Top tables: Norma

A Sicilian restaurant with a Maltese chef is the latest star turn on London’s Charlotte Street

Charlotte Street has always been a great place for eating out. And not just because of Pied à Terre and ROKA. The street itself has something of a continental feel about it; the way it’s tight-packed and atmospheric, not pedestrianised but never too trafficky. It’s a street where the tables tumbling out on to the pavement just feels right. 

Recently, though, the place has upped its game even further and it is now, surely, the best street to eat in London. Nuno Mendes has opened Lisboeta at No. 30 and Amy Poon’s Wontoneria is ensconced at No. 23. Of the new guard, however, the prettiest of the lot is surely lovely Norma, at No. 8, a lovingly put together Sicilian restaurant that makes excellent use of its three-storey Georgian townhouse location. Throughout, the interior is upscale Moorish Art-Deco, all curvy banquettes and geometric mosaics, but each floor has its own subtle identity. At ground level, there’s a golden glow to the dining room, the first floor is warm and red-hued, while the private dining room on the top floor is a handsome hideaway ideal for taking on the tasting menu. 

And on every level the food is consistently brilliant with Sicily’s big bold flavours explored with great imaginative flair by Maltese chef Giovann Attard, who comes at them with an outsider’s see-things-afresh perspective, but one that’s informed by a culinary upbringing on a Moorish-tinged, sun-drenched Mediterranean island. 

The menu starts with a packed list of snacks and starters, on which you should not scrimp. The caponata is a rich and unctuous delight, so thick it’s almost taffy-like. The arancini alla Norma are perfectly cooked menhirs of rice, packed with aubergine and topped with a snow drift of parmesan. The fried violet artichokes come with gremolata and saffron aioli. And a gloriously creamy burrata sits on a thick slice of Cuore del Vesuvio tomato and grilled yellow peaches. 

There’s a crudo bar on the ground floor, heaving with Jersey oysters and Attard’s tuna tartare with pickled cherries, and the star of the primi course is the restaurant’s crab linguine which gets served in a shell. The secondi caters well to all-comers with an aubergine parmigiana, pork chops and robata grilled whole fish. 

The wine list by the glass leans heavily to the Sicilian (by the bottle it roams around Italy a little further), but why not when there’s so much to choose from? Try the full but not too full-bodied Occhi di Ciumi Etna Bianco. 

Given the breadth and depth of the savoury offering, you might be surprised by the short dolci list; that is until you try the Norma Bronte pistachio tiramisu and you realise they barely need anything else because everyone is ordering it. 

Norma, 8 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2LS; normalondon.com

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