Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 9112
Address: 100 The Strand, London WC2R 0EW
Cuisine Type: traditional British
nearest tube station Charing Cross, Embankment

Simpsons-in-the-Strand prides itself on its long history of serving traditional British fare, playing up the “age-old, time-honoured, well-established” thing to perfection. The Grand Divan, with its oak-panelled walls and chandeliers, is dark and gloomy. The atmosphere is stuffy and stilted. The service is supercilious and exaggeratedly formal. Not really my cup of tea, but some people will love it, principally:

  • middle-aged bankers and lawyers on expense account lunches (“Ah Jenkins, the usual please”)
  • grandparents in the mould of Mrs Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances (“We go whenever we’re in London, don’t you know”)
  • American and Japanese tourists (“Isn’t this old stuff just, so, like, great?”)

The food is as British as you’ll get, with no concessions to modernity or multiculturality. Expect to see classics such as potted shrimps, feathered game and roasted meat joints, with all the trimmings. I chose haddock in cheese sauce, whilst my brother opted for one of the menu stalwarts, roast rib of Scottish Angus beef that has been aged for 28 days (£19.95). The waiter taking our order said “The better choice, sir”, making my brother beam, and me glower. I dread to think what he would have said if I’d asked for a vegetarian meal.

Much as I hate to admit it, the waiter was right. While the fish was swamped by the excessively rich sauce and completely over-powered by the stringy cheddar topping, the thin slices of medium rare beef, brought to the table and carved on silver-domed trolleys, were flavoursome and melt-in-the-mouth. Accessorised with crispy roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, cabbage, gravy and horseradish, it was text book perfect.

For dessert, don’t expect anything light. Choose from the likes of Simpsons’ treacle sponge with custard, bread and butter pudding or, as we did, chocolate fondant pudding (all £6.10). I wouldn’t have minded clogging up the arteries so much if it hadn’t been stodgy rather than rich, cloying rather than indulgent.

With water and wine (from £16/bottle for house white and red to just under £200 for a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild), expect to pay around £50 per person for three courses, drinks and service. Hardly a bargain, particularly as I’m not one for the “Authentic Best of British” experience.

– Tracy Yam, 2/2004

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