Stewed Cheese. That’s one of the most popular dishes at the Simpson Tavern in the City. One guy even had 26 servings, and that was after his roast dinner.
Stewed Cheese is actually like a welsh rarebit except that the bread is toasted and not fried. It’s a little ramekin of melted stilton on top of piece of plain white toast. When it arrives at your table, you are meant to mix in a bit of Lea and Perrins and a bit of pepper if you fancy and then you smear this all over the toast.
Our waitress Patricia had to demonstrate this for us since we were stewed cheese virgins. Oh my, it’s the kind of thing that can generate a cult following but so far is a bit of a hidden secret in forgotten back alleys of The City.
Simpsons Tavern is the oldest Chop House in The City. They have ‘s been serving pints here since 1757. The wooden booths and wood panelled dining rooms witnessed the birth of the insurance industry. The pub used to be a meeting place where the shipping times were distributed daily and the financials deals were struck over a beer.
The movers and shakers of the day would congregate in the labyrinth of alleys here. Either at Simpsons, the Jampot (Jamaica Wine House which was also the first coffee house in London)or the George and Vulture (named after the vulture that used to be perched at the front door). Dickens once stayed there. The Jampot is one of the oldest pubs in the Square Mile and was a favourite of Samuel Pepys.
The back alleys behind Cornhilll was probably a lot different in those days. Today, Ball Court is a narrow alley, lined by modern fluorescent lit office blocks. The DiDickensianurved windows of the Simpsons Tavern look almost out of place.
Several times a day, group of tourists on walking tours stop in the little space in front of the tavern.
The dining rooms are like they used to be, wooden booths with communal seating to encourage busienss and networking. You don’t have to worry about your hat as there is a hat rack on top of each bench. We slided into our booth which we shared with 4 City boys. It was a snug fit.
The Dickensian society meets regularly here as it’s might have been Mr Ebeneezer Scrooge’s “melancholy tavern”.
The food on offer is no nonsense English food. Potted shrimps, daily grills (which are more like very generous fry ups), stewed oxtail, liver and bacon and a daily roast. The little change to the menu is the addition of fish and chips and roast beef daily. This is to cater to the increasing American clientele.
It is not fine dining but it is quaint and honest cooking. The potted shrimp and was served with a little lettuce leaf garnish.
Our roast beef was served with a choice of vegetables. Big generous portions, light Yorkshire puddings and lashings of gravy. Our food is served efficiently with a side of British wit. I kept looking at the grills our neighbours were having and had a serious case of food envy. Must go back for breakfast.
Besides the choice of beers, the wine list is 20th Century, not 18th. You will find a selection that will please the City boys here.
I was looking forward to pudding. The blackboard listed 2 choices, Sticky Toffee and Apple Crumble. We were told that their sticky toffee is special, made with dates and lighter than most. And it was. Quite a large portion served with ice cream. Gorgeous.
You could, of course, have the stewed cheese instead of dessert. Don’t forget a glass of port would be the fitting end to a meal here.
The long time locals favour the Grill Room on the ground floor. The newbies prefer the first floor. Maybe it’s because of the club like feel or it might be because of the familiar service of their longest serving staff who has been there for over 50 years.
The women’s loo is on the top floor as an afterthought as women were not allowed in until 1916.
The front bar is a popular place for the local City workers at lunchtime. It seems it is also sometimes the haunt of a red headed chap, usually propped up at the bar. But then only shown himself to some of the staff. Who know which century when he was a real customer.
The Simpsons Tavern is one of those old English pubs that has preserved its traditions and most of its menu and it is not melancholic as Mr Scooge’s day. It is a real experience to dine there and it does feel like you’ve been transported a few centuries back in time.
38 1/2 Cornhill, (Actually it’s in Ball Court)
London EC3V 9DR
Easiest to find via Cornhill, look for the old sign overhead.
EatCookExplore was a guest of Simpson’s Tavern.