Norma is the new opening from Michelin-decorated chef Ben Tish, culinary director of The Stafford hotel in St James’s and its much-celebrated Game Bird restaurant. Tish has an affinity with the southern Mediterranean, having previously brought several modern Spanish and Italian concepts to central London (Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern), and recently publishing his Moorish cookbook. Norma pays homage to the cuisine of Sicily and its Moorish influences, aiming to bring a little bit of southern Italy to Fitzrovia.
Norma is set across two floors of a cosy Charlotte Street townhouse, with dark wood furnishings and low lighting creating a hushed ambience. As you enter, you pass a counter of fresh fish and shellfish sparkling on ice in the front window, which says, you’re now leaving young, noisy Noho behind and entering haute Sicily.
Norma has some serious pedigree, so we expected great things of it. Tish’s combination of Sicilian-meets-Moorish cuisine brings a plethora of seafood to the table, served with deep, earthy Arabic flavours that come from dried fruits, spices and marinades. When Brummell visited, the daily crudo menu included West Mersea oysters dressed with fennel oil, and hake cured with lemon and served with hazelnuts and medjool dates – order this if it’s available. The cod roe was the stuff of dreams: creamy and full of smoky autumn flavour (you know it’s good when you find yourself buying taramasalata and trout paté in your weekly shop for the next three months). And yes, it does a decent Pasta alla Norma: dark, buttery and rich. But the star of the show was the crudo – don’t miss your chance to experience the fresh textures and delicate flavours of the Mediterranean in the heart of central London.
Norma’s wines are all from southern Italy and you’ll find a good few from Sicily, including Nero d’Avola and Nero di Troia. House bottles start at £26.50 and range up to £158. Our amiable waiter recommended a £77 bottle of red Sul Vulcano from the slopes of Mount Etna, where mineral-rich soils produce wines that pack a punch with every sip – which Sul Vulcano certainly did. While you’re at Norma, it would be a great shame not to try something from Norma’s Marsala collection to finish, perhaps with a scoop of fluffy honey gelato.
Expect to pay between £60-£150 a head, depending on your choice of drink.
A delightful celebration of Sicilian-Moorish cuisine, delivered smoothly by an expert team. A hugely enjoyable experience.
8 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LS; normalondon.com