Can one of Mayfair’s hottest restaurants really see their dishes replicated easily at home? Scott Manson tests the Valentine’s Day special at Novikov….
When Novikov first opened, I was one of the first people though its doors. I’d come to interview its owner, Arkady Novikov, a Russian restaurateur who’d been hugely successful in his home country. Taking on his first UK project though – one whose scale, ambition and location made it a potentially challenging endeavour – was one about which he seemed supremely confident. Over a long, relaxed lunch (oysters and black cod were some of the standouts), Arkady felt sure that the high-end dining crowd would embrace his multi-million pound concept and make it one of Mayfair’s destination restaurants.
10 years on and Novikov is one of the West End’s biggest success stories. While other high-profile dining rooms have disappeared, Novikov’s combination of both Italian and Asian kitchens, combined with the patronage of smart, sophisticated diners, has proved to be a winning recipe. And while the pandemic has seen many restaurants press pause on their business, Novikov has kept going, thanks to a booming business in ‘at-home’ dining. Those who want to enjoy their fabulous food can phone in an order and see it delivered to the door. Yes, it’s a treat, but don’t we all deserve something special from time to time, given the ‘lost year’ we’ve had?
With that in mind, my wife and I ordered the Valentine’s Day ‘at home’ special. There’s a choice of four brilliant set menus – two fish options (Asian or Italian), a meat option (Italian) and a vegetarian option. We were tempted by the Asian choices, including the famous miso black cod, plus sashimi, tempura, caviar and more. However, it being a cold, snowy day we opted instead for the heartier vegetarian and Italian meat choices. The price for two, inclusive of dessert, is £150, plus you can add a bottle of Louis Roederer champagne for an extra £50.
It arrived at exactly the agreed time, delivered in handsome boxes containing simple to follow instructions – mostly along the lines of ‘warm it up.’ My starter of beef carpaccio with black truffle and pinzimonio (an olive oil-based dressing) was sublime, with gossamer-thin slices of marbled beef melting on my tongue. My partner’s leek and black truffle soup was also rather special – a luxe take on a familiar classic – with the heady scent of truffle filling our dining room.
As is traditional with Italian dining, there’s both a second course and a main course – artichoke and mint risotto for the vegetarian and pasta in a delicate veal ragu with cheese fondue for me. This was followed by a trio of roasted stuffed vegetables in a tomato coulis and a beautifully tender beef tagliata, the meat blushing pink and thinly sliced, served with rocket and slices of aged parmesan. The dessert was a nice touch too – small pastry balls (like sweet arancini) filled with a toffee sauce, which spilled satisfyingly all over our plates. None of it took more than a minute or two to put together, and all of it looked restaurant-level quality when served.
I’ve tried a couple of these ‘at home’ menus over the last year and this is by far the best. Where others make it tricky for the home cook – I had one that required six different ingredients, cooked in different ways, that needed to come together at the same time for just one dish – Novikov has kept it simple. So you can concentrate on the most important thing this Valentine’s Day – each other.