Fiona Beckett gives her verdict on Norn
There are three different purées with the seared cauliflower and hazelnuts. ‘See if you can guess what they are,’ encourages our server. Er, miso? Raisin? we venture. Turns out it’s cauliflower and pear, shallot and parsley. So, 1-0 to them, but who cares? The dish is delicious.
Norn (the ancient Celtic language) is the hottest ticket in Edinburgh. Located in the former docklands area of Leith, it’s a Noma-esque temple to localism and seasonality, saved from pretension by its charming, earnest young staff led by chef-owner Scott Smith, formerly of the Peat Inn.
The bread – which arrives after a few amuses, including a sliver of smoked duck and an ingredient I’d never heard of called yacon (a South American tuber that tastes like pear) – sets the tone. Made of beremeal flour, an ancient form of barley, it’s dark-crusted, sweet and malty.
Served with aged homemade butter, it may just be the best bread I’ve eaten and makes us relieved we’ve ordered the four-course menu rather than six. Salmon arrives next, soft, rich and unctuous, offset by deep green kale and a sauce made from the salmon head which has been smoked and infused in cream for six hours. Then a rectangle of deeply flavoured Texel lamb with a pretty, curled leaf of January King cabbage concealing a crisp slice of the flank, a nutty walnut purée and an umami-rich sprinkle of powdered scallop roe. Brilliant!
Only the puddings, constrained by the strict locavore philosophy, don’t quite work. It may be admirable to use in-season Jerusalem artichokes and buttermilk, but it doesn’t do it for me. It’s also the one recommended wine pairing (with Domaine de la Tournelle’s Savagnin de Voile 2012) that doesn’t come off. Too dry. Otherwise the wine matches (£35 with four-courses, £60 with six) from a largely natural wine list, are a good option, not least because the glasses are generous. An appley Binner, Le Salon des Bains Riesling 2015 is spot on with the cauliflower, and the bright, amphora- aged Cos, Pithos Rosso 2015 (a Nero d’Avola-Frappato blend) cuts through the richness of the lamb perfectly.
The only other slight downside is the awkwardly shaped, grey-carpeted room, which feels a bit like an office-equipment showroom. You wouldn’t be surprised to find a couple of filing cabinets in the corner.
Make no mistake, though, this is scintillating cooking – and at £40 (or £65 for six courses) it’s the kind of meal you’d pay at least twice as much for elsewhere. And probably will at Norn in a year or so’s time – if you can get in. Take advantage while you can.
50-54 Henderson St, Leith EH6 6DE.
Tel: +44 (0)131 629 2525
Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner.
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