Moscow’s top restaurateur, Arkady Novikov, is set to bring his special brand of fine dining to London’s West End with a three-in-one restaurant concept in Mayfair.
According to London-based international property consultancy Virtus Real Estate, Novikov edged out other potential buyers to capture the prestigious location at 50 Berkeley Street. The lease for the property of 1,765 square metres is 750,000 pounds a year.
The premises had been vacant for the past three years after the previous leaseholder, world-renowned restaurant group Hakkasan, chose not to proceed with plans to open a new restaurant there.
“This is a prime location in the heart of one of London’s most fashionable and sought-after areas, and the perfect site for the Novikov Restaurant Group’s first UK establishment,” said Boris Kofman, a partner at Virtus Real Estate.
The Berkeley Street project, which has yet to be named, is set to be launched early next year.
“London is renowned for the diversity and quality of its restaurant culture, and is home to some of the best restaurants in the world,” wrote Novikov, whose Novikov Restaurant Group owns 41 fine-dining places and six restaurant chains in Moscow, in a statement released by Virtus.
“Also, as one of the great cosmopolitan cities, London was a natural choice as a location for our first restaurant outside of Russia. We are excited about bringing the Novikov experience to the UK and are confident we can bring a new dimension to the London restaurant scene.”
Novikov plans to open a three-in-one restaurant complex, said to include Asian and Mediterranean cuisine, together with a Far East-themed bar, Property Week reported.
“Clearly [Novikov] has a lot of experience in opening restaurants in a variety of formats,” said Andy Hayler, a London-based restaurant critic and author of “The London Transport Restaurant Guide”.
“The choice of cuisine is quite safe: Mediterranean food is universally popular, while pan-Asian food is very popular in London, with its broad ethnic mix.”
Serving Russian food seriously could be more interesting, but it would also be riskier commercially, Hayler said.
“It’s hard to think of a single Russian restaurant in London that has made any kind of culinary mark. Those places that do exist tend to cater for a young crowd or just for a neighbourhood, but are not necessarily authentic,” said Hayler, citing the example of popular vodka restaurant Borscht & Tears in Sloan Square.
Tania Ballantine, an editor at London-based restaurant magazine Square Meal, agreed that Russian cuisine was just a riskier option in London than fashionable Asian offerings.
“The Russians based in London like to eat fashionable cuisine in high-quality surroundings,” Ballantine said in e-mailed comments. “It’s difficult to say if there is actually any demand for a Russian restaurant – if the Russian expat community had wanted it, then it probably would have been done by now.”
Most successful London eateries that are financed by Russians steer clear of Russian cuisine, such as Japanese restaurant Sake No Hana (owned by Yevgeny Lebedev, the son of Evening Standard owner Alexander Lebedev) or Bob Bob Ricard, which serves British and European cuisine (owned by Russian businessman Leonid Shutov).
Another approach was that tried by Russian restaurant company RPCOM, which opened a branch of its Goodman Steak House chain on Maddox Street. The Regent Street restaurant was named one of Britain’s top five steakhouses by English Esquire and Hardens restaurant guide. By the end of this year, RPCOM plans to open another Goodman’s in London and one in Zurich.
“The London market is very well developed and offers good opportunity for learning,” Mikhail Zelman, the owner of RPCOM informed. “One of our main aims was to [apply] the experience of [London] to Russia. We adapted the concept style a bit to local standards and hired only native speakers as waiters, [and were able to offer a good,] comfortable interior that few local steak houses can boast.”Another upmarket Russian restaurant operator, Ginza Project, has skipped over the Atlantic to New York, and is focused on Manhattan. The company opened its first Mexican restaurant, Los Dados, two years ago. A Russian restaurant, Marivanna, has proved popular there since opening early this year.