The Shore in Leith is already home to two restaurants with Michelin stars so it is not surprising that up and coming chefs want to be part of this community. Chef-Patron Scott Smith is amongst the ever growing talent to hit Leith with his new restaurant Norn. Norn’s ethos is to showcase Scotland’s finest seasonal ingredients in a relaxed environment. Scott has taken time to get to know his suppliers and these finest seasonal ingredients take centre stage in Norn’s constantly evolving menu.
The dining room itself has a fresh and clean look. It is very minimalistic and the main focus is on the open plan Kitchen where diners can catch a glimpse of the chefs at work. Another twist at Norn is that the chefs often bring out the dishes themselves which gives the diners an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about their meal. There are two choices of set menu: four or seven courses and a vegetarian menu is also available. We opted for the 7 course menu at £65 a head.
To start was ‘Scallop, wild leek, capers’. The scallops were raw which I had never had before. I thought the dish was really tasty, the wild leek puree was full of flavour and the capers acted as a seasoning.
Next up was a showcase of carrot, crab, cicely and sea buckthorn. The carrots were a triumph; soft sweet and buttery. However, as much as I love crab I didn’t really feel it was required. The sweet carrot flavours ere so intense that the delicate crab was lost in the dish. The cicely and sea buckthorn sauce added to the dish and gave a slight tanginess.
Another delicate dish was to follow. Veal tartare which was finely diced and served with sorrel and plantain. This may sound like a simple dish but with the addition of 68-day aged beef fat throughout the dish and caviar on top, this was certainly one of the highlights of the evening. The beef fat, used in this way, was a fantastic addition to flavour the dish and something I would happily rush back to try again.
Hake with Salt Marsh Herbs and Chard was served next. The Hake, which was cooked in butter, flaked perfectly and was delicious. However, for me, the accompaniments did not add a lot to the dish. The whole thing was a little under seasoned. I felt it was pleasant to eat but nothing that I would get excited about.
The main course of Duck however did live up to my expectations. The duck was tender, perfectly pink and seasoned well. This was served with Scottish Kelp Sauce which was light yet full of flavour. The beetroot added an earthiness to the dish but most of all it added a really beautiful contrast in colours next to the vivid green of the broccoli. Duck hearts also made an appearance on the plate and surprisingly were the star of the show. This was another first for me, the soft texture and meaty flavour brought everything together perfectly.
Before our next course arrived we were warned that it had received a lot of different reactions and we were encouraged to be honest if we did not enjoy it. The menu did not give too much away, ‘Barley, buttermilk, fennel, alexanders’. We were also unsure if it was going to be a sweet or savoury dish! In the end there was nothing at all to worry about. This was a pudding of fermented barley which had been used to create a rice pudding style dish with buttermilk. The barley was topped with small pieces of crystalised fennel and alexanders which acted as miniature explosions of sweetness in mouth. I could have eaten the biggest bowl of this dessert. It had such a comforting feel to it and for me it was the best dish of the evening!
To end our meal we were presented with another visually stunning plate of food. A dessert of light and airy yoghurt foam with tangy lemon curd, chewy mallow pieces and frozen meringue. Lots of technical elements which were executed at the highest level and tasted exquisite.
Service was very natural and friendly throughout. The addition of the chefs serving some of the dishes was a really good touch and makes Norn slightly different to other restaurants in town. It was also really good to try new local ingredients and cooking techniques that are not the norm. This might not appeal to everyone and there were certain elements of dishes that I wouldn’t be fussed to have again, but I think it is good to have new food experiences and Norm delivered this in a relaxed atmosphere. Chef Scott and his team are definitely in the right area of town for what may become the next Michelin star restaurant in Leith.
- Food - 7/107/10
- Atmosphere - 7/107/10
- Service - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 6/106/10