Going on a review with the Editor of a magazine is a bit like going out for dinner with your parents when you were students. We seem to have much more food and nicer tipples than we were used to. This was one such occasion and needless to say the only activity I did particularly well over the next few days was sleeping.
On paper Novikov really is not for everyone. There are plenty of places in London people can visit which are out of their comfort zones but still have a fantastic night. The uber-trendy, skinny jean wearing, pointy shoe gadabouts of east London can happily visit such places as Daphne’s, The Sanderson Hotel’s many drinking venues or any Gaucho and still feel welcome. The Sloanes of the King’s Road can enjoy a curry on Brick Lane without having rocks thrown at them. Such is the obvious blend of different echelons of society and social groups you can find at these places. Novikov is different. It seems there were only one group of people here . . . the rich, fabulous and famous. Some may be tishing and pishing as in my article on The Ivy I focus on this aspect; the difference being however, Novikov was far more exclusive to this group of people. I was surrounded by footballers, Russian super-rich, famous actors and bank executives reminiscing sordid nights abroad. Well, with this restaurant the truth lies in the food . . .
Rocks Mint Julep in hand I ploughed through the menu. If you find yourself here and are treating someone, I would suggest hard liquor or a dry martini to read the menu. Where it may not be the most expensive restaurant in London, it is by no stretch of the imagination the cheapest. My initial move was to tackle the dim sum section. the ‘pan fried beef and foie gras dumplings’ were incredible but small; The ‘whole lobster tempura with wasabi, chilli and tensuyu sauces’ were outstanding but were £45 for four pieces; the ‘pork siu mai with truffle’ was delicious but came 20 minutes after the first dish; and the rock shrimp with chilli lemon mayonnaise was the best of the lot but then mayonnaise is my weakness.
The main course was mostly hit or miss. The dishes that hit were the seared wagyu sirloin with teriyaki ponzu sauce, Scottish diver scallops with yuzu mayonnaise and crispy lemon grass; and the spicy barbecued lamb cutlets. But as I am sure you have gathered, these three dishes are so naturally rich in flavour that it is more of an achievement to screw them up than to wow. This was all washed down with a life-changing 1er Cru Chablis ’07 which is one of my all-time favourite white wines.
It seems there are more ‘BUTs’ in this review than an unrated Snoop-Dogg’ video and this is without me describing the clothing (or lack there of) of some of the female diners; which is essentially how I would sum this place up. There was always an issue; whether the price of the dish, the size of the dish or the quality there was always a ‘but’. If you came here for the dumplings, as good as they are, you are not likely to leave full; if you came for the only main courses I enjoyed your journey home will be saturated in passing cheaper places with matched quality as the taste came from the cuts and not particularly the cooking; and if you came here and you are not rich or famous, you may feel out of place. The food at at Novikov is very good, but a very good meal needs more than that. The diner needs to feel comfortable; the entire menu needs to be accessible and affordable to the diners. It seems these are only achievable if you are a footballer, a famous actor or rich. So it seems there are those that can Novikov but most Novi-can’t.
50a Berkeley Street
London W1J 8HA