Recent news concerning the sale of Simpson’s in the Strand, accompanied by derogatory reviews of the restaurant, should not, I think entirely put you off a visit there but – be warned – it certainly isn’t cheap!.
For my wife’s Christmas present, I bought a £65 voucher for a two-course meal at Simpson’s and, together with 4 friends, we used this voucher a fortnight ago, having been to see a matinee of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ at the Savoy Theatre (excellent fun).
We had a wide selection of cocktails first in the upstairs bar – wood-panelled, softly lit, comfortable leather chairs and sofas. O.K. – £12.50 each but expertly made and fun for a treat.
Downstairs then to the large dining room – large, open-plan with a few banquettes in alcoves along the walls (we had one). Beautiful old-fashioned room, mahogany tables – all very elegant!
At Simpson’s of course one has the roast beef of olde Englande as a main course because this is what the restaurant has always been known for. There is a small choice of other dishes (including a vegetarian one, which one of our number had and enjoyed). Our voucher gave us a choice of three dishes for a first course – all very good – especially recommended is the pate, however. Plenty of it (too much) – but not enough accompanying toast to start with!
The beef was ceremoniously carved at the table from a vast baron kept under a silver dome on a trolley . As you wanted it – rare, medium, etc. and served rightly with the delicious juices from the dish and not with some Ah Bisto! dishwater – and enough meat to fill one’s plate and more.
Accompanying: roast spuds – fair (say 7 out of 10 – my wife does then better); cabbage – very good if not hot; horseradish – excellent, hand-made and exactly the right hotness.
So the food was altogether very good if not outstanding, with the beef quite rightly the star turn. £65 for two represented fair value, I thought – two courses were certainly enough.
Wine? Well – I chose an excellent Pinot Noir which was not the cheapest on the wine list but about a quarter of the way up, I think. Cost? £50 a bottle!! Gulp.
So – for a once in a lifetime visit to a world-renowned restaurant for a special occasion such as this was – fine. For a more ordinary and regular occasion, certainly not, if only because of the price of the drinks.
Maybe the new owners (whoever they may be) will alter the whole place and make it just another ‘European’ restaurant – I hope not. There is something to be said for maintaining the old and dignified: with just a bit of smartening up and attention to detail, Simpson’s could carry on successfully doing much the same as it has done now for nearly 200 years (especially if it lowers its drinks prices).
P.S. Dress code is ‘smart casual’.