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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
Our very first trip to England was a brief weekend fling to celebrate our anniversary. We took off from the U.S. at 6:30pm Friday and landed back home Sunday afternoon at 4:30pm so we had to have our itinerary precisely planned to take in as much as possible. In fact this was a surprise trip for my wife. As we headed to the airport, she had no idea whatsoever of where we were going. I simply told her it was going to be a long journey!
I made contact with a delightful tour guide named Nick Wilson in London and secretly plotted and planned our trip with him. Among my requests was a traditional, quintessential British restaurant. Having checked with some friends I asked Nick to book us a reservation Saturday night at Simpsons-in-the-Strand in their Grand Devan room. Nick obliged although since we only had one dinner opportunity he lobbied heavily that we switch plans and dine at his favorite restaurant in London -- Rules. We stuck with our guns and dined at Simpsons although on subsequent trips, Nick talked us into dining at Rules and he was right! It's the best spot in London, in our opinion.
Back to Simpsons - it's a great spot in the theatre district. And it's about as traditional as it gets. The star of the show here are the joints (roasts) carved right at your table. And remember to tip your carver. Ask as you enter at the door ask what the appropriate rate is now. I can't remember what we gave him.
For starters I ordered quail eggs and smoked Finnan Haddie (smoked haddock in a cheesy sauce). My wife started with traditional potted shrimp. Both were tasty.
The two main choices here are joints of beef and lamb although you'll find fowl on the menu, too. My wife and I both went for slices of beef as rare as they had on the cart. They roam the restaurant with several joints cooked to different degrees. While rare, mine could have been a little rarer for my own, personal taste. My wife had no complaints. The beef came with a nice, rich Yorkshire Pudding. Roasted potatoes also accompany your beef.
To end the meal I chose a hot cup of coffee and a snifter of brandy. My wife tried the spotted dick. Hey, hey, get your mind out of the gutter! Spotted dick is a traditional pudding and the spots are raisins.
Everything was good, the service was excellent and I had to stop back and think about the rich past of this restaurant. No doubt such luminaries as Sir Winston Churchill must have dined here at one point if not several times. It's "that" rich in history. The beautiful oak paneling has the feel of a traditional gentlemen's club.
During the mad cow disease days I had to wonder if business dropped considerably at this house of beef. They now serve only beef from Scotland where mad cow apparently was not a problem.
If you'd like to sample a piece of history, this should be on your list although we highly suggest a visit to Rules, too. On the other hand if you're looking for modern fusion cuisine, you're barking up the wrong trail here.
Dress code is upscale. They prefer a jacket and tie for men. And, as with most London eateries, this place is not cheap.
Simpsons has a web site here.
OTHER RESTAURANT REVIEWS FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM:
London, England (Chinatown)