You may recall that in Part One of our Day Four post Diane, Jo and I had gone on a London Walk of the Covent Garden area that included a stop at Simpson's in the Strand restaurant. I told you then that there would be more about this venerable and much loved eatery to come and so there shall be. Now.
From the Simpson's in the Strand website:
Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house - The Grand Cigar Divan - Simpson's soon became known as the "home of chess", attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests' tables first came into being, a practice Simpson's still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson's of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous regulars include Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes), Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
Known for it's joints of beef wheeled tableside on huge, steel trollies, Simpsons has always been a favourite of those with a literary bent. From Wikipedia: In E. M. Forster's Howards End, Henry Wilcox is a devotee of Simpson's. P. G. Wodehouse devoted several paragraphs of Something New to the restaurant, and in his novel Psmith in the City, his two heroes dine there: "Psmith waited for Mike while he changed, and carried him off in a cab to Simpson's, a restaurant which, as he justly observed, offered two great advantages, namely, that you need not dress, and, secondly, that you paid your half-crown, and were then at liberty to eat till you were helpless, if you felt so disposed, without extra charge." Simpson's is also featured in Wodehouse's "Cocktail Time" as the restaurant that one of the characters, Cosmo Wisdom, chooses to lunch at after leaving Prison. Simpson's also features in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Watson joins Holmes there during the story "The Illustrious Client" the detective is sitting "looking down at the rushing stream of life in the Strand."
|The window in the upstairs bar at Simpsons. Possibly the window Holmes himself had gazed out from. |
So you see, it's not unusual that I should have chosen Simpson's as the scene of this evening's dinner party, for a party it was to be and, as Diane and I had some time before the rest of my guests arrived, we headed upstairs to Knight's Bar for a cocktail. Wodehouse would no doubt have approved.
Literary connections aside, Simpson's has also been the site of a Royal intrigue or two, the most widely known being that Simpson's, this very bar no less, was used by King Edward VII to secretly meet with his mistress, Lillie Langtry.
|Lillie Langtry and King Edward VII|
Diane and I took a table by the window, which gave us a direct view of the table and mural, above. This was Edward VII's table, as it stands by itself in a corner alcove, away from prying eyes. The mural disguise's a hidden door, through which the lovely Lilly would slip in order to sit beside her Royal lover.
And so Diane and I sat with our cocktails and waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Can you guess who they were? A member of the Royal Family, perhaps? Much better - my guests this evening were some of the fabulous guest speakers and guides who will be part of Number One London's 2017 Tours.
From left to right: Diane Perkins (Diane Gaston), Kristine Hughes Patrone, Ian Fletcher,
Nicola Cornick and Melanie Hilton (Louise Allen)
Oysters, dinner, wine and a grand time were had by all!
Full Details Regarding Number One London's
2017 Tours Coming Soon!
Labels: A Tour Guide in England, Kristine Hughes