In Novikov’s expansive Italianate dining room, there are bountiful displays of verdant fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see. Although we’re in a basement in Mayfair, chef Carmelo Carnevale’s kitchen and restaurant bring to mind the markets of a sun-drenched Tuscan town.
Since March this year, Novikov’s Italian Room has hosted day-long cookery masterclasses covering such epicurean delights as dishes for spring, Mediterranean fish and, on the day Brummell visited, seasonal Sicilian lamb.
The class begins with a hearty Italian breakfast of pastries and cappuccino and an introduction to chef Carnevale – one of the most jovial and encouraging chefs you’re likely to meet. We’re talked through a menu totalling nine different dishes, including Sardinian lamb cooked three ways, of which one involves clay.
Surrounded by chefs, all Italian, we’re divided into groups and taken through each recipe step by step, sampling the finest ingredients along the way: the freshest aubergines, the juiciest oranges and the creamiest cheeses. The chefs are inspirational, imparting tales of their childhoods in ‘mamma’s kitchen’, the difference – and competitive spirit – between northern and southern Italy’s cuisine and guiding us amateurs through knife skills, cooking techniques and some of the secrets of the trade.
While the dishes aren’t complex, they certainly require concentration and attention to detail and there is a real sense of achievement as the feast is brought together. The lamb baked in a clay shell is a serious crowd-pleaser that has such succulent texture and incredible flavour, it would be a surefire success at home.
Once all the dishes are completed, we sit down to an enormous feast, the air filled with delicious aromas, and a full array of wines to match each dish ahead of us. To get behind the scenes of such a high-profile restaurant and really find out about the provenance of the food and how the menu is devised and each dish works with particular wines takes eating out to a new level, creating a real connection between us and what’s on our plate. To leave a restaurant feeling happily full is one thing, but to have created the meal from scratch is quite another, only adding to a unique dining experience.
Novikov will be running further masterclasses until the end of the year, taking in picnic and vegetarian food, autumn warmers and Italian bread and pastries.
For more information and to book, visit novikovrestaurant.co.uk/masterclass-details