A millionaire’s hotspot..
Mayfair restaurants are usually filled with properly rich people but at Novikov the degree of wealthiness verged on being obscene. There was a catch, still. The ambiance at Novikov’s “Italian” was strangely and grandiosely relaxed. The dark bar entrance led the way, via a glitzy wine cellar, to a brightly lit dining room, suggestively of a spacious Italian villa. There was a white “ceiling” made of meticulously laid planks of wood from which the “sun” (AKA spotlight) beamed through; the floor was richly parqueted; and the touch of wood here-and-there contrasted well with the sprightly display of fresh vegetables and herbs. The very long and alluring “deli” counter and the gigantic fire oven behind it were the centrepiece of this handsome venue. Equally handsome were my neighbouring diners, a group of over-preened Russian girls with bubbles and a jolly Italian family of six, while on another end of the restaurant was Novikov himself looking after his pals. All seemed millionaires or at least very comfortable with parting with a large sum of money for a “Capretto Sardo” at £46. Looking around, I couldn’t help thinking… “Wow”.
The cheerful and friendly manager approached with the menu that read your very usual kind of Italian. Homey. Unfortunately, the pasta station was out of order (meaning I had to opt for the more expensive meat/fish for mains). The spectacle followed suite with a lavish parade of fresh ingredients to my table – crimson beef, live and kicking lobsters, sea bream that glittered, and some juicy langoustines – and a delectable description of how they could be specially prepared. I couldn’t help thinking another “Wow”.. but no..
Dishes were presented rustically. A big basket of bread was accompanied with moreish and piquantly rosemary-ed tapenade. The salami platter (£16) included highlights of delectable fennel-infused saucisson and dainty parma ham. Burratina (£15.50) was supremely fresh and milky, while the imported tomatoes – juicy and sweet – were one of the most intense (and intensely pricy) I’d ever tasted in London. Loved it. Fungi Misti (£18.50) – a dish of sauteed wood mushrooms with fried eggs, truffle shavings and chicken jus – was more of a breakfast dish and suffered (yet ever slightly) from excessive rosemary leaves. Very good but might not be worth the price. The Other Bib’s Pork Chop (£16.50) was faultless. Big, tender and delicious. My “Capretto Sardo” (£46) which was described to me as a free-range goat kid flown in premium from Sardinia was served with grilled black olives, pane carasua and rich meaty jus. The kid itself had a delightful game-y scent but tasted mild. The problem, however, was that there were more bones than meat for £46. Perhaps, if the cost had gone into its being flown in premium, next time the kid could do with a Ryan Air flight. The side selection of grilled vegetables (£5) – mellow, well charred onions, spongy aubergine slices, sweet pepper and paste-like garlic – was memorably scrumptious. Before the dessert menu was presented, there came another procession of specials-of-the-day cakes. Tempting but I called for the proper menu. Interestingly enough, the proper “Italian” dessert menu seemed to be flown in from Asia, or more precisely, from the “Asian” restaurant next door. I looked away from Coconut Custard and picked one of the most western dishes of the bunch – milk chocolate fondant (£11)!
… it tasted correct – rich, leak-y, creamy – but it also oozed an unappetizing buttery layer.
Novikov “Italian” has done well in creating an experience – the decor, the buzz from the staff, the reliably good food, the excess. Throughout the meal there was nothing that I disliked, although the bill of three-course meals for two plus an affordable carafe of wine, juices, tea and water at £218 was also.. quite an experience.
GO FOR: Rustic Italian comfort. Millionaire watching.
NOVIKOV ITALIAN RESTAURANT
50a Berkeley Street
Tel. 020 7399 4330