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Eating in

Dining like an oligarch

Rihanna outside Novikov. Niki Nikolova/FilmMagic/Getty

You can’t miss Novikov, says Guy Kelly in The Daily Telegraph. The enormous Russian restaurant – Londongrad’s “spiritual centre” – is slap bang in the middle of Mayfair. Inside, there are three floors and 540 seats. Outside, there are swanky cars, red-flagged awnings, and four bomber-jacketed bouncers “the size of Eurasian bears”.

It’s one of dozens of restaurants owned by Arkady Novikov – an old pal of Vladimir Putin who has been described as “Russia’s Gordon Ramsay”, “the blini baron” and “Putin’s favourite restaurateur”. The 59-year-old opened his first restaurant in 1992, having been turned down for a job flipping burgers in Moscow’s first branch of McDonald’s. Now, his Mayfair restaurant gets through around 900 covers a day. The minimum spend per head is £50, but the average “must be quadruple that”.

When I went last week – for journalistic purposes – two of us spent £260 on two courses. One bottle of red wine was going for £9,000; vodka served in a Fabergé decanter was £5,500 a pop. The food wasn’t remotely Russian – except for some caviar at £99 per 50g – and it tasted “fine, just fine”. But what was most striking was that, for all our chat about sanctions, the place was heaving. “If the wealthiest and shadiest in London are currently under siege, Novikov is a fortress: the only thing you’re less likely to find than a spare midweek table is a care in the world.”