Simpsons opened in 1828, making it either the capital’s third or fourth oldest surviving restaurant. It’s beaten by the similarly named Simpson’s Tavern in the City and Rules in nearby Covent Garden, and sort of by Wiltons which opened in 1742 — more than 35 years before the USA was founded — but didn’t move to its current location in St James’s until 1964.
The British restaurant specialises in meat and its signature dish is beef on-the-bone, wheeled around in a silver trolley and carved at your table. It would be the same dish which was the focal point in the days that the space was frequented by names including Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, George Bernard Shaw and Charles Dickens.
The agents operating on behalf of The Savoy, Davis Coffer Lyon, have confirmed that they are looking “to find someone to operate the restaurant as a chef or to go in with their own operation and brand”, and that the hotel will not insist on the new operator keeping the Simpsons-in-the-Strand name — or indeed anything else of the existing restaurant.
But is this really such a bad thing? Despite its heritage, the verdict is out as to whether Simpsons-in-the-Strand is actually any good. It’s certainly been a fair while since it was a significant player on the capital’s restaurant scene, and we reckon that outdated and overpriced are fair descriptors.
Though the agents are tight-lipped about exactly what they’re after to replace the old fella, it sounds to us like the iconic hotel is after a fittingly iconic restaurant — probably one with a big-name chef attached to it.
As the team there will be aware, London’s hotel restaurants have upped their game significantly in the last few years — going from tourist traps to hotspots — and The Savoy hasn’t been a part of this.
Last year alone saw high-profile openings in the form of Chiltern Firehouse at the hotel of the same name, Simon Rogan’s now Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s and Jason Atherton’s Typing Room in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel. Other successful pairings between top hotels and big-name chefs include The Dorchester with three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse, The Berkeley with two Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing and the Mandarin Oriental with über chef Heston Blumenthal.
A spokesperson for The Savoy told us:
"Simpson’s heritage is possibly its most prized asset. There is little doubt that this will be one of the most alluring qualities for any investor, along with the grade II listed elements of the building itself. As such, we expect it to continue to be an enormous part of its future."
We’ll have to wait and see what becomes of the site. Will Ramsay try and make a hotel comeback two years after leaving Claridge’s? Could a big-name chef from abroad see this as an opportunity to make their London debut? Or maybe the hotel will want to earn some cool points by becoming home to a popular residency serving small plates and truffle-laced sliders. Maybe whoever takes over will even decide to keep the restaurant’s historic name and run it as a posh carvery — you never know.
See our list of London’s 10 oldest restaurants which you can still try, which includes Simpsons-in-the-Strand — but might not for much longer.