Norn has been open for almost 16 months and strives to present the best of local Scottish ingredients and those that promote sustainability in their environment. It is made up of 2 medium sized rooms with small bare wood tables and chairs. Lots of lighting, reasonably loud music and a mixed age crowd add to the casual feel of the place. In one dining room a large window looks into the kitchen. They offer only tasting menus of 4 or 7 courses with wine pairings offered for both. They also have a wine list composed almost exclusively of natural wines. Service in the front of the house is by Laura Smith, the co-owner and wife of Chef Scott Smith who run the kitchen. Both are friendly and personable. Laura will help you navigate the wine list and Chef Scott brings out some of the courses and is happy to engage in conversation about the food. You feel like you’re dining in their home.
We started our visit with an amuse of a whole wheat bun stuffed with watercress. It was a one-bite option and tasty.
The house-made sour dough bread was made with a special malted grain and Norn is the only restaurant to have this grain. It had a good crisp crust and a nicely dense interior. It was served with an 18 month old cultured butter.
Another amuse was a dish of squash, elderberry, cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds gave it a nice nuttiness. A bit of squash puree was smooth and flavorful and topped with thin slices of raw squash. All were well seasoned with oil and cheese to produce a nice end product.
The tasting started with Mussel, tomato and bone marrow served with a tomato broth enhanced with cucumber. The bone marrow was in the broth which gave it a velvety texture on your lips. The dish was full of strong clean flavors of peeled tomatoes, mussels and cucumber which all blended spectacularly.
Coley (fish) fillet was served with oyster and turnip emulsion and sea herbs. This is a big flake fish which was barely cooked and had a very mild flavor. Some fermented turnip bits were in the oyster emulsion that worked perfectly with it. The herbs didn’t add much taste but did bring a bit of color to the plate.
Roasted carrot was presented with lovage and a cultured cheese. Some pickled carrots were cut into wide ribbons to add to the topping of a mix of greens. The roasted carrot had an amazing flavor and all the ingredients blended together for a wonderful taste.
Grousse was plated with damson and presented alongside porridge with the leg, offal and crispy seeds. The grousse was tender and nicely rare; the plum was tart. The seeds on the porridge were from the same grains used to make the dish, which were 3 types of oats. It was outstanding, just full of flavor. The menu warned that shot might be in the meat but we found none.
Venison was plated with beetroot and chanterelles. The venison loin had been long smoked and was covered with thin slices of golden beet root. The chanterelles were used in making the delicious sauce which also had sea buckthorn and clam sauce. It was a very nice plate of food.
The first dessert was fennel, bramble and honey. The fennel was made into a strongly flavored and creamy ice cream and the bramble portion incorporated fermented bramble juice. The ice cream worked perfectly with the tart berries but the finishing touch was to top it all with honey. It was very different but also very good.
The second dessert was apple, elderberry and seaweed. The apple was sliced on the top and also in a granita topped with brown sugar, kelp caramel and elderberry. The caramel added the needed sweet component and a topping of granola added a lovely crunch. Again all the ingredients blended nicely.
A bit of Scotch helped us finish the meal as did one of the last strawberries of the year. How they got these I don’t know but it was a fantastic strawberry hit of sweet fruit – just fabulous.