What can you tell us about Norma?
This is the latest restaurant from Ben Tish. Known as one of the driving culinary forces behind the Salt Yard Group, he left there to join the Stafford hotel in Mayfair, taking charge of all the food (including the hotel's main restaurant, The Game Bird). That collaboration has given us Norma too - as Tish has once again paired up with the hotel to launch this Sicilian restaurant.
Where is it?
It's a fair distance from the Stafford, which makes this something of a departure for the hotel group (we haven't heard of many hotel groups opening purely standalone restaurants). Norma has opened in Fitzrovia on the main restaurant and bar drag that is Charlotte Street. If you're heading there by tube, Goodge Street is your best bet.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
While there are cocktails on the menu at Norma, there's no bar in the actual restaurant. But if you've arrived ahead of your dining partner, grabbing a stool and a glass across the road in Vagabond seems to be the best bet in the immediate area.
Where should we sit?
The ground floor front room is primarily booths, but if you're a group that's larger than four, head to the back where things space out a bit. The best table, we think, is the booth that's ensconced inside a little alcove, if you're after a bit of privacy (you can just see the arched entrance to this booth on the back-left of the pic above). It's worth knowing that they also have a nice-looking private room on the second floor, seating 12.
What kind of food is on offer?
The menu is a Sicilian affair with some Moorish influences (particularly visible in the decor). In the main, the menu is broadly a traditional Italian layout - small plates, pasta and main courses, with the addition of some snacks and the raw bar. We think you should immediately order the spaghettini fritters (pictured above) while you're perusing the menu. We also saw massive chunks of homemade foccacia and oil being ordered up - they also look like a good bet.
We'd recommend ordering each section as you go. We had our mains and pasta arrive together and you want to avoid that, so it's best to go for the gradual ordering we'd usually recommend for small plates restaurants.
As for what we had...
How is the menu for vegetarians?
Raw bar aside, there are plenty of options. In addition to the pasta and arancini above, there are small pizzette fritters with burrata (£3.50 each), ravioli with sheep's cheese and wilted greens (£9) and the spectacularly autumnal dish of roast pumpkin stuffed with pumpkin and truffle risotto and toasted hazelnuts (£23) which looks amazing.
The dessert menu is pretty wonderful too. We were strongly tempted by the House Sundae (honey gelato with orange flower water, slow-cooked figs, ricotta, raisins). If you're after something small, the house cannoli (£3.50 each) should do the job. We, however, opted for...
How about drink?
Cocktails are priced around the £12.50 mark and carry on the Moorish/Sicilian feel. There are some specific sweet cocktails that can replace the dessert course if you want something sweet but can't manage any more food. We'd go for the "Conca d’Oro" which is Woodford Reserve, limoncello, chinotto syrup, orange bitter and wood smoke for £14.50.
As for wines, there are about 15 reds/whites, Italian/Sicilian and starting at £27 a bottle. We opted for a Grillo Kore Colamba Bianca from Sicily (£33) which proved a good match for everything. If you're splashing out, head right to the bottom of the list for a Tuscan Brunello at £158.
We'd been hearing constantly good things about Norma ever since Fay Maschler's first review, and it more than lived up to that hype. The menu reads beautifully and the seasonal nature means that plenty of return visits will be rewarded by fresh new dishes. That and a room which delivers a great buzzy vibe (with good sound insulation) and genuinely great food have delivered one of the big hits of Autumn.
More about Norma
Where is it? 8 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LS
Hot Dinners ate as guests of Norma. Prices are correct at the time of writing.
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