First I ever heard (read, in this case) of Novikov was from a piece by Jay Raynor, the Observer’s food critic. From what I can remember of the piece (yeah, I know, it’s 2016, I could just Google the article … but nahhh 😝), his sentiments were essentially that Novikov was a pretentious overpriced restaurant with large bouncers at its entrance. I can’t quite remember his thoughts on the food, but all I got from reading that piece was I sure as hell want to go experience it myself! 😄. So off I went.
Approaching the restaurant for the first time, it seemed Jay was spot on. Large dudes at the entrance, but they were surprisingly nice to Shiima and I. Getting in and witnessing the restaurant floor in all its minimally lit glory was just what I expected. Next was the seeming multitude of staff keen to be of assistance. Seems there were two very cheery ladies for each task – check in; coat/bag check; escorting you to your table. And from there, the superb (or overbearing, depending on your taste) service doesn’t abate. There might be just as many staff as diners at Novikov, which says something for a fairly large and always busy restaurant. And I must add, to a person, there were all nice and smiley (maybe they are instructed to, but who cares, I certainly don’t)
Now, the food. Novikov is split in two – Italian & Asian. I’ve never been tempted by the Italian menu, although the Italian part of the restaurant looks really nice from the reception. On the other hand, Shiima and I have been to the Asian restaurant enough times to know what we are talking about. The menu is extensive, with a fair amount of sushi (Japanese cuisine) and dim sum (Chinese cuisine), and a portion just for caviar (which I’ve never acquired the taste for, and, just like with alcohol, it’s too late and my wallet is all the happier for it). As a sampler for the food, I’ll talk about our last dinner at Novikov.
I went for the salmon sashimi – it’s raw salmon, you either love it or you don’t eat raw fish. Then I went for the seared o-toro nigiri, which has been better on other days not last time, but it’s seared deliciously seasoned raw fatty tuna on a bed of rice. My main was the black cod, which is a perennial top 3 in my black cod challenge – good size, flaky fish, delicious taste. Shiima went for the pardon peppers and edamame beans to start, which are staples in Japanese restaurants and Novikov doesn’t disappoint in quantity or taste. Then she went for the chicken bun from the dim sum menu, which is amazing, just the baked bun itself is moreish. For the mains she (to be fair, it should be we, cause I eat just as much as she does of her mains) sweet and sour chicken wings, which isn’t at all what you’d expect, it’s boneless pieces of tender chicken (wings? 😆) cooked in the most delicate sweet and sour sauce, that’s not at all tangy; and the miso baby chicken, which is the chicken variant of the black cod, both seasoned in miso and grilled to perfection.
There is so much more to the menu, literally, so much, maybe too much. I’ll point out some other delicious dishes I’ve had at Novikov. The Baby squid, from the appetisers, is fantastic; so is the duck salad, the spicy moneybag dim sum, the wasabi prawns from the wok mains, the Steamed Chilean seabass, which is the best dish of all, and quite a few dishes that aren’t on the menu anymore. Oh, and I must add before Shiima punches me (yes, she does that ALL THE TIME), the kimchi fried rice is really nice, even for a rice avoider like me. Also, they have the best tasting selection of desserts for restaurants of their ilk. The Nutella cheesecake and the banana crumble are absolutely incredible and the chocolate fondant isn’t that far behind. One more thing, the menu has a really nice touch of letting you know where all your meat/fish is sourced.
To conclude, yes Novikov appears a tad pretentious and its most times filled with several celebrity diners, but once you get past that exterior you’ll find that the staff are really welcoming and efficient and, most importantly, the food is really good. But pricey 🙃. Make no mistake, you pay for the experience and the food, which I think is pretty much what Novikov want.
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Cuisine: Asian – predominantly Japanese and Chinese
Amen’s star dish: Steamed Chilean Seabass
Shiima’s star dish: Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings
Price: £50+ each (for food, add more for alcohol)
Rating: 5 out of 5