On occasion, I was able to sample the delights of English cooking. I have always been a defender of our cuisine. There is little to beat our roasts, puddings and pies. Our cheeses rank with any in the world.
My colleague at UPITN, Norman Dickson took me to Simpson’s In The Strand. To me this was one of the fabulous restaurants of London. It was a thoroughly English restaurant. Norman said that there was a long bar in the basement which had recently been made open to women, it having been a men-only bar since the restaurant opened. Originally, the site, which was opened in 1828, was known a “home for chess” and the players sat on divans. Later it became known as the “Grand Cigar Divan”. In 1848 John Simpson, a caterer joined the founder, a Mr. Reiss and a new restaurant was built and it became known as “Simpson’s Divan and Tavern”
“So, through eight reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II, and under the patronage of Charles Dickens and many other famous literary personalities of the times, Simpson’s has been an oracle of the bon vivants of the day”.
Bill of Fare
Clear Turtle Soup
Thick Oxtail Soup
Grilled Dover Sole
Roast Sirloin of Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
Roast Saddle of Mutton and Red Currant Jelly
Roast Aylesbury Duck
Steak, Kidney, Mushroom and Oyster Pudding
Apple Pie and Cream
Boiled syrup Roll
Norman and I would take an aperitif in the lounge just off the Dining Room. Here we would sit and talk while our table was prepared.
The Dining Room was a revelation to the uninitiated, like me. The waiters wore black trousers and waistcoats with a full-length white aprons. The Roast Sirloin of Beef was mounted on a trolley, as was the Saddle of Mutton, these two trolleys were wheeled about at the bidding of the diners. If you had ordered beef, the trolley would come to your table where you could point to the area of the beef from which you wished your slices to be taken. Likewise the mutton. The carvers were absolute experts at their craft.
(Photo of Simpson’s in the Strand Bill of Fare by Heather)
When you had received sufficient meat, it was the custom to tip the carver.
The Steak and Kidney Pudding arrived at the table in the oval baking dish in which it was cooked. It had a wonderful covering of baked pastry on top. There was enough in the dish for two people, but, of course, each diner had their own dish.
Over the years, I tried the whole menu. Nothing could be faulted.
One day, upon our arrival, Norman explained that he would need to get a cloakroom ticket, when lodging his coat, and that the requirement for a ticket was a recent innovation brought about when someone walked off with Ted Heath’s coat.
His other story concerning Simpson’s concerned the time when he took the head of Swedish Television to Lunch. Having thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the Swede asked to meet the Chef. The great man was paraded in front of him, the Swede stood up and said: “Chef, I wish to congratulate you on a fine meal”.
The reply ”Sir, I am not the Chef, I am the Head Cook”.