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Harden's says...


A Gallic/American brasserie from the Novikov stable; it offered solid standards, but at prices that seem to be justified mainly by its Mayfair location.

Just a few years ago, Harden's (somewhat inadvertently) made quite a news splash by pointing out that restaurants at the top of the London market had breached the £100-a-head barrier. How long ago that seems! In some parts of town, a couple of hundred quid for two seems pretty unremarkable nowadays.

Such reckonings, for example, must be pretty common at the eponymous restaurant multiple Moscow restaurateur Arkady Novikov launched in Mayfair a couple of years ago. This vast oriental/Italian outfit, near the Ritz, claims to turn over £35m a year (more, surely, than anywhere else in town).

Just a few blocks away, on the way to Bond Street, Mr Novikov has added an American/Gallic brasserie twist to his London 'offer'. Very crudely, it seemed to us to propose more of the same. For example, its premises - a large basement, formerly occupied by Dolada, and once upon a time Bice - have a fit-out that's comfortable enough, but rather generic, as if this were, perhaps, a de luxe outpost of the 'Piccolino' chain. It's certainly cosy enough, though - a feeling intensified by the notably friendly and willing service.

And the food? Well, just as at Novikov's other gaffs, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. We ate most of the offerings from the lunch menu, and such staples as terrine, Jerusalem artichoke soup, risotto and roast cod all came in generous portions, and nicely done too. Nothing to criticise, but nothing to excite either. For Mayfair, this meal - priced just under £50 a head, including a shared pudding - seemed, well, satisfactory.

If we were spending around £100 a head to dine here, though, it would be difficult to see any particular attraction. The crowd this place is aimed at may well take a different view.

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13 Albermarle St, London, W1S 4HJ
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