Simon Wittenberg heads to the nearly 200-year-old restaurant owned by The Savoy, to sample Simpson’s in the Strand’s latest Bill of Fare menu.
The beautiful Grade II listed building next to the entrance of the iconic Savoy hotel, which houses Simpson’s in the Strand, dates back to 1828. Once home to a chess club and coffee house named ‘Samuel Reiss’s Grand Cigar Divan’ (the name can still be seen today), it’s had its fair share of famous customers over the years, such as Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Guests of Simpson’s in the Strand are greeted with an ornate lobby area and a chequered mosaic floor, a tribute to its illustrious past.
Coats are taken at the small reception desk before visitors are guided into the wood-panelled dining room, where the décor counts a large fireplace, an ornate ceiling and magnificent chandeliers.
The restaurant is dominated by a series of green banquettes that can accommodate up to six people at a time, and rows of small tables dressed in white tablecloths, small battery-operated lamps and opulent red leather chairs which were added during the most recent renovation back in 2017.
This very traditional eatery is renowned for its roasts, and the silver carving trolleys have long played a role at Simpson’s. The latest iteration of the Bill of Fare menu, which is available for lunch or dinner, is the work of the new Master Cook, Matt Tsistrakis, and has been designed to celebrate the restaurant’s culinary heritage by using the very finest British produce.
Our very kind natured host for the evening explained that changes to the à la carte are made when the kitchen sees fit, with an emphasis on ensuring that the element of consistency, in terms of the quality of food that diners are used to, is maintained at all times.
Although meat is the standout dish, there are plenty of other options available for non-carnivores. Whilst we were deciding what to have, we were served some delicious crusty white and seeded bread with butter covered by the restaurant’s chess-inspired logo. The next decision to make was what cocktail to have, as there is a decent choice.
From the “Pick me ups” section of the drinks menu, I settled on “Bees knees” (£13.50), made with gin, lemon, passion fruit and honey, whilst my dining partner opted for the rosé Champagne-inspired “Gin and It Royale” (£17.50) from the “Sharpeners” page. Served in tall glasses with a block of ice, both were excellent, and were the perfect way to kick-off a special evening.
Back on to the subject of food, and the starters vary from Dorset crab and Scottish scallops, to Aberdeen Angus beef steak tartare. My guest and I both settled on the smooth slices of Scottish smoked salmon on a base of Melba toast (£18), which arrived with china spoons holding crushed shallots, capers and a lemon wedge. It was simply divine, and each of the ingredients oozed quality and flavour.
Between courses, whilst being serenaded by the piano player who sits behind a chessboard, you can admire the stunning interior of Simpson’s, as it’s like going back in time to old England. In fact, during our visit, numerous individuals were treated to the spectacle of the rare meat being freshly carved before their eyes, but for us, we had both opted for fish for the mains, so there would be no such theatre. After a sufficiently long enough pause since our opening chapter, our host re-appeared to ask whether we were ready for our main course, and we duly were.