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A Skelding Summary

Established in 1828, Simpson's-In-The-Strand, is a traditional British restaurant, specialising in the finest roast loins of British beef and saddles of lamb. There is no finer way to start the day than to indulge in it's `Great British Breakfast' or `The Ten Deadly Sins'. At lunchtime familiar favorites such as steak and kidney pudding and Irish stew attract a regular following from the City. Pre-theatre goers are offered the opportunity to dine at competitive prices in the early evening and for those who wish to make an occasion of the evening, the Bill of Fare offers a wide range of dishes to suit the most discerning palate.

A Brief History
1828 The Grand Cigar Divan - The Home of Chess

Samuel Reiss opened the 'Grand Cigar Divan' in 1828, on the site of the Fountain Tavern, which had been the home of the famous literary association, the 'Kit Kat club'.

The establishment soon developed as a coffee house where gentlemen smoked cigars with their coffee, browsed over the daily journals and newspapers, indulged in lengthy conversations regarding the politics of the day and played chess, sitting on comfortable divans and sofas. Many of these divans were arranged to form 'boxes', and still can be seen today.

Regular visitors would pay one guinea a year for the use of the facilities & coffee. The daily entrance fee for non-regular visitors was 6d or 1/6d with coffee & cigar.

Chess plays a prominent part of Simpson's history, and chess matches were played against other coffee houses in the town, with top-hatted runners carrying the news of each move between the various houses. The Grand Cigar Divan soon became recognised as the 'Home of Chess' in this country. Today, one of Simpson's original chess sets is featured in the Front Hall. There is always a chess set available for those wishing to play.

1848 Simpson's Grand Divan and Tavern

In 1848, Mr Reiss formed a partnership with the notes caterer John Simpson. Together they enlarged the building and renamed it "Simpson's Grand Divan Tavern". Thanks to the quality of food, wines and beer introduced by John Simpson, Simpson's became a firm favourite with London's epicureans, attracting many famous patrons including, amongst others, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. John Simpson introduced the practice of wheeling large joints of meat in silver dinner wagons to the tables and carving the meat in front of the diners - a custom which is upheld to this day. Indeed, the original trolleys are still in service.

Shortly before his death, John Simpson sold the restaurant to Edmund William Cathie Scott, who was a great connoisseur of wines and cigars - qualifications which were ideally suitable to preserve the tradition of Simpson's. Cathie employed British Master Cook Thomas Davey, who was perhaps the first of the kitchen autocrats! He insisted that everything served in the restaurant be British. He even went as far as removing the word "menu" and replaced it with the words "Bill of Fare", which again, are still used today.

In 1898, Simpson's was acquired by Sir Richard D'Oyly Carte of the Savoy Group. It was closed in 1900 for redevelopment and it was at this time that the West Room was added, overlooking the Strand. The restaurant re-opened in 1904 under the name it bears today - Simpson's-In-The-Strand, Grand Divan Tavern. During World War II, meat rationing interrupted the generous servings of beef at Simpson's, and regulars overcame the dwindling portions by tipping the Carver to ensure they received their usual sized portions! The tradition of tipping the Carver is still observed to this day, although the portions have returned to their generous pre-war proportions!

Simpon's-in-the-Strand offers one of London's most historic venues. There are two main restaurants - The West Room and the Ground Floor Restaurant. The West Room is decorated simply, with a light, Wedgwood-style frieze running around the room and was featured in both the book and film, Howard's End by E M Forster. The Ground Floor Restaurant is an oak panelled room with central tables and high backed side booths. It's atmosphere is reminiscent of a typical London gentleman's club.

The Smoking Room Bar onthe lower floor is hung with original Spy cartoons of , amongst others, Sir Richard D'Oyly Carte. It is perfect for a quiet lunchtime beer - real ale served in silver tankards. In the evenings it is possible to hire the Smoking Room Bar for private dining.

For banqueting, the South Drawing Room is an ideal venue for lunches and dinners of up to 120 and receptions of 200. Hung with Waterfords crystal chandeliers, its elegance is reminiscent of the turn of the century when it was originally the Ladies Dining Room.

174 and still going strong!

A lot has changed since they opened their doors but here there is an atmosphere of the old world and of course Simpson's continues to serve the best British beef. Now because the great barons of beef have been replaced by sirloin off the bone. If anyone knows about the best in beef you can be sure Simpsons in the Strand 'have their colours'.

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Histories of Things
By Laurence Skelding

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