I went to Simpson’s in the Strand a couple of years go and on a recent return, I was thrilled to find that it’s upped its game.
The venue opened in 1828 as a chess room and it is one of London’s oldest traditional restaurants.
In 2017, in a bid to bring it more up-to-date it underwent a major refurb courtesy of its owner and neighbour, The Savoy.
While the bones of the building remain the same – think wood panelled walls, high ceilings and period feature – there’s an array of new things to flesh the place out.
I popped in for a Sunday lunch with my mother and spent a good five minutes admiring the additions such as new crockery, slick leather booth-style seating and updated menus.
There’s now even a cocktail menu at Simpsons, while on my last visit I had to settle for neat whisky in leiu of such a thing.
A visit to this old-school eatery makes for quite an occasion and it’s a little stumbling on to a film set with a jazz pianist tinkling away, smartly dressed waiters dancing around and a silver domed carvery trolley following them as they go.
Settling down at a table for two, in-between an elderly couple and family group in the corner, mum and I celebrated the outing with a lovely, crisp glass of Ridgeview sparkling wine from East Sussex.
There’s a good spread of things on the menu at Simpson’s, with an emphasise on hearty meat dishes and fresh seafood from around the British coast.
Getting into the frivolous swing of things, I opted for half a dozen oysters to start, while mum went for a plate of hand dived Scottish scallops.
Both selections hit the spot, with the oysters perfectly shucked and the plump scallops came served with a delicious black emulsion, smeared on the plate like a work of art.
We mopped things up with chunks of the soft fresh-baked bread, spread with creamy slips of butter.
The service was efficient (an improvement from the last time I visited) and after the starters were cleared our mains followed.
To follow the oysters, I decided to go for one of Simpson’s signature dishes – a vegetarian medley of barley and cauliflower cheese, with grilled portobello mushroom.
Marking the onset of autumn, mum went for the Welsh lamb sliced from the carving trolley, with potato gratin, English fine beans and mint gravy served on the side.
Instead of wine, I decided to give Simpson’s new cocktail menu a spin, with libations inspired by the allotments of Britain.
I picked the ‘plum’, which featured a deliciously heady blend of gin, aromatised wine and Italian bitters.
The mains swiftly followed and I had a little bit of lunch envy as I watched mum’s lamb being expertly prepared by one of the carvers.
The jazz player returned from his lunch break, the music resumed and I felt in fine spirits.
After finally making my way through the hearty barley meal, which had a moreish whirl of melted cheese thrown into the mix, mum and I decided to split dessert.
Both being fans of the traditional knickerbocker glory, this selection was a no brainer.
The delicious dessert arrived in a tall glass with two spoons ready for us to give it a go.
It amply satisfied, with creamy balls of ice cream giving way to lashings of syrup and lumps of melted chocolate lurking at the bottom.
It was fun and messy, just as it should be!
Feeling adequately stuffed, mum and I rolled out of Simpson’s back to the hectic throng of the Strand.
An afternoon at this place promises to leave you feeling in fine spirits.
It’s all the better for a bit of a fettling.
Simpson’s in the Strand is located at 100 Strand, London, WC2R 0EW
To book a table call +44 (0)20 7420 2111 or visit www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk