Placed on the corner of London’s Mayfair Place and Berkeley Street, just a stone’s throw from the famous Nobu, Novikov is the eponymous London branch of highly successful restaurateur Arkady Novikov’s restaurant empire. A premise so vast that it has space for 540 seats, it’s split into two restaurants and a swanky Lounge Bar. Upstairs, on ground-level, an Asian restaurant serves the sort of expensive Pan-Asian food that needs a burly security guard to send any passing riff-raff quickly on their way. Then descending some stairs past the Bar and reception, leading through a lobby that boasts shelves stacked with luxurious Wines, into the Italian restaurant within which we sit to enjoy a weekend lunch.
The gigantic space that’s designed to resemble a Sicilian terrace is filled with greenery and cabinets that separate the open kitchen from the dining space, filled with fresh produce that emulates a Market Kitchen vibe. And although devoid of windows, the room is baked in bright light that seeps in through the pergola-like ceiling beams. In all, the interior is stunning; transporting us straight into the Mediterranean. As for the menu, it’s so vast that we have to request another few minutes each time the waitress arrives to take our order. The Wine list is equally dumfounding, featuring a colossal range of which makes ordering a bottle that doesn’t carry a price tag of at least three-figures seem like a massive faux pas.
This Russian man’s take on a quintessentially Italian restaurant is an odd one. The décor is spot on (although the Union Jack cushions seem out of place) as is the element of five-star hotel luxury that’s on offer. The menu does contain a broad selection of Pizzas and Pasta dishes, yet additions such as Spanish Sirloin, ‘Catalan style’ Lobster Salad, and Scottish Langoustines do seem unwelcome. In fact, a re-branding as ‘Novikov Mediterranean’ would be more fitting, perhaps. To start, a Pea soup in which a trio of filled tortellini shells float was delicious, if not a little overpriced, while the Mortadella chosen from the Charcuterie Selection side of the ambitious menu is a delectable treat, served simply and sliced wafer thin. So good, in fact, that I could easily have devoured the kitchen’s whole supply. As for the mains, the baby lamb shoulder that’s clay-baked and delivered to the table in its mud hut before being disassembled before us was fine. Although not particularly Italian, the clay allows the already tender cut of meat to retain plenty of moisture during the cooking process, and the result is delightful. Be sure to order a couple of sides to accompany, however. On the other hand, my Pizza was everything you’d expect from an Italian kitchen, topped with a generous shaving of fresh Truffles. At £43, it’s the Truffles that you’re paying for, severe lack of sauce, on the other hand, makes the pizza dry.
Somehow, as the dessert menu arrives we do manage to find a little space to peruse another lengthy selection. The Basil Semi-fredo dish was remarkably enormous, albeit delectable. Two cubes of which are topped with Elderflower Berries and Pistachio Crumble, were placed into a pool of Jelly which tastes as though its been made with Tonic Water, adding an interesting dimension to the already accomplished dish.
Overall, the service is somewhat underwhelming, the food is, in places, very expensive and a little bizarre. There’s true potential on offer within the kitchen, however. If only Novikov could cut the size of their often-strange menu and retain a smaller number of the best, most reasonably priced dishes, the smallest of tweaks could make the biggest of differences to our overall experience.
Novikov Restaurant & Bar can be found at 50A Berkeley St, London, W1J 8HA.