Novikov – Love In A Time Of Lockdown By Scott Manson

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.

To place an order, please e-mail reservations@novikovrestaurant.co.uk or call +44 (0)207 399 4330. For more information, go to www.novikovrestaurant.co.uk.