In Summer 2019, The Stafford Collection and Chef Ben Tish opened a luxury restaurant in the vibrant centre of London, designed by Rosendale Design. Spread out over four floors of a Georgian townhouse in Fitzrovia, the NORMA restaurant retraces the origins of Sicilian food tradition in a high-end and inviting space.
When the famous Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini presented his opera ‘Norma’ in 1831 at the La Scala theatre in Milan, it is unlikely he anticipated that it would become one of the most important operas, if not the most important opera, of the Sicilian region and of Italy as a whole.
‘Norma’ was so esteemed that the symbolic dish of Sicilian culture “Pasta alla Norma" was named after the apocryphal exclamation by the Italian writer Nino Martoglio who, upon tasting the dish, exclaimed "This is a real Norma!,” comparing it with the exceptional perfection of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera.
The opera was played across the world during the last century and, with good reception in London, brought the customs, culture and history of Sicily to the British capital.
This is a unique history, richly informed by Arabic influences, especially those of the Moorish people who for nearly 300 years farmed the fertile and prosperous land which would lay the foundations of what would become the Mediterranean culture par excellence.
It is this colourful and multifaceted background which informed Rosendale Design in the spatial design for Norma, which pays homage to the wonderful history of Sicily.
Overall, the restaurant is composed of a raw bar and conservatory area on the ground floor, a bar and further seating on the first floor, and private dining room and bathrooms on the second floor. The top floor houses the warehouse area, offices and services, while the kitchen is in the basement.
Walking along Charlotte St in Fitzrovia, passersby can immediately see the raw bar with its fresh crudités displayed, referencing the renowned Vucciria fish markets in Palermo. The front of the raw bar is distinguished by the alternating jade-green marble and brass strips. The jade colour of the front of the bar contrasts with the rich Verde Alpi marble used on the bar top and adjacent walls.
The back bar is composed of four arches finished with the Zellige technique. This involves assembling differently coloured and shaped fragments of glazed terracotta tiles to form geometric patterns that repeat infinitely.
The same geometric tiling, which references patterns in the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo Province, is used on the reveals and doorways. The flooring is made of cement tiles that depict intricate arabesque geometric patterns.
The lower half of the perimeter walls are finished with Verde Alpi marble and upper half features a bespoke texture created by Rosendale Design artists mimicking the plaster effect of Italian historic buildings. The dado rail detail features dark warm mahogany and brass, adding value and depth.
It is impossible not to notice the multiple paintings representing the Moors of Sicily, the "fil rouge" of Ben Tish cuisine. His book, ”Moorish,” explores how Moorish influence left a pronounced mark and combined seamlessly with the local flavours and ingredients of Sicily to produce an exotic, full-flavoured and vibrant cuisine.
Moving through the restaurant, the space has been designed to give guests a high sense of privacy. Multiple booth seating areas allow each person and group to feel at home, wrapped in a calm and soft atmosphere where the senses can be fully immersed in the dining experience.
Finally, the ground floor restaurant area opens up into a full-height conservatory space - an existing architectural configuration that allows light to penetrate to the back of a dense site. Here you can dine under a waterfall of plants, expertly accommodated within a mix of brass and copper planters. Two built-in wine displays draw focus with their antiqued brass mesh detailing.
The first floor is a tribute to the theatrical work from which the NORMA restaurant takes its name. Here, the walls are painted with the colours of the theatre combining rich reds with softened sepias. The bar is inspired by traditional theatre bars of the early 1900s, where gentlemen and ladies could find refreshments during the break of the opera. On the walls are framed antique Sicilian theatre tickets, spanning the years from the 1920s to the1960s. The frames are illuminated by picture lights that were custom designed by Rosendale Design. On the ceiling, there is an ensemble of unique chandeliers also designed by Rosendale Design for NORMA, made from brass and bespoke blown glass.
The second floor is characterised by a wine display made entirely from wood and brass where the finest Italian wines find the most appropriate location. Functional yet beautiful, the display is the focal point for the elegant lobby.
The private dining room is entered through a door made with luxuriously textured glass and brass detailing. The room is named Etna in homage to Sicily’s volcano. The volcano and its surrounding landscape are depicted in a painting that is placed above the enriched fireplace crafted from Italian white marble.
The central bespoke table and the side waiter stations are made of book-matched burr walnut with piano polish and reflect the mirrored ceiling, instilling a sense of luxury and glamour to the space.
NORMA restaurant is certainly the best venue in London to share the delicacies of the Sicilian tradition whilst partaking in an experience that will thrill your senses with its high-end interiors.
Rosendale Design is one of the UK’s leading Interior Design studios in the design and management of luxury hospitality, retail and residential projects.
The RSD approach and meticulous attention to detail brings projects to life using the client as a core influence on the project. Whether it is a residential, restaurant or commercial project the studio works closely with the client team.
Boasting strong links with a network of artists, craftsmen and manufacturers who are dedicated to innovation and quality. We are able to provide your project with considered pieces that are suitable to the type of project, whether it be for commercial or residential use.
The way a space is perceived relies heavily on the quality of lighting and by the visual layering of key features. We understand the properties of light and the way it behaves and thus are able to provide thoroughly considered interiors.
The studio has a deep-rooted respect for architecture, an appreciation of edifices both historic and contemporary. Aided by a team of experienced professional consultant specialists, artists, manufacturers and craftsmen.
Recent commissions include: Badrutt’s Palace (St. Moritz), Stafford Hotel (London), Santa Marina Resort (Mykonos), Rue Du Liban (Mumbai), No.5 Social by Chef Jason Atherton (London), Kempinski ((Doha), Norma by Chef Ben Tish (London), The Ninth by Jun Tanaka (London), Roux at Parliament Square by Chef Michel Roux Jr (London), and Private Residences.