Amid the churn and hype of the London restaurant scene, there are some places that qualify as Old London for their longevity as the same kind of restaurant on the same site. Among these, on the same spot since 1828, is Simpsons-in-the-Strand (yes, for the pedants among you, it’s ‘in’, not ‘on’, the Strand).
Aiming at ‘British classics’ and ‘tradition upheld’, its list of regulars includes Conan Doyle and Churchill, Dickens and Disraeli, van Gough and Bernard Shaw. Sherlock Holmes himself “found something nutritious” there regularly (again for the pedants, see The Dying Detective and The Illustrious Client for verification). And, since its earliest days as a coffee house, it has been closely associated with the game of chess.
Simpson’s could easily have degenerated into a mediocre mock-heritage tourist trap, but has largely avoided that fate. Revamped a year ago by its owners, the Savoy Hotel, it does what it does to a very good standard, and in very nice surroundings. The ‘bill of fare’ (nothing so 20th century as a ‘menu’ here) is inevitably meat- and fish-heavy, with roast beef from the carving trolley their best-known signature dish.
However, for something a little different, and vegetarian-friendly, this must surely be the only place to offer Lord Woolton’s pie; a root vegetable pie, devised by the chef of the Savoy in the face of wartime rationing, and promoted by the eponymous lord, then the minster of food. Tasty as well as thoroughly traditional.