A review of Novikov’s Asian Restaurant
I went to Novikov expecting something brash and “oligarch-tastic” having read articles that bigged up this recent Russian arrival at the heart of Mayfair as just such. As Wayne Rooney once said: “How wrong was I?”
Novikov is owned by Arkady Novikov, a man who heads an empire that includes over 50 restaurants in Moscow, supermarkets, multiplex cinemas and florists. Dubbed the “blini baron,” the maverick Novikov employs some 7,000 people in total and counts a clientele of Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin and Naomi Campbell amongst his patrons. He doesn’t have an office as he prefers to work out of whichever restaurant needs his attention at any given moment and keeps his employees on their toes by aiming to visit each of his restaurants at least once a week. Novikov Berkeley Street is the first foray into restaurant ownership outside of Russia for a man who also purchased the late Gianni Versace’s Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como for £26 million in 2008.
Novikov London is a vast 400-seat restaurant and bar that is open daily from 7.30am to 11.30pm and split into three parts. In this colossal space, which cost some £8 million to create, is an Italian restaurant and a large wood paneled bar but what I got to try along with my esteemed dining companion, Anthony Brown, was their superb pan-Asian restaurant.
A natural haunt for Mayfair’s wealthy “hedgies,” the clientele of the restaurant also numbers Rhianna, David Walliams, Lara Stone, Tamara Ecclestone, Nick Candy and Holly Vallance. Here indeed is a place where the modern day equivalents of Jay Gatsby can feel perfectly at home.
The pan-Asian restaurant is understated and dark. Though I personally found that the tables were a little too close together, I was especially impressed by the knowledgeable and friendly staff as well as the open “market” area showcasing the finest seafood, fruit and vegetables.
The menu parades diners through a culinary tour offering a spectacular selection of Asian dishes. Divided into sections that include dim sum, maki, sushi and sashimi, we started with some edamame with sea salt (£4) before trying a most sophisticated Thai yam bean dumpling (£6) and some steamed king crab and parma ham dumplings (£9). The 5-piece prawn tempura with a tesuyu sauce (£17) was simply divine but the only disappointment was that the wasabi was not quite punchy enough.
We continued with a California maki roll (£12) that contained some of the most fantastic crab I’ve ever tried. Accompanied by deliciously juicy ginger, this was one of the highlights of the meal but the undoubted number one hit was the unagi (£17), a dish made from Japanese freshwater eels. Sweet yet also salty, this grilled dish alone will make me revisit Novikov again and again. Our next choice was yuzu soy dressed tuna sashimi (£17) that had been flash cooked for 2 to 3 seconds. This was itself delicious but the citrus was a little overwhelming.
For the main course, we opted to share a 180g chilli ginger spicy beef fillet (£24) served with steamed jasmine rice (£5) and a roast half duck with a Chinese spiced soy sauce (£22). The former was phenomenal and definitely deserving of a mention in despatches.
For pudding I opted for a green tea crème brûlée accompanied by a punchy guava sorbet (£8) that was unusual and delicious. Mr Brown’s poached pear, however, was a dish that he described as “a little pedestrian.”
Novikov is somewhere that I urge readers to try. Deservedly lauded as “Russia’s most successful restaurateur,” Mr Novikov is on to a winner in Berkeley Street and I predict further openings in Europe will, in due course, be equally well received. His attention to detail and fastidious nature are, in my opinion, plainly what makes him and his restaurants such a runaway success.
I’ll leave the final word with Mr Novikov himself: “People often ask me whether I plan on continuing to expand. I always tell myself, ‘Enough. Stop.’ But I just can’t!”
Novikov, 50a Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8HA. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7399 4330. Website: http://www.novikovrestaurant.co.uk
For more information on the Novikov Restaurant Group, go to: http://eng.novikovgroup.ru
Follow Novikov on Twitter at: http://www.twiter.com/NovikovLondon