With celebrated chef Ben Tish at the helm, it was unlikely Norma was ever going to be a flop. Tish is the owner of a CV that ranges from learning his trade under Jason Atherton to being the chef director of the Salt Yard Group.
This latest venture aims to bring Sicilian food to the capital, with a Moorish twist which reflects the island’s history. Tish’s winning formula of bright, bold flavours and comforting combinations ensure his plates are crowd pleasers.
Our meal began with hunky homemade focaccia accompanied by a jug of bitter, golden olive oil to allow for free pouring. Asking the friendly team for direction threw up a series of plate-scrapingly good small dishes. Fat, sweet cherrystone clams from the raw bar were seasoned unexpectedly with rich saffron and spiky shallots, cleansing the palate for the next course.
Caponata, which is famously a labour of love thanks to the complex recipe stages that include batch frying the aubergine before stewing it with the other veg, was sweet and sour and the kind of thing you regret agreeing to share no matter how much you like the person sitting opposite you. Smoked cod roe dip offset with sweet charred onions was another gem.
Thoughtfully, the team here offer pasta in small or large portions, to allow greedy-eyed menu hogs to try more than is necessary. Despite it being the signature dish, the pasta alla Norma didn’t have the layers of flavour found elsewhere on the menu but with so many other strong contenders it’s a blip we overlooked.
Despite the food being the main reason to come, the drinks are a little bit special too. Homemade limoncello, for instance, makes a nice finisher. Interiors aren’t too shabby either, with North African touches allowing for secluded seating in archways beneath beautiful glass hanging lights.