Head to ‘tails | Rextail, 13 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4HJ
It seems to us that so many new restaurant launches in LDN are NYC inspired. Not that we’re complaining, we love New York. We can’t resist some of the ‘originals’ – Spuntino and Mishkin’s (in fact we are in the process of organising a Polpo group ‘food crawl’) whilst brunch at Jackson + Rye was amazing.
But it’s always a welcome change when something a little different throws open its doors to the insatiable London populous. Rextail from Arkady Novikov, the Russian restaurateur behind the self-titled Novikov, falls firmly into this category. Situated in the heart of Mayfair, just around the corner from The Ritz and nestled between luxury high-end shops, exclusive art galleries and expensive hotels. I’m actually quite surprised that you’re not charged to simply walk down the road.
Rextail‘s exterior is easy to miss, being a basement restaurant there’s not much in the way of signage, simply look out for the DNKY shop. Once you have walked down the stairs, past the huge wine rack, you are hit by the sights and sounds of this magical space. The bar at the front is a low lit, intimate area. This is where we were met by two pristine girls who took our names, our coats and led us to our table. In truth we probably weren’t as dressed up as the staff here are used to. This was a last-minute reservation and I hadn’t put on my ‘going out’ shirt. I’d even been to the gym that lunchtime so I had my sweaty kit rammed into my rucksack. But even though we are not their usual clientele (a little more on that later) we were made to feel welcome and very much at home.
Almost everything here is different from the continued stateside trends sweeping across London. No industrial look here, even the exposed brickwork is perfectly pointed. No filament bulbs, lighting is reassuringly bright enough to actually see what your eating. No enamel dishes paired with dainty cutlery either, here the side plates are painted with pretty wild flowers and the knives, forks and spoons are made from twisted wrought iron – you know you’re holding these bad boys!
The decor in the main dining area is what can only be explained as flea market chic. Possibly how an excentric curator of the British museum (or even Indiana Jones) would style a restaurant. There are life-size bison/buffalo heads on the wall, shelves packed with plants, iron buckets, wooden pots and holy cows – all very eclectic. Wooden tables edged with embossed copper tiles continue the theme. The flooring looks reclaimed, imagine parquet created from loading pallets and you’ll not be far wrong. Green leather seating line the walls dotted with large soft cushions. Deep red arm chairs add a burst of colour as do three large plastic red, green and blue pipes that mysteriously run the entire length of the ceiling.
It’s a subterranean homage to the charcoal grill and wood fired oven and how we love the smell. Big chunks of rare-breed meat, roast game and simply cooked seafood are the menu’s focal point. Maybe not somewhere to take a vegetarian on a first date! Rextail’s chef Adrian Martin (formally of Caring’s Birley group) points out that the quirky bar and grill is not designed as a classic steakhouse and isn’t typical of Mayfair either. ‘It is a little bit fun’ he adds. Cocktails start from £9 up to an eye-watering £21. We stuck to wine – a bottle of Puglian Caleo Negroamaro Salento £24.
The menu is big, both physically (A3 at least!) and in content (seven sections with twenty, yes twenty, sub-sections. But don’t worry it’s very simple to understand). The meal started on a high, bread is served with a light pâté and a deliciously sweet fig jam. I liked this so much that I just had to order the Ham, fig and walnut chutney and dolcelatte sour dough toasts £8, from the cold meat counter section. Salty prosciutto, sticky sweet fig chutney and blue veined Italian soft cheese combine brilliantly, maybe just a little too generous with the lettuce and tomato. Saff had the Octopus and French bean salad £10, a dish with so many textures, the crunch from the nuts, that oily ‘squish’ of the olives and the reassuring bite of the octopus.
Before the waiter had taken our order a huge board of raw meat was paraded in front of us. Saff kicked herself for not getting her camera out, as all the meats looked of such premium quality that it would have made a stunning picture. One slab of rich ruby-red meat was calling my name so I ordered it. Irish Black Angus Tipperary 40 day dry aged fillet steak £32 for 200g. I request medium rare and received exactly that. And cooked the way that only a charcoal grill can, tender and slightly bloody in the center yet with that blackened outer crust. The smoked red pepper sauce is definitely worth a try, that said even the ketchup and mustard was better than the usual. It may well have been Heinz and Coleman’s but the way in which it was served somehow improved its taste. I’m a sucker for good presentation!
Saff had wanted to try the Braised beef short ribs with baked smoked bone marrow £21, but they were out of bone marrow. So she hastily reordered the Corn fed spiced spatchcock baby chicken £16. The chicken was very moist, it literally squirted at me as Saff cut into it. She said that it maybe could have done with a little more seasoning and the skin maybe a little crispier. But I just think she was sulking over loss of her short ribs.
On to dessert, Saff loved her Lavender crème brulée £7. Unusually, it was served as a cold dish the crust was satisfyingly thick and the tiny flecks of purple lavender gave it that distinctive floral taste. My Warm doughnuts with pistachio and chocolate sauce £7, were exactly how they’re meant to be. Five golf ball sized doughnuts dusted in fine sugar and cinnamon, the chocolate sauce was dark and bitter, the pistachio blended down to a smooth paste – both perfect for dipping.
When we arrived there was only a man sat alone reading a book and a couple of suited Australians celebrating their Ashes victory. But as the evening drew on the restaurant began to fill up. The Balcon beats were cranked up and the lighting subtlety turned down. The bar was getting more lively and the tables were now occupied by post shopping girlfriends, businessmen and their ‘assistants’ (one man had two!) some older ladies who obviously still knew has to enjoy themselves and a man sat alone still reading that book!
Arkady Novikov and Adrian Martin obviously know what they are doing. Prices are maybe a little high but the quality and quantity of the menu is amazing. Even if you save it for a special occasion you definitely won’t be disappointed and if you can afford to eat here whenever you want, lucky you… Jealous? Us? Never! #obviouslie
13 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4HJ
Telephone: 0203 301 1122
Opening hours: Lunch – Monday-Saturday 12-3pm
Lunch – Sunday and Bank Holidays 12-4pm
Dinner – Monday- Saturday 6-12:15
Dinner – Sunday and Bank Holidays 5-11
Nearest station: Green Park