What's the draw?
Have you met Norma yet? Because, if not, you should: she's great fun, excellent company and we feel like you two would really hit it off. Ben Tish's new Fitzrovia restaurant serves Sicilian food that places a particular focus on the island's Moorish influence. Medjool dates rub shoulders with burrata and caponata as Norma offers a regional taste of Italy that doesn't fall into the trap of the staid – albeit delicious – salt, tomato, carbohydrate triumvirate of many red-sauce restaurants. Banquette seating and dim lighting bring the atmosphere down to a pleasant murmur and allow the superb plates of food coming out the pass to do most of the talking. If you're on the lookout for somewhere to eat that'll leave you a little lovestruck, we'd recommend setting up a date with Norma as soon as possible.
What to drink?
Although the cocktails occasionally come dressed in quite extravagant fashion, served in vessels that are visually impressive but a tad difficult to drink from, each serve has a flavour profile that remains honest and earnest. A Rocca martini – Gin Mare, stone-infused dry vermouth and pickles – is deliciously dry and refreshingly acidic. The Verde mixes pisco and bay liqueur with a snappy swig of pear, and comes with an accompanying pot of limoncello jam that you're encouraged to spoon into your mouth as a chaser. The wine list, meanwhile, is unashamedly Italian, with bottles ranging from an affordable £26.50 to a spicy £158.
What to eat?
A plate of pan-fried violet artichokes with pine nut purée was the first dish of many that left us grunting in pleasure. We've learned from Fleabag that putting pine-nuts on your salad doesn't necessarily make you a grown-up, but blitzing them up and serving them with a quintuplet of caramelised 'chokes makes for a very grown-up dish indeed. Spaghettini fritters taste like the beautifully burnt tassels of a lasagne edge and come with a parmesan and olive oil sauce you'll want to (and inevitably will) spoon straight into your mouth.
It's a high-end remix of a vitello tonnato and a plate we'd come back for in a heartbeat
Rose veal arrives rare as a gem, slathered in a powerful smoked eel mayonnaise that offsets the subtle sweetness of the meat before pickled carrots come through to give the dish an acidic wake-up call. It's a high-end remix of a vitello tonnato and a plate we'd come back for in a heartbeat. In terms of mains, a hearty wedge of roasted North Sea hake sat atop a bed of seasonal Delica pumpkin mash and remained light and flaky under its 'nduja-coated skin. The charcoal-grilled beef bavette, on the other hand, is all brutal bovine action and – thanks to a seductive combination of rare meat and grape must – had a satisfying, deep bruise-red hue, and fried potatoes with grated pecorino and spring truffle were decidedly dirty (and downright delicious). Make sure, however, to save room for the Instagram-darling dessert of brioche with salted caramel ice cream and bitter chocolate sauce – it's more than worth the stomach space.
Antipasti from £10; cocktails from £12.50. 8 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2LS; normalondon.com