How Novikov is still one of London’s most unique restaurants
The soundtrack is kind of funky samba-soul and the vibe is just as fast as the beat. A mainstay of the London food scene, Novikov in Mayfair may still be dusting off the bunting after its 10th anniversary celebrations (it opened in 2011), but there’s still a chill in the air, just like when the restaurant first opened its doors. doors for the first time.
Consisting of not one but two dining rooms – upstairs is an Italian restaurant and downstairs is a Pan-Asian restaurant – when it opened in London, restaurateur Arkady Novikov set up his unique vision.
The Asian restaurant has a menu brimming with dishes you’ll want to order – from King Crab Leg Wasabi Gratinated to Lemongrass Duck and Miso Black Cod. Inside, the dining room is dark and seductive – a serious adult space.
On the other hand, at the Italian restaurant, it is as if you had set foot in Capri. There are potted trees, wrought iron details and an open kitchen with a fish counter, like you would find in an Italian market. Overseen by chef Marco Torri, the menu champions the best of regional Italian cuisine. The buttery burrata is velvety smooth, the crispy calamari fritti is compulsively Moorish, and the nduja and mozzarella bruschetta is decadent with its dusting of gold dust.
For main courses, a standout dish is taglioni with crab and zucchini flowers – just like mum used to make, while fish dishes – such as grilled sea bass fillet served with salmoriglio sauce and succulent oversized shrimp simply grilled – not to be missed. Meanwhile, authentic desserts include tiramisu and chocolate fondant that will have you craving for days.
Looking back on the past ten years, Novikov’s general manager, Caroline Taylor, speaks to Forbes and gives her some insight into the restaurant’s ethos.
What is Novikov’s USP?
As soon as you walk through the door, Novikov disarms. It’s energetic, it’s happy, it’s busy. There’s plenty to see, but most importantly there’s the sensational food and drink to tickle the taste buds. There’s something comforting – or teasing – about everyone.
Why do you think Novikov has endured so well?
We do not rest and we do not assume. We are very aware that there are many incredible establishments that pinch our ankles. However, we use our experience to our advantage and we open the doors every day as if it were the first.
How do you keep the offer ‘fresh’ when London has so many exciting restaurant openings?
Behind the scenes, nothing is left to chance. The search for the best quality and the best range of products is endless. Our suppliers are constantly reviewed and compared. They bring us the newest and best they can get. We have a punitive housekeeping and cleaning regime that delivers a brand new restaurant every day. We have a wonderful, experienced team who are proud and enthusiastic and dedicated to continuing to deliver the best. Our team knows our customers and has built great relationships which keeps our customers coming back to us.
What is the flagship dish of the Asian Room?
Scallop Jalapeno Maki Roll: This is made with fresh hand-dipped scallops, served with a spicy jalapeno sauce. Delicious!
What is the star dish of the Italian Room?
Served in a small wheel of parmesan, Gragnano Candele Pasta Carbonara is our best-seller. It’s very authentic, extremely rich and comforting and just oozes layers of flavor.
Is there a “best table”?
There are no specific “best tables” – it’s more a matter of personal preference. You can choose a table outside (great for people-watching) or in the middle of the action. There are quieter spots or a place to watch the chefs. As both restaurants are a good size. there is a lot of flexibility.
Which restaurant do you prefer to dine at and why?
It’s like choosing between your children! Usually the choice depends on who I’m having dinner with. But, if it’s just with my husband, we’re wrong on the Italian side.
Tell us about your collaboration with Brent Eleigh Hall?
It all started at the very end of 2014, when the new owners of Brent Eleigh Hall took over. We discussed at length how best to rejuvenate the beautiful two-acre Victorian walled garden in sunny Suffolk. Compared to London, it feels like it has its own microclimate.
It was extremely exciting for our chefs. First, they had a direct entry into the types of vegetables that grow each season. This then led to the addition of two polytunnels and amazing varieties of micro-herbs and salad leaves.
Brent Eleigh’s vegetable garden is really beautiful and we really enjoy the visit, but the gardening team also love to come to London and dine out. The chefs come to the Brent Eleigh Garden to cook and host one of our Summer Masterclasses. It’s a happy place for all of us.
What restaurant innovations are you most proud of?
I don’t like to use the word ‘innovation’, it could easily be misinterpreted as fanciful. No gimmicks for me or Novikov. On a daily basis, we rely on experience, observation and determination. We are always looking for ways to add value to our customers. There is one annual event we run which is eagerly awaited by our customers and team – our Mayfair Christmas Market. It takes place over three days at the end of November and takes place in the street of Mayfair Place, next to the restaurant. It’s the springboard to the holiday season. Each year it becomes more successful than the previous one. It’s a winning combination of festivity and fun, and everyone wants more. We feel very lucky to be the host
What do you like about working in a restaurant?
Besides my own total enjoyment of food and wine, simply put, it’s about people coming together to enjoy a moment in time. As restaurateurs, we are the enablers. I love welcoming people and seeing the anticipation of what lies ahead. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they leave and I also love seeing those same smiling faces return week after week, even year after year. That’s what “feel good” means in my books!
How would you describe Arkady Novikov as a restorer?
Tireless, inspired, perfectionist and challenging!
After celebrating his 10th birthday, what’s next for Novikov?
Rolling up my sleeves for the next ten!