I Robert (CLOSED)
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An Italian restaurant in Mayfair, from Arkadiy Novikov, that offers remarkably good value for this blue-chip locale.
Please note, I, Robert is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, May 2017.
When it comes to settling tabs in Mayfair, it helps to be a pal of Putin. Or an ex-pal who prefers, if it’s all the same with you, not to return home (or take polonium in his tea). But this newest addition to the portfolio of prolific Russian restaurateur Arkady Novikov actively invites the proles to partake.
Novikov is the man behind members’ club Rififi, steakhouse Rextail and the huge, gaudy Novikov (just around the corner from I Robert). He’s clearly not averse to flashy Mayfair venues. But this trattoria is a departure. Despite colourful contemporary art, I Robert is almost rustic: hanging salami and hams, chalkboards, exposed brickwork and scratchy gramophone jazz.
Fellow diners were still a typical Mayfair crowd – international, mostly Russian – but without the wad-waving oligarchs and women tempting fortune you might find elsewhere.
The Italian-leaning menu offers cracking value for this part of town. A charcuterie board of high quality was a steal at £15.50, including bread, olives and a small carafe of wine. This would work well as a lunchtime treat for two.
We enjoyed it as a starter before excellent pasta mains. A special of pork cheek pappardelle (£12) was rich and meaty, and the own-made pasta was superb. The house tagliolini (£14) had a rabbit ragù studded with finely chopped al-dente veg. We cast covetous eyes at the crème brûlée delivered to an adjacent table. The ensuing coos suggested we were right to covet.
We did have a few moans: small tables, service that swung from lovely to plonk-it-down-and-leave, and a wine list that suggests none is available by the glass. (They are, you just need to ask.) But these are small gripes. We would be happy to return for lunch after a stroll through Green Park or the Royal Academy.
And the name? It’s not, sadly, an unlikely homage to bad Will Smith films. It’s taken from a piece by artist Kate Boxer that doubles as the restaurant’s logo. Simple, and cute. A good fit.