A great British institution gets some fresh blood
‘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,...