Norn, Edinburgh

Living in Edinburgh, the number of new restaurants which open in the city can often be overwhelming –I’ve a list of restaurants the length of my arm to try.  But there was something special about Norn which meant that, just four weeks later, I was sitting in the new restaurant and ready to be impressed.

Norn is the brainchild of chef Scott Smith, whose previous restaurants include the Michelin-starred Peat Inn.  The 36 cover restaurant has big boots to fill, taking the place of the previously starred Plumed Horse on Henderson Street.

The Set-up
The choices are simple – dinner is either four courses for £40 or seven courses of £65 (a three-course lunch comes in at £20).  Norn’s menus change regularly and are dictated by seasonal produce and what the chefs have harvested on regular foraging trips.

Each course can be accompanied by matched wines or diners can choose from the wine lists.  As this was a belated birthday trip, we went for the full seven courses and embarked on our culinary adventure.

The Experience
I say experience, as this was more than a meal – it was a three-hour parade of the best food Scotland has to offer; prepared by some of the country’s most talented and innovative chefs. The care taken in preparing and bringing together the right ingredients was truly superb.

The highlight of the whole meal was the first of the two desserts, which comprised woodruff ice-cream, a puree of salted and fermented rhubarb, topped with crumbled caramel popcorn.  Eaten separately, the layers are interesting, but eaten together and the magic really kicks in.  It was unlike anything I’d ever tasted…but in a good way.

All of our courses were served by member of the kitchen team, which was a nice touch and meant foodie geeks such as us could grill them on the provenance and source of the ingredients, as well as in the inspiration behind the dish.

Avoiding the matched wines, we shared a bottle of Riesling, which got us through the first five courses (this was meant to be a dry weekend!).  We also treated ourselves to a cracking pair of cocktails – one gin based, one whisky based – to enjoy with our desserts, as recommended by the bar man.

Room for Improvement
As with all new restaurants, there were a couple of issues.  In both the chicken main and strawberry dessert, the balance of ingredients was off slightly – I’d finished all the accompaniments but was still left with half a plate of the “main” part of the dish to finish.  Also, the décor needs a slight lift – I get that they’re going for “Scandi Chic” look, but the simplistic furniture and cream-brown colour scheme made it feel like they’d only moved in.  However, I’m sure these will both improve over time.

The Verdict
Overall, Norn was an absolute treat and an exciting additional to Edinburgh’s already eclectic foodie scene.

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