Novikov’s Italian restaurant failed Emily Rookwood’s food test, but passed her companion’s umbrella test.
Inevitably when you’re going out to try somewhere new you look for reviews. You hope for something positive and encouraging but every now and then you come across one of Jay Rayner’s scathing write-ups.
This is certainly the case for Novikov and so the challenge is to go in with an open mind. Alternatively, you can take a dining companion who is eternally optimistic and — with the greatest respect — not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to food to provide balance. I definitely did the second and tried very hard to do the first.
Just around the corner from Berkeley Square, Novikov has stiff competition from some seriously high-quality competitors: Murano, Nobu and the Ritz restaurant (hugely underrated) are only moments away.
It is pretty full by around 8pm on the night we go in, so you’d hope that would be a positive reflection on the food. I’m afraid in my experience that wasn’t the case.
My first issue is that the restaurant is split into two sections – the overly broad ‘Asian’ restaurant and the Italian offering that we were sampling.
To me Asian and Italian aren’t two particularly complimentary cuisines and there was no need for the Wagyu and yuzu to move over into the Italian section (Italy is famous for its beautiful lemons, why not use those for a citrus hit instead?). It is like an awkward school language exchange. But I was trying to be optimistic and open-minded, so I let this go.
In my opinion, any Italian restaurant worth its salt should be able to produce a decent Carpaccio and perfect pasta. The beef carpaccio was almost entirely devoid of flavour, save the occasional mouthful of pepper from the crust and a twang of sour saltiness from the Parmesan shavings.
To continue my test, I ordered the ravioli stuffed with pheasant and grouse with black truffle. It should have been delicious. Again, Novikov fell short. The filling was heavy and grainy, rather than light and mousse-like and the pasta — and this is what upset me the most — was tough and not how any nonna would make it.
My companion seemed a little happier. His wild boar ham was perfectly pleasant — not as delicious as iberico, but still good — but then again that had required no interference from the chef, so it doesn’t really count. It is more of a thumbs-up for the supplier.
I can’t really comment on the Wagyu steak my gastronomically challenged friend had for his mains. I have only his word to go on, and he liked it. The only thing I can say is that £69 it is a hefty sum of money to shell out for a steak, and I imagine you’d do better at Hawksmoor. Incidentally, you could have seven —admittedly un-massaged — steaks at Flatiron for the same price.
To end on a positive note, however, my companion found the atmosphere ‘cheerful’ and he gave it eight out of ten overall. The staff passed his umbrella test (i.e. he got it back at the end of the evening) and the waiter caught the menu when he dropped it. I won’t be going back, but my umbrella-toting friend might.
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