Norma

Italian·
££££
·
Silver Award
·

SquareMeal Review of Norma

Silver Award

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.

 

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Cuisines
Italian
Ambience
Dark and moody, Glamorous, Lively, Romantic
Food Occasions
All day dining, Dinner, Lunch
Special Features
Vegan options, Vegetarian options
People
Dates, Group dining [8+], Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating

About Norma

Norma celebrates the coming together of flavours from the south of Italy and north Africa, a pairing that pays homage to the history of Sicily. This Italaian-inspired restaurant is overseen by chef Ben Tish, who previously ran the Salt Yard group and is now culinary director of The Stafford London hotel – Norma’s parent company.

Despite the definite foodie credentials, a visit to Norma is as much about the interiors and hospitality as it is the menu. The three-floor townhouse space looks to recreate the grand café culture found throughout Sicily, while staff are warm and charming in their manners, reminiscent of that signature Italian service. A crudo bar greets guests at the entrance, made up of strikingly clashing marble colours, while the dining room is awash with intricate mosaic walls, hanging pendant lighting, booth seating and cosy seating nooks found in carved-out arch spaces. Low lighting adds to the ambiance.

On the first floor you’ll find the cocktail bar where you can enjoy drinks and snacks, while the top floor hosts a private dining space. Here guests can work with the kitchen team to perfect their party menu from a selection of family-style sharing platters and will enjoy their meal in the warm and intimate surrounds of the mirrored-ceiling space.

Back in the main restaurant and the menu features Sicilian-inspired dishes made using seasonal Italian and British produce. While the menu might change from day-to-day, you can always expect sparklingly fresh seafood from the bar, dressed with high-quality olive oil or other deftly handled garnishes, while the antipasti options might throw up combinations like burrata with chicory, blood orange and coriander seeds. Homemade pastas are the kitchen’s signature serves, while mains like grilled salt marsh lamb or pan-fried stone bass feature as large plates. There is also a full vegan menu for plant-based eaters and a selection of tempting dessert for a sweet finish to your experience at Norma.

Location for Norma

8 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 2LS

020 3995 6224

Website

Opening Times

All day
Mon 12:00-10:30
Tue 12:00-10:30
Wed 12:00-10:30
Thu 12:00-10:30
Fri 12:00-10:30
Sat 12:00-22:30
Sun Closed

Reviews of Norma

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2 Reviews 
Food/Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Hugo G

Great pasta but an astonishing bill!
10 March 2020   - Verified Diner

First time here for a catch up with an old client.

Arrived for lunch 5 minutes late but luckily my guest was comfortable enough to have ordered a cocktail for himself. He was persuaded to surrender his requested G&T for their cocktail of prosecco and bergamot... it slipped down well enough.

The interior is bright and good for a lunch meeting, though mainly banquettes and very small tables for two. Not sure it has the cosy feel one might want for a dinner date. We had three starters of the suggested snacks, raw and antipasti being smoked anchovies, smoked cods roe and sea bream.

The smoked anchovy consisted of two small fillets divided into four, for the princely sum of £9.00  The waiter looked alost embarassed at our rather surprised faces on delivery of such a tiny morsel. The cods roe was the right combination of salty and smooth and enough for both to  enjoy more than a mouthful each. The sea bream came on a 15cm dish in diameter (at most) and contained relatively fresh sea bream in a dressing with pomegranites and bottarga. Good but no wow factor. 

We followed with main course portions of their pappardelle with beef cheeks, pecorino and truffle. Absolutely superb and a winner, just a pity the main course portions resemble a starter in most similar establishments.

A bottle of Grillo from Sicily and a glass of tuscan red enhanced our very good lunch. The bill arrived with the startling revelation that the prosecco cocktail commanded a £16.50 tariff which with service totalled £18.50

I'm not a prosecco specialist, but do know that it takes some bravery to throw that on the bill without forewarning. 

I wish I could say an enjoyable lunch, because the food is good and the service not bad if rather over the top. Sadly, it felt like daylight robbery and the preserve of lost tourists wandering the area having heard Charlotte St is a good for a shot at local London, when in fact it is typical of how to get fleeced in London. Never to be repeated 

Food & Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Alex G

Mamma Mia!
07 January 2020  

Ask most people to come up with expressions they typically associate with Italy and you might find ‘good food’ and ‘chaotic organisation’ mentioned. It would, however, be relatively rare to see both used in the same sentence. As far as Norma – a new Italian venture is Fitzrovia is concerned – where it excelled in food, it failed in service. Maybe the team was having a bad day, but in a dining district as competitive as Fitzrovia, our experience does not auger well for the restaurant’s longevity. On paper and indeed at first glance, everything seems promising. The venture is headed by a seasoned team (ex-Salt Yard and Jason Atherton), they have an interesting angle (emphasising Sicilian cooking and taking in north African influences) and the venue was decorated beautifully (we loved the Moorish tiling). The menu also sounds promising, offering five sections from snacks to mains, each with around five items. This though was where our problems began. There were five in our dining group and five antipasti from which to choose. Let’s go for one of each – a logical decision – but our server had omitted to tell us when he brought the menus that one of the dishes was not available. We asked instead for a red prawn option from the raw bar. Our server did helpfully mention that the dish only contained four prawns but that he would ask the kitchen to place five on our plate. How many turned up? You’ve guessed it – just four. That said, each option that did arrive smashed it. My favourite was a beautifully paired roasted pumpkin, burrata, chicory and fig salad, but pan-fried artichokes and smoked cod’s roe both excelled too. The pattern was repeated with the mains although the highs achieved with the starters were not quite reached and the service experience proved markedly worse. Rule 101 of restaurants is to bring all the dishes at the same time unless you’ve quite explicitly explained why this might not be the case. Three of our group’s arrived in one batch, another five minutes later and then the final one after the remainder of us had already finished. And they forgot the sides. What we ate both looked and tasted good (my ragu of pork, anchovy, and fresh mint packed a hearty earthiness) but as has been said in many other reviews, bad service has to trump good food every time – at least in terms of what will be our prevailing memory. The restaurant did acknowledge the error of its ways, giving us not only our mains free of charge, but also a complementary bottle of wine. To add insult to injury though, one of the venue’s mid-priced wines was also mysteriously unavailable, despite there being no prior warning of this. Norma’s ship may have already sailed. I will not be looking to reboard.

Food & Drink
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