and most main courses range anywhere from £12-£50 – unless you opt for premium dishes such as wagyu steaks or lobster, in which case, you’ll be looking at the eye-watering £100 mark or beyond. Desserts tend to range from £9-£12 for single items, or if you’re feeling very peckish, a whopping £60-£75 for a dessert platter. All in all, for a premium restaurant in the heart of Mayfair, the charges incurred are fairly in line with what you would expect – relative to the location, the dining experience, the service, and the quality of the food. To put it into perspective, it’s a step away from The Ritz. There’s no way you’ll be saving any pennies here, so save it for a special occasion and block your accountant from your Instagram account.
Our first experience of service at Novikov was certainly an interesting one. As expected from a high-end restaurant, we were ushered to our seats and greeted warmly by everyone who passed us. We had our order taken by a polite waitress, and our glasses topped up with water by a friendly and amusing waiter who did his upmost to prevent the submerged cucumbers from straying into our glasses. Under normal circumstances, a man who glares at cucumber pieces whilst whispering “Don’t you dare” would have raised a certain number of alarm bells, but Steak decided not to alert her mental health unit on this occasion. We enjoyed our starters, and Steak and I preceded to conversate for the next ten minutes in the comfort of our plush surroundings. Another ten minutes went by, and we suddenly realised that our mains had not arrived yet. We assumed that it was a simple intermission between starters and mains, and weren’t particularly concerned at this point, given that our starters had appeased our appetites somewhat. Another ten minutes took us to the half hour mark, and by now I was more than curious, and flagged our friendly waiter down to politely enquire about our missing food. Even at this point, I wasn’t particularly concerned. This was Novikov of course. “A restaurant of this calibre wouldn’t forget about their customers” I told Steak. “There’s no way they’ve forgotten about our order”. Our waiter came back. They had forgotten about our order.
I sat in stunned disbelief, slightly amused at my conviction about Novikov’s inability to make mistakes just moments before. Our waiter apologised profusely, and as we waited another 20 minutes for our mains to arrive, one of the managers came by to apologise once more, and offered us free desserts as a means to make it up to us. For the rest of the night, we were well looked after, and received personal attention and service from the manager assigned to our dining area. In normal circumstances, I would not take kindly to a restaurant forgetting about my order at all. However, it was clear that this was not a usual occurrence, and service was otherwise of a high calibre. The forgotten order has cost Novikov a service score of 5 for now, but they’ve still earned a strong 4 for their attempt to compensate for their mistake. They should also thank the satisfying nature of their starters. Rest assured, if my appetite hadn’t been stabilised by them before our mains, I probably would have eaten a waiter or two.
Novikov’s affluence is well reflected in its well-composed modern decor. Whilst the restaurant is noted to have a generous 540 seats, this is not at all apparent as a result of its large and spacious layout, and the interior within the Asian room carries a sense of refined elegance, with a small dose of extravagance. From the splendid decked-ceiling and the eye-catching ornaments, to the show-stopping flower displays and the welcoming, homely wooden furniture, everything within Novikov is orientated towards creating a comfortable dining experience.
The restaurant itself is literally around the corner from Green Park station. Parking is available in extortionate car parks in the nearby area, and if luck bodes well, you may come across some parking spots in the odd side-road or two, but travelling by car is probably not advised.
The comfortable seating and relaxing surroundings help to create a gentle ambience at Novikov, even amongst the hustle and bustle of a full house of patrons. As is evident from our visit, it’s very easy to become lost in time as you enjoy the experience with your dining companions. Even with the delay, we didn’t feel particularly bored or frustrated, and could simply enjoy the evening. (Though part of it was probably due to the inner-glee at the thought of free desserts).
Novikov. Much like the names of many of its neighbouring Mayfair establishments, it’s a name that is almost synonymous with high-end dining. Armed with fantastic food, an immaculate decor and a battalion of extremely friendly and err, fairly attentive staff, it’s easy to see why this restaurant has risen to the fame it enjoys today. Indeed, it can easily be argued that Arkady Novikov knows how to make a successful restaurant or two. In fact, when he opened his first restaurant in Moscow, it was such a great success that the Russian mafia wanted it for themselves, and tried to strangle him when he refused to give up the business. At least, that’s Novikov’s side of the story. Who knows – perhaps he just forget about their order. 😉
Novikov Restaurant and Bar
Address: 50A Berkeley St, London W1J 8HA
Telephone: 0207 399 4330