The Italian Restaurant With Orient Express Good Looks (And Pretty Great Pasta)
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Norma's a thing of Orient Express-level good looks, like a sexy velvet train carriage. All curvy archways and strips of intricate tiling, golden lamplight glancing off big mirrors, and warm tomatoey smells hanging in the air — the straight-up loveliness of the place gives Ben Tish's Sicilian/Moorish-influenced menu a lot to live up to.
And thank god it does — a line-up of slippery, cold seafood carpaccios and slippery, hot pastas, of crisp, fizzy Falanghina and lardo slung silkily over toast. We didn't think we'd ever be saying this about a menu that also features Sicilian pasta classics, but actually some of the biggest dazzlers come from the raw bar and cold dishes. A wild sea bream carpaccio scattered with pomegranate and bottarga tops that list, salty and sweet and punchy. Burrata's close behind, richness tilted towards autumn with roasted pumpkin and figs.
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The pasta menu is short but solid — and at £9 a primi-sized portion, not as steeply-priced as somewhere throwing in this much warm glamour on the side could get away with. They're up against stiff pasta competition with Al Dente and In Parma both just around the corner, but Norma's Italian-North African influences make their dishes a distinct and beautiful thing. The alla Norma might be the signature pasta but if you've got to narrow it down, their strozzapreti with pork, anchovy and orange ragu's The One.
Norma's exactly as busy as it deserves to be, though still with zero sense of onward hustle. Tables near us are already deep into dinner when we arrive, and still going strong when we finish up a small, perfectly bittersweet coffee granita and leave: that sort of place, serving up that sort of sprawling, relaxed, Sicilian-flavoured evening. We're not surprised their diners are sticking around for hours at a time. It's more of a surprise people ever pry themselves out at all.
Norma, 8 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LS.
Last Updated 30 October 2019