One had just received one’s Freedom of the City of London and had to celebrate. We were close to Simpson’s..no not the one in the Strand. This is Simpson’s Tavern. A very old institution dating back to 1757 that one can find tucked away in an alley right in the heart of the city of London, a mere stone’s throw from the Bank of England. The interior is right out of Dr Johnson’s era, much like your Doctor’s favourite watering hole, McSpiggets. It has wooden banquette cubicles which look like something out of a railway carriage and if one is looking for chic, this is not it. This is tradition, this is olde England. This is the land of steak and kidney pie, liver and bacon, pork chops. Yes, good old English fare. It has been here for years with a reputation that draws the most eclectic crowd you could imagine. Pin-striped bankers and lawyers sit alongside taxi drivers and secretaries. All squeezed tightly into banquette style cubicles that seat 6 to 8 people. If you have any pretentions dear reader, then this is not for you. However if you want old fashioned charm and good home cooking, this is right up an (your) alley.
One needs to explain the seating arrangements. If you are on the inside of the cubicle then you must ask the 6 other people at the table to stand up to let you out or let you in. The fare is simple and there are specials each day. Doctor Johnson would approve, as does your own dear Doctor. Hurrah! One of course was not alone, one’s chums Fortescue, Frobisher and Sir Cosmo were in tow.
Having ordered from the reasonably priced menu, one will then always be posed two questions by the waitress. The first question is “with a sausage?”. Everything is offered with a sausage. The next question is framed in one word “bubble?”. Now for us English, this is easy to understand, it is a reference to that wondrous food called Bubble & Squeak which used to be made from left over potatoes and cabbage from Sunday lunch all fried up together. As one can see from the daguerreotype , the answer to both questions was “yes” and so your doctor ordered both to accompany his “Edwardian” pork chop. Sir Cosmo seemed very happy with his Steak and Kidney pudding, declaring that it had “just the right amount of kidney”. Fortescue made no comment…he was eating.
After the main course, there is one final question. “Stewed Cheese”. This is one of the house specials. It is a do-it-yourself Welsh Rarebit i.e. cheese on toast. The cheese is served in a ramekin and one dips the side of toast into it or of course one could just pour it all over the toast. It is very tasty indeed and of course, it is more than just cheese as cook always reminds me at home. One seems to remember that it was served in little copper saucepans of old which gave it more of a special feel. The ramekin did not have the same visual impact…alas.
The staff are always friendly and welcoming and the ambiance and food makes one feel that one has returned to the seventies as the waiting staff chat away and can be known to indulge in the odd half of bitter whilst serving. So civilised. One can almost imagine Dr. Johnson sitting next to one whilst eating.
38 1/2 Cornhill
Tel: 020 7626 9985