Review: Novikov Restaurant & Bar, Mayfair, Including Biography of Founder Arkady Novikov

Novikov Restaurant & Bar was the first restaurant outside Russia for the Novikov Restaurant Group, the phenomenally successful company headed by Arkady Novikov, the restaurant guru who has changed the face of dining in Moscow.

Located in the heart of Mayfair, Novikov Restaurant & Bar combines a superlative culinary offering with innovative contemporary interiors.

The venue is divided into two distinct dining areas. The Asian Restaurant specialises in Pan Asian cuisine, with a menu designed by highly skilled and experienced former Senior Sous Chef and now Head Chef Luca Malacarne. Malacarne is known for experimenting with ingredients and cooking methods that is evident in dishes such as the King Crab Leg Wasabi Gratinated. Also on the menu is an extensive range of sushi, dim sum and barbecued and charcoaled dishes, Lemongrass duck and Miso black cod included.

The Italian Restaurant meanwhile offers regional Italian fare with a contemporary twist. Created by Marco Torri, the menu comprises a superb assortment of antipasti, Tartare di salmone o tonno and Carpaccio di manzo among them, followed by a selection of homemade pasta. Fish dishes are of the calibre of Branzino selvatico al cartoccio con vongole, pomodorini datterino (Roasted wild sea bass fillet wrapped in foil & baked, with datterino tomatoes & clams), whilst meat includes Capretto arrosto con pane carasau e pomodorini secchi (Wood roasted whole kid goat, carasau bread and dried cherry tomatoes.)

Additionally, a standalone Lounge Bar is a must-visit destination, with its extensive cocktail menu, live music and performances by some of the world’s top DJs.

Set across three floors, the venue’s gorgeous interiors are the work of Geometry Design Moscow, overseen by Keir Townsend Project Managers.

The main entrance off Berkeley Street leads into the Asian Restaurant. Here cool granite walls complement the striking lacquered ebony bar-counter decorated with a jade stone belonging to Arkady Novikov himself. Materials used in this area – wood, stone and leather – are all natural. They are offset by subtle features such as a wall of cracked stone and bamboo chandeliers. The atmosphere here is at once welcoming and relaxing, but subtle enough not to distract from the food itself.

A real feature of the Asian Restaurant is its open kitchen. Fronted by an amazing display of seafood and vegetables, it evokes the atmosphere of an Asian food market.

The Italian Restaurant offers a very different ambience. Although still modern in design, it has much more of an elegant feel, complete with an imposing wood-fired oven, suede wall panelling, handmade Moroccan tiles, mirrors in solid oak frames and chandeliers with candles. Complex, state-of-the-art lighting systems can change the atmosphere from sunrise to sunset, from season to season.

Both the Italian and Asian Restaurants showcase a selection of wonderful produce freshly harvested from Brent Eleigh, Novikov’s very own garden project in the grounds of a grade I listed country house near Lavenham in Suffolk.

Covering two acres, this Victorian kitchen garden underwent an extensive restoration and is now supplying Novikov Restaurant & Bar with an array of vegetables, fruits and herbs.

The third and final part of the Novikov offering is its Lounge Bar, furnished with an eclectic collection of objects from different countries and periods. Here guests will find antiques placed next to contemporary furniture, Asian accessories next to classical chandeliers and brightly coloured velvets next to antique leather.

Arkady Novikov

In 1992, armed with a loan of $50,000, Arkady Novikov opened his first restaurant. Today his Novikov Restaurant Group employs 7,000 people in more than 50 restaurants across Moscow and St Petersburg. The Novikov name has become a byword for high-end dining, with a clientele that includes everyone from Bill Clinton through to Naomi Campbell. Indeed people go to a new Novikov restaurant simply because Arkady is involved.

Russia’s most famous and successful restaurateur was born in Moscow in 1962. He was raised by his mother, a kindergarten teacher, and his grandmother. It was the latter who first taught Arkady how to cook, albeit reluctantly as she considered it ‘women’s work’.

Novikov attended Culinary Institute No. 174 – where today a plaque proudly proclaims ‘Arkady Novikov graduated from here’ – and then spent two years in the army, where he was posted to Georgia.

Back in Moscow he enrolled in the Plekhanov Russian Economic University to study food-service industry economics. It was here that he met his wife, Nadezhda, who now runs the family’s floristry business, Studio 55.

Novikov began his professional life as a cook at the restaurant Universitetsky and by 1990 had risen to the position of Head Chef at Moscow’s Hard Rock Café.

In 1992 he persuaded a friend who ran a cargo business to give him $50,000 in return for a 50 per cent share in a new restaurant called Sirena. Confronted by the meat supply problems characteristic of the early perestroika years, Arkady decided to open Sirena as the capital’s first seafood restaurant, complete with aquarium floors. Still run today on the same principles of quality food preparation, service, design and atmosphere on which it was founded nearly 20 years ago, Sirena laid the foundation for the development of a new, post-Soviet Russian restaurant business.

A second venue, Club T – soon voted Moscow’s best French restaurant – opened in an old Soviet furniture shop and in 1996, Novikov founded the now legendary Tsarskaya Okhota (Tsar’s Hunt), serving traditional Russian cuisine.

So popular was the restaurant that it couldn’t get the food out of the kitchen fast enough. Closing temporarily, it re-opened as a help-yourself high-end Russian buffet which, in a more affordable version, would become the blueprint for Arkady’s renowned casual-dining chain, Yolki-Palki.

Each of Arkady Novikov’s restaurants follows a different theme to attract carefully identified target groups, whether it ́s GQ Bar & Restaurant, Moscow’s hippest destination for drinks, dinner and other early evening socialising, Cafe Galereya, the see and to be seen place for Muscovites or the aforementioned Yolki-Palki.

Despite his rapidly expanding empire, Arkady still found the time to launch his own 15-acre agricultural enterprise, Agronom, which today provides organic fruit and vegetables for all his venues as well as other restaurants and retailers.

In 2008 Arkady decided to expand his empire outside Russia. After considering and rejecting a plan to open a restaurant in Milan, he set his sights on London, a city where he spends some three months of the year.

Arkady is one of the founders and a member of the coordinating council of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers. A winner of the Hospitality National Award, he was also named GQ’s Restaurateur of the Year.

He also hosted the Russian version of The Apprentice and appeared as a judge on MasterChef in both the UK and Russia.