Novikov: Gourmet Glitz in the Heart of Mayfair

By Paul Joseph

Located in the epicentre of London’s prestigious Mayfair district, just metres from the highly sought after address of Berkley Square, Novikov has acquired a formidable reputation since opening in late 2011.

The first London venture of Russian restaurateur Arkady Novikov, owner of a 50-strong troupe of dining venues across Moscow and St. Petersburg, his Mayfair venue comprises three distinct spaces – a pan-Asian restaurant, an Italian eatery and a Lounge Bar – each boasting a lavish décor befitting its chic and glamorous clientele.

Novikov’s well-heeled patrons were in strong attendance for our Tuesday evening visit, with the vast venue impressively full to the rafters. We were reliably informed that this was typical for a weeknight in a part of the city that benefits from a captive post-work market.

The pan-Asian menu offers a sizeable mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese dishes featuring classic ingredients from the Orient, all cooked with a contemporary twist. We began with a generous bowl of spicy Szechuan Edamame beans which made for an ideal amuse-bouche; the hot, salty soybeans delivering a brash wake-up call to the taste buds ahead of the main event.

For starters, a tuna tataki with wafu dressing was expertly cooked, with the lightly seared raw fish beautifully fresh and moist whilst the wafu garnish provided a flavoursome kick. A dish of Har gau steamed dim sum was a reminder of how good these ubiquitous dumplings can be when in the right hands, housing perfectly marinated and pleasingly crunchy shrimps.

Next up was a roasted half duck with Chinese spiced soy. It arrived superbly prepared, the duck meat tender and the skin combining crispyness with a melt-in the-mouth texture that was up there with the best in London.

Mains comprised a seared wagyu sirloin with teriyaki ponzu sauce and a yuzu scented miso black cod, accompanied by purple sprouting broccoli and egg fried rice. The steak, cooked medium rare as requested, had all the flavour you would expect given its legendary Japanese provenence, and the accompanying sauce delivered the perfect balance of salty, tangy and sweet to compliment the meat. The cod was met with similar approval from my companion, who commented upon its depth of flavour and flawless texture.

Desserts, so often an afterthought in Asian restaurants, were anything but on this occasion. A milk chocolate fondant with hazelnut praline served with vanilla icecream delivered a much-needed refreshing sweetness after the salt-fest that had preceded it. Once breached, the fondant released a deep, dark chocolate sauce that would make even Scrooge enjoy Christmas. For my companion, a caramelised golden apple with yogurt sorbet also went down a treat.

In a city that has increasingly turned to food fads, with restaurants building their entire experience around one key dish or ingredient, it was a delight to discover one that reminds us that variety can also have its place. And to pull in the punters night after night, in this part of town, all adds to the evidence that Novikov is a very fine restaurant indeed.

By Paul Joseph