When an email drops into your inbox with the opening line, “Novikov has just taken delivery of a fresh 118kg responsibly-sourced bluefin tuna…”, you clear your diary, find a fish-loving friend and get dressed up for an evening of Mayfair luxury.
Obviously I’d heard of Novikov, but a quick spot of Googling revealed further details: A Russian-owned see-and-be-seen restaurant, serving super expensive Asian and Italian food (a strange combination, no?!); online reviews are mixed, with many mentioning the sky-high pricepoints and proliferation of Russian prostitutes dining there. I was excited to sample this place for myself to set the record straight!
Novikov is located just a stone’s throw from other high-end spots like Nobu, The Ritz and the Mayfair Hotel. Upon arrival, I immediately noticed the large number of staff and knew service was a priority. Once we’d passed the door staff, the cloakroom staff and made it to the maitre d’, we were taken to our table in the Asian section of the restaurant (the Italian section is separate).
The route to our table passed by the aforementioned 118kg tuna – I seriously had no idea that tuna were such massive animals!? Having only ever really experienced tuna from a can, I was not expecting such a beast of a fish! We took our seats at a table for two and were informed that the filleting would begin shortly, and we should feel free to go and check it out.
Cocktails were ordered – an M&M with Monkey Shoulder whisky in a cut glass tumbler for Chris, and the special Summer Punch for me, a fruity number with bubbles, served in a copper mug – and we indulged in a spot of people watching. Disappointingly no obvious Russian prostitutes to be seen, but there were a lot of Chanel logos, fake tans and sharp suits – clearly a very monied and showy crowd.
When the filleting spectacle begun, we went to watch the chefs dismember the bluefin with giant knives.
The Novikov Asian menu is mixed in origin, with sushi, sashimi, tempura, maki rolls, dim sum and wok dishes made from internationally sourced quality ingredients. We grazed on salted edamame until our waitress (Gul – such a godsend) appeared. Gul offered to relieve the pressure of ordering and organised everything for us. We put ourselves in her experienced hands – and wow, did she deliver!
We started with deep fried wild British baby squid (£12), Japanese Hamachi yellowtail carpaccio with truffle (£26) and salted Padron peppers (£8). I’ve always been a huge fan of squid and this was no exception. The carpaccio was the dish that surprised me – previously never a fan of raw fish, I was amazed at how the Hamachi literally melted in my mouth, without the fishy aftertaste that I so dislike – quite heavenly.
What followed was a whirlwind of flavours and experiences, our tabletop never empty as the food just kept appearing, giving me ample practice to improve my chopstick skills!
– Mixed Dim Sum baskets – our favourites being the black cod and shitake dumplings.
– Tuna and avocado maki rolls, made with tuna fresh from the 118kg fish.
We had an interlude for more cocktails – Chris’ Russian Doll was by far the manliest drink on the menu…
Our table was soon full once again – and the American guys on the table next to us were getting serious food envy, as they complimented us on our superior ordering skills (…thanks Gul!):
– Welsh lamb cutlets (£31) – the meat so tender that it barely required chewing.
– Grilled asparagus with sweet soy and sesame (£9) – if only all green veg tasted this good!
– Miso black cod (£35) – just watching Chris eat this was an experience in itself – I have never seen someone enjoy food so much. Each mouthful was followed by closed eyes and a groan of delight!!
And then the dish that blew my mind – so decadent and rich in flavour, and so perfectly executed: Peking duck with foie gras (£29). Just wow.
After polishing off 95% of the above, we actually had to ask our waitress to STOP bringing us food, we were so full! But a waitress who doesn’t listen is one who clearly knows the menu well, and wants to showcase it to the full…
Dessert appeared, and despite our shaking heads, we dived into a selection of Mochi (£9 – coconut, pineapple, green tea, sesame and mango – another new experience for me that I loved!) and a bowl of cherries on ice, fresh from the south of France.
By this time, the England v Uruguay World Cup match was in its final stages, but there was no way you were moving Chris or I from our seats to watch – unless you were planning to roll us out. So full, and still in shock at some of the flavours and impeccable dishes that we had tried, we sat tight and continued with our people watching (Russian prostitute count: possibly 1).
Occasionally I’m invited to dine as a guest at places that I would not otherwise have even considered, and this is something I’m exceptionally grateful for, allowing me to try new things, with the potential of discovering something fresh and amazing! Thursday night at Novikov was definitely one such time.
Novikov Restaurant & Bar
50A Berkeley Street Mayfair, London W1J 8HA