14th November 2012

The end of last week saw another ‘end of project’ celebratory lunch. I’m not normally this lucky to have two business lunches in one week, but it’s been a long hard slog, so more than deserved I think!

Simpsons-in-the-Strandis a British institution. It was opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffeehouse – what Wimbledon is to tennis, Simpson’s is to chess – and only opened its doors to women as recently as 1984. The restaurant was the first to wheel large joints of beef and lamb in on a trolley to the table and carve it there to avoid disturbing the chess players. A tradition they still carry out today. It is a glorious room, all wood panelling, oil paintings and plush carpets. The waiters are all dressed in dickie bows and it’s all very old school.
So onto the food – for my starter I ordered the Smooth duck liver pâté with grape chutney and brioche (£10). As it was described, the pâté was super smooth and very decadent. The portion was really big though and I didn’t think there was enough of the grape chutney to cut through the richness of the pâté.
I ordered the Roast rib of beef (28 days aged) with all the trimmings (£27.50). It is their speciality and what they are most well known for, so when in Rome….
Almost as soon as our starter plates were cleared, the trolley came round with the biggest piece of beef I have ever seen. It was quite a spectacle watching the chefs carve up the meat. (Incidentally, Simpson’s offers a meat carving course at £155 per person) I would’ve preferred to wait a little longer for our main course though and I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I would’ve had my starter had more time to settle.  Not only that, but all the food lacked seasoning and I had to reach for the salt shaker more than once. As roasts go, this was distinctly average. Considering this is what they are known for, it was pretty disappointing. Even the picture looks a bit brown and ordinary, doesn’t it? The potatoes were a little too hard on the outside, but reasonably fluffy inside. The Savoy cabbage was bland but the creamed leeks were pretty tasty. I’m not a fan of Yorkshire puddings, so I didn’t try it. They were huge though and looked good, if slightly too dark in colour.
The dessert choices were all the classic British desserts and after the huge starter and main portions, I really didn’t feel like anything stodgy. As we did earlier in the week, the table ordered the Simpson’s pudding sampler (£27.50 for 4 people). The platter included a treacle sponge with Madagascan vanilla, coconut pannecotta, and a raspberry sorbet. For me, the pannecotta was the tastiest. Creamy and just the right amount of wobble.

My overall experience was pretty mixed. The place is steeped in history and tradition and the service was outstanding throughout, but the food really lets it down. I think I could probably get a better roast at the local pub for a fraction of the price.

Until we eat again!

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