I'm not normally startled at the ever-escalating prices of some of London's restaurants. There's no hiding the fact that our capital is packed with some of the world's best places to eat, but there's no secret that we pay through the nose for it.
Where that nose becomes a nuisance is clearly subjective, but there does seem to be enough people around who will happily pay exceptional sums for exceptional food. And sadly some un-exceptional food as well.
With some trepidation I ordered my way through the Italian feast of a menu that Novikov offered last Sunday. First impressions were good, the food sounded stunning, but could a mid meal bowl of ravioli really be billed at £30? And a side order of peas at £7? Apparently so.
Novikov makes it easy for you to spend lots of money. The slick feel of it all, the alpine style décor, the overly indulgent table flowers. Everything reeks of excess, and lures you in to the extravagant mood you need to be in to begin.
Begin we did with a trio of cured fish and a herb seared yellow fin tuna. All pretty delicate and fresh, with good pairings of sharp flavours like fennel and capers. At £16.50 each this would have been a decent top end starter, but here it was more like a pre starter, as in true Italian style there were more courses than your average starter, main and pud.
Next followed the aforementioned £30 ravioli, justified by the fact that it was stuffed to the rafters with pheasant, making it the meatiest and fattest ravioli I have ever eaten. As it should be at that price. Mixing this up with an artichoke risotto made this a punchy pasta course to be proud of. The prices, so far, were justified.
Sadly standards seemed to slip a little as we moved on to the mains. The wood oven roasted pork was a dry old bite and came presented in an odd platter sort of dish that looked like it was left over from a family buffet - a slip to the un-exceptional that shouldn't be made for £24. Luckily our other choice of venison, seared and served pink with its intense flavour radiating out all over the place balanced it out, and priced at £35 felt like one of the most justified, albeit expensive, dishes on the menu.
Happily full we skipped pudding, but still managed to amass a hefty bill for three courses and some wine for two. If you have the money, go. The food is good, the service is slick, and the style of the place is fun and unintimidating. Plus you know what you're letting yourself in for when you trot your way up Berkeley Street, nodding gratitude to the porters who open doors along your way. But if you don't have the money, you could probably do better elsewhere. Sacrificing one of the courses would leave you feeling hungry, and this is an all or nothing kind of dining experience that should be embraced with enjoyment instead of wincing with worry. And yes, the peas really were £7. All 20 of them.