With fewer das and darlinks than his eponymous spot just down the road, Arkady Novikov’s second foray into London’s dining scene keeps things almost rustic in comparison. The food is good and the room impressive, but the speed of service might nark a little.
It’s a bit of a strange room; a big box with a mix of styles kept more or less coherent by a vaguely Russian, rustic aesthetic that looks good, even if it does border on the chintzy. Stairs lead down to a curtain giving way to a small bar kitted out with hanging hams, freshly baked breads, desserts, pans and other culinary bits and bobs. The dining room itself is long and simple, stretching back to an open kitchen via rows of tables and leather banquettes peppered with big fluffy red cushions. Things are enlivened by enough Russian knickknacks to give Mari Vanna a run for its money (almost…), and dead-eyed bulls look down at their kith and kin being stabbed with forks by gleeful bipeds.
Early evenings can be a little quiet, but as soon as darkness descends or the weekend approaches, it gets positively busy. It’s a much less showy crowd – though no less international – than Novikov, but that’s no bad thing; it feels much more relaxed. Pop music from the motherland entertains and amuses in equal measure, but the hilariously swift (but well meaning?) service feels a little like you’ve done something wrong - three courses in an hour is enough to make anyone a bit para.
It’s not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but the quality is excellent throughout. Italy is most prominent on a fittingly global menu, and the burrata from Puglia (£18) is exceptional, and served alongside sweet, meaty datterini tomatoes, which are the perfect foil for the buttery richness of the cheese. The steak tartare (£14) is even better, with judicious seasoning, quality beef and nuance to the flavour making up for a slight lack of piquancy.
Braised oxtail (£28) is an example of the kitchen’s pleasingly restrained approach, where quality ingredients are left to get on with it; the meat is slow-cooked to stupidly tender and served with sweet roasted peppers. Steaks are carefully sourced, and the chianina T-bone for two from Fiorentina (£85) is apparently worth shelling out on, if the smiles from an adjacent table are anything to go by. If, though, you’ve one eye on the pocket, the red mullet fillets (£17), teamed impeccably with rosemary and lemon, are very good value.
Desserts (all £7) are pretty serious: warm doughnuts served with pistachio and chocolate sauce sit next to sticky toffee puddings and poached pears in white wine. Sorbets are the lightest option but instead cry dagnamit and try the dark chocolate soufflé (horribly delicious) or the amusingly powerful ice creams – the salt toffee is just dangerous, and should be avoided lest greed takes its familiar, paralysing hold.
Cocktails prove popular, with many partaking in a pre-prandial at the nice little bar busy with bustle behind. Prices can be hefty; an albeit boozy Dry Aromatic Martini swings in at £21 and an Old Style positively punches at £27. Components (Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Anejo; Stolichanya Elite Vodka; Louis Roederer in the sparklers) mitigate things somewhat. Wines by the glass offer good value – a Le Lesc Blanc is £5.50 and there’s a decent Cotes du Rhone from Les Vignerons d’Estezargues at £7.
The Last Word
Speed of service aside, this is a great spot with some lovely things passing past the pass. If you’ve got the means, enjoy; if you don’t, don’t.