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Friday, November 16, 2012

Simpson's in the Strand

"When we have finished at the police-station, I think that something nutritious at Simpson's would not be out of place." -- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Dying Detective"

If I lived in London and I had just starved myself to appear to be dying as part of a plot to catch a killer, I can't think of any better place to eat than Simpson's in the Strand.

This is the restaurant I always think of in connection with Holmes and Watson. And yet it's only mentioned here and in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," both rather late stories. Why they didn't eat there more often is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

We dined there last month on our visit to London and in found it delightful. Opened in 1828, Simpson's is perhaps best known for having waiters carve beef at the table and for having been the chess center of the city in the days when Howard Staunton and other greats played there in mid-19th century. The booth we ate in dated back to that era.

The bar upstairs, added in 1999, is called Knight's in honor of the restaurant's chess legacy. The horse-head symbol of the knight in the standard chess set called the Staunton design is used as the restaurant's logo on coffee cups, etc.

With all this grand legacy, the restaurant has not forgotten a certain consulting detective who used to eat there. The website notes: "Famous guests include Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone."

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