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There is a single sentence that sends shock waves down the spine of every child that ever ate an entire bag of Haribo in one sitting, or thought that Febreeze would cover the smell of cigarette smoke. And that sentence is, ‘we’re not mad, we’re disappointed’. No, be mad. Please, be mad. We’re sorry. We never truly understood how our parents felt until we returned to Norma, a restaurant in Fitzrovia that went from a sophisticated, Sicilian-influenced pasta spot, to a let-down in the space of a month.

The thing is, when we first went to Norma we had a great meal. We like to think of that evening as a happier time. A time before we lost our innocence to an offensively fishy tagliolini. But that first meal was excellent. It featured a perfectly simple, slightly smokey pasta alla norma, and a strozzapreti with a pork and orange ragu that was so good we wanted to send it a flirty DM after we left. The negronis were decent. The velvet seating was soft. And the setting looked like the Cotes D’Azur villa we dream of buying after our fourth divorce. We liked it so much that we even put it on our list of London’s best new restaurant openings.

Our next visit to this restaurant was a different story. Those excellent pastas became congealed, boring messes or fish-loaded nightmares. We were left with a lot of questions. Bad ones, like, do we really want to eat this lukewarm sea bream from the raw bar? And, will we ever taste anything but sardines after one mouthful of this tagliolini? And, when can we leave? That first visit seemed like a distant memory, a mirage of tasty pastas, grated pecorino, and truffle. Did we imagine it all? Were we rocking a fever? It was the first time we’ve been gaslit by a ragu. And it hurt.

Of course, sometimes restaurants have off nights. We know that. So we returned to Norma for a lunch that wasn’t totally bad, but between the dry mains and big prices, it wasn’t good either. Plus, by that point the bar was set pretty low. We’d experienced tables not being cleared between courses, forgotten orders, and staff disappearing like their personal hero is Keyser Soze. That’s the problem, at Norma even the basics appear to have gone out of the window.

If we were being generous we’d say that the space is nice and a side order of fried potatoes with grated pecorino saved us from hunger. But you know what, after so many mistakes, it’s hard to think of a reason to come here. We’re basically Tyra Banks shouting ‘we were all rooting for you’, after paying upwards of £50 a head and leaving with a stomach full of tarted up cheesy chips. Actually, on second thoughts, we are disappointed. But we’re mad too.

Food Rundown

Homemade Focaccia, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The focaccia here is fine. It’d go great with the olive oil, if your little jug of olive oil isn’t served to you empty. Let the mind games begin.

Chickpea Panelle, Salsa Verde

We’re actually pretty into this fried chickpea situation, but the salsa verde is a bit of a yawn.

Pizzette Fritte, Burrata, Spianata

“So good”, is what we’d say if we’d paid £3 at Iceland for a frozen bag of twenty. They feel like finger food at the kid’s table.

Wild Sea Bream, Pomegranate, Bottarga

We love a raw bar. We do. But something about this was unpleasant in a way that made our whole table decide that a single lukewarm bite was more than enough.

Pasta Alla Norma

This went from simple done right to simple done very wrong. It’s always a sad day when you have to pour salt over a pasta dish just to give it flavour.

Fresh Tagliolini With Sardines, Fennel, Raisins, Pine Nuts

Alexa, play Fix You by Coldplay. Okay, now that we’ve set the scene, just know that there is so much sardine going on here that you won’t be able to taste anything else. Goodbye. Moving on.

Fresh Strozzapreti, Pork, Anchovy And Orange Ragu, Fresh Mint

We really, seriously, loved this pasta - specifically the orange ragu - the first time we had it, but every time since it’s failed to come anywhere close to its former glory.

Trapani-Style Seafood Stew, Fennel, Chilli, Saffron Couscous

You’re a good person. Probably. Actually, you could be revelling in some hobbies that make Pennywise look like Ronald McDonald’s misunderstood brother. Either way, we’re not going to recommend you eat this.

Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed With Pumpkin And Truffle Risotto, Toasted Hazelnuts

On our first visit to Norma we eyed this up on the table next to us, but by our next visit it had turned into a half-filled sad little pumpkin. It’s inoffensive, but pretty bland.

Grilled Tamworth Pork Chop, Spiced Quince, Sautéed Roosevelt Potatoes, Black Cabbage, Sage

It might read like Nigella Lawson’s shopping list, but the pork chop is dry and tastes overwhelmingly of charcoal. Once again, pass us the potatoes.

Fried Potatoes, Grated Pecorino, Spring Truffle

These are good, but £6.50 potatoes shouldn’t be the hero of a meal that can easily set you back over £50 per person.

Brioche, Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Bitter Chocolate Sauce

If you go to Norma, then eat this. Sure, people might judge you for diving straight into the dolci, but don’t let that worry you. The salted caramel ice cream is top notch.

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