As London’s thrilling love affair with fresh pasta continues, the city is rewarded with yet another addition to the spirit-bolstering collection of Italian restaurants and eateries. Norma.
Set over three floors of a Georgian townhouse in the heart of Fitzrovia, Norma is inspired by the nuanced culture and cuisine of Sicily – the island which was once fought over by both Italian and North African states.
What this manifests in, is an absurdly enchanting setting swathed by a seductive harmony of Sicilian and Moorish influences – from velvet details to intensely-rich green marble skirting. The intricate tiles adorning the table-tops are particularly striking, lending an attractive canvas for the prettily-plated dishes making up a highly-craveable menu.
The first independent undertaking of The Stafford, Norma is helmed by the boutique hotel’s culinary director Ben Tish (previously of the Salt Yard Group).
Under his direction, even the selection of snacks prove unputdownable – whether in the hefty form of fresh focaccia or tender strips of chickpea panelle – a popular street food from Palermo with Arabic origins. Meanwhile, crisp and crunchy spaghettini fritters are just as devilishly-delicious as we could hope of deep-fried spaghetti, especially when generously dipped in the accompanying parmesan fondue.
On to the mains. Pasta alla Norma is a must. A traditional Sicilian specialty involving heffalump pieces of rigatone revelling in a rustic gathering of slow-cooked aubergines, tomatoes and ricotta salata (salted ricotta). Equally compelling is the sheeps cheese ravioli, which arrives luxuriating in a verdant assembly of pistachio pesto and wilted greens.
The kitchen is kind enough to whip up a vegetarian-friendly alternative to their fresh strozzapreti with pork, anchovy and orange ragu, so we have a chance to savour this elongated form of cavatelli (hand-rolled pasta) too.
Desserts are just as tempting as everything else and we conclude with a carefully-calibrated chocolate, walnut and coffee cake. I say carefully-calibrated as the nuanced balance between the three key elements is simply perfect, with each flavour holding their own without overpowering the others. A dollop of marsala (sweet wine) ice cream isn’t amiss in lending a cooling foil to the nourishing warmth of this autumnal pudding!
If you’re looking for a transporting experience, the next time you’re hankering for fresh, handmade pastas – I’d certainly recommend Norma. The charismatic restaurant is the perfect spot for indulging in life’s simple but most satisfying pleasures.
Norma, 8 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LS | https://normalondon.com/
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