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A great Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tion gets some fresh blood

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - THE CUT - Amy Bryant 100 Strand , Lon­don WC2; simp­son­sinthes­trand.co.uk

‘I’VE BEEN STRUG­GLING to sleep, wak­ing up in the mid­dle of the night think­ing, “Oh! I didn’t order that!”’

Wil­liam Hem­ming is speak­ing from his ‘shiny new chef ’s of­fice’ as he takes the helm at one of Lon­don’s old­est restau­rants, and I think he can be al­lowed a few mo­ments of ap­pre­hen­sion. Hem­ming’s new home is Simp­son’s in the Strand, the Savoy-based, wood-pan­elled, car ving-trolleyed res­tau­rant at which Win­ston Churchill had his own ta­ble, and which has been in op­er­a­tion (first as a cof­fee house, then as Bri­tain’s most im­por­tant chess venue, be­fore be­ing ac­quired by the Savoy ho­tel group) for 189 years.

It closed in April for are de­sign– noth­ing to make the reg­u­lars choke on their Barns­ley chop – and though the or­nate ceil­ing, chan­de­liers and dark­wood pan­els re­main, they have re­newed sparkle. With a bot­tle-green ban­quette here and a mar­ble sur­face there, the new look works mod­ern touches into the Grand Di­van din­ing room.

And what of the food? Hem­ming, whose pre­vi­ous kitchen was 37 storeys up at Lon­don’s Sky Gar­den, has rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to‘ re de­velop’ the menu. Should you wish to see your beef rib wheeled out on sil­ver and carved be­side you at the ta­ble, that’s still a daily treat, but there’ s also chicken breast wrapped in English pancet ta and teamed with charred sweet­corn, broad beans and a del­i­cate lemon-ver­bena jus. ‘At home I love a cup of lemon-ver­bena tea,’ he ex­plains, ‘and I felt this in­fu­sion would sit very well with the Bri­tish tead­rink­ing tra­di­tion.’

Her­itage duly re­spected, we can also ex­pect some play­ful­ness (look out for a fresh take on cheese-and-tomato sand­wiches) from Hem­ming’s new kitchen.

Who dined at Simp­son’s? Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle, a reg­u­lar, namechecke­d the res­tau­rant in The Ad­ven­ture of the Dy­ing De­tec­tive and The Ad­ven­ture of the Il­lus­tri­ous Client Other pa­trons over the years have in­cluded Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, Charles Dick­ens,...

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