Simpsons in the Strand – Savoy Hotel London

More Twee Sir? 

First impressions: On entering I was looked up and down. This was done conspicuously by the girl who seated us, who was probably checking I complied with their dress code (jacket and tie are not required but it “is the preferred attire”); entering the dining room felt like entering an old people’s home, although we did have an early dinner reservation for 6.30pm.

IMG_0393b_beef trolley
Beef carving trolley

Originally known as The Grand Cigar Divan this venue opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house. The divans (or booths) are the original seats where the chess players sat. Then in 1848, tableside roast meats were introduced and the carvery trolley remains a tradition today. So, if you’re a fan of traditional carveries, this may be the restaurant for you.

While it’s a beautiful old room, it feels in need of some love and attention. Looking around at the clientele, I suspect there are those who’ve been coming for years (many of the foodie review websites indicate as much with the likes of “I’ve been coming here every week for over fifty years…” not that that’s a bad thing, but London is packed with a wide variety of restaurants, and trying them out can bring endless excitement) and wealthy tourists – possibly fans of Downton Abbey wanting to see where some of Downton’s scenes were set.

 

IMG_0387

Chess player booths

S and I chose from the set menu (“fixed price bill of fare“) – two courses @ £26.50 with an £8.75 supplement if choosing the beef carvery, which I did, so £35.25.

For starters, S had balsamic glazed beetroot with baked goats cheese and roast walnuts (normally £14.00) and I had fish cake with wilted spinach, poached egg, chive butter sauce (normally £16.00).

IMG_0388

Starter: Balsamic glazed beetroot with baked goats cheese and roast walnuts 

IMG_0410

Starter: Fish cake with wilted spinach, poached egg, chive butter sauce 

While the salad was nice enough, the fish cake with a perfectly poached runny egg and chive butter sauce was gorgeous.

For main course, S ordered barley and mushroom with roast artichoke and cauliflower (normally £18.50 a la carte) which tasted as appealing as it looks (not very – the ingredients didn’t really go together).

IMG_0395

Main course: Barley and mushroom with roast artichoke and cauliflower

Carvery meats are marketed as being the speciality here (you can even enquire about master carver classes @ £185.00 a class) so I opted for the house speciality. The roast rib of Scottish beef (aged 28 days) was wheeled  over to the table and two slices were carved in front of me – a pleasant experience with a personal touch. I opted for pink cuts which were really tasty (if a little gristly) served with roast potatoes, Savoy cabbage, Yorkshire pudding (good but not amazing) and horseradish. It was a large portion, and was nice without being at all exciting.

IMG_0394b_beef carvery

Carvery trolley wheeled to the table

IMG_0396

Main course: roast rib of Scottish beef with roast potatoes, cabbage + Yorkshire pudding with a glass of Vega Rioja @ £8.50 a glass

Stepping into this restaurant feels like stepping into a bygone era. And the live entertainment contributed to that.

 

IMG_0399b_pianist at Simpsons

Live pianist in The Grand Cigar Divan

 

I was glad I visited the loos after our meal as the toilets were disgusting. They were old and shabby and falling apart (literally – broken  taps and one of the loos was blocked with water overflowing). They clearly hadn’t been checked for many hours as there were no clean hand towels left to dry hands on (they’d all been used and were in the laundry bin).

The verdict: In general, the atmosphere was twee and stuffy although some of the servers were a bit more relaxed and helpful than others. While I chose the speciality of beef carved off the trolley with Yorkshire puddings (which was nice enough) there was nothing special or exciting about it. I’m glad I’ve been to this historic venue but I won’t go again and I wouldn’t recommend it. Not when there are other historic dining venues that also marry in a bit of excitement, charm or wonder into the dining experience like Kettners or Plum + Spilt Milk in the Great Northern Hotel.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 2.5 / 5
– Type: British
– Address: 100 Strand, London
– Postcode: WC2R 0EW
– Nearest station: Covent Garden, Charing Cross, Embankment
– Website + menus: Simpsons in the Strand website
– Photos on flickr: Simpsons in the Strand photos
– Location: Simpsons in the Strand map

Simpson's in the Strand - Savoy Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

The Mistley Thorn Essex – best Sunday roasts

Having spent a relaxing weekend away in Suffolk, we decided to stop off somewhere for a leisurely Sunday dinner, and break up our drive back to London.

A quick google and The Guardian’s 2013 Best Sunday Lunches lists four pubs/restaurants for East England, one being The Crown & Castle in Orford, Suffolk, where we happened to go on Saturday night (it was excellent – hopefully a good indication that the others would be of a similarly high standard).

The Mistley Thorn near Manningtree in Essex is one of the listings: their “seafood specials at this old coaching house include the North Sea’s finest scallops, squid and local beer-battered haddock with chips”.

Decision made. We were going to Mistley, a small village on the coast (by the River Stour ajoining the North Sea) with much history (a Roman road to Colchester, C.17th witchfinders, a Cold War control room that became a museum before finally closing in 2002, etc).


IMG_1809
Inside The Mistley Thorn – bar area


It was mid-afternoon, we hadn’t booked. And this place was full – an indication of its popularity. A table for two was made available and we were told there’d be a short wait (by the accommodating, friendly staff) before they could take our order.

And so we enjoyed a leisurely beer (a bottled Goose Island IPA for me, and half an Adnams Spindrift on tap for K) while admiring the simple wood panelled decor that gives the restaurant the feel of a converted seaside hut.

We homed in on the set menu – two courses for £15.95. And both started with the chef’s soup of the day (leek and potato) with croutons (packed with flavours and helped warm us up on this cold wintry day).


IMG_1814
Leek + potato soup – soup of the day with croutons


For the main course Sunday roast, we both had roast Suffolk red poll rump of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables, with a red wine gravy and fresh creamed horseradish.

Red Poll cattle are native to East Anglia (a cross between Norfolk Red beef cattle and Suffolk Dun dairy cattle, developed in the 19th century) and are naturally polled (without horns).

This red poll beef was really special – a great cut of lean beef, cooked perfectly (medium), pink in the middle and moist (no chewiness or gristle). Undoubtedly the best roast beef I’ve had in a Sunday roast dinner. The Yorkshire puddings were just right too – crisp on the outside, and soft in the middle.


IMG_1815
Roast beef + Yorkshire pudding


IMG_1811
Specials menu – sample menu from Sunday 29 March 2015

 

IMG_1818
The Mistley Thorn Rooms + Restaurant – Mistley, Essex

 

The verdict: Excellent food and great service in homely, comfy surroundings. Well worth a visit, even if it’s out of your way.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: British, Sunday roasts
~ Address: High St, Mistley, near Manningtree, Essex
~ Postcode: CO11 1HE
~ Tel: 01206 392821
~ Nearest station: Mistley
~ Website + menus: The Mistley Thorn website
~ Photos on flickr: images of The Mistley Thorn
~ Location: The Mistley Thorn map


Mistley Thorn on Urbanspoon

Beef rendang recipe – LardButty Homemade

Ideal for slow cooking on a winter’s day

Download spicy beef rendang recipe here


IMG_0973b_beef rendang_slow cooker
Beef rendang ingredients go into the slow cooker


INGREDIENTS – for the paste
(makes enough for 3 batches of paste: use 1 now; put 2 in the freezer)
• 16 dried chillies, soaked in hot water (or 3 fresh birds eye + a few dried)
• 6 cm galangal
• 4 cm ginger
• 4 stalks lemongrass
• 8 cm fresh turmeric root (or powder)
• 20 shallots, peeled
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled


INGREDIENTS – for the curry
• 500g rump steaks
• 3 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
• 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
• Dark brown sugar, to taste
• Salt
• Cream coconut (200g or a 400ml can)
• Cardomon to taste
• Vegetables of your choice
• Toasted almond flakes to sprinkle on top
• Tamarind sauce to drizzle on top


METHOD

1. Curry paste: Blend all the ingredients (chillies, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, shallots/onions and garlic) into a smooth paste and divide into batches (one to use now + put two batches of paste in the freezer).

2. Curry: Cut the beef into chunks. Put in a bowl and stir in one portion of paste. Leave in fridge overnight to marinade.

3. Slow cooker method: Next morning, lightly fry off the beef and paste in a pan, until the beef chunks turn brown and are sealed. Take off the heat and stir in cream coconut.

4. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, leeks (veg of your choice) chunks in bottom of slow cooker, then pour the beef and mixed paste and cream coconut over the top. Leave to slow cook for up to 10 hours.

5. Optional: transfer the entire cooked dish from slow cooker into a wok and leave simmering, to reduce, for half an hour or so. Serve with rice, add a splash of tamarind sauce + sprinkle with toasted almond flakes.

IMG_0985b_beef rendang
Winter warming slow cooked beef rendang


Download spicy beef rendang recipe here


RELATED LINKS
~ Photos on flickr Beef rendang pics


LardButty homemade:
~ Boterkoek and fruit buckle recipes
~ Cheesey jalapeno melts
~ Onion bhajis recipe
~ Peanut butter + honey bars recipe
~ Scones recipe
~ Squid curry recipe
~ Tod mun pla (Thai fishcakes) recipe
~ Turkish delight cheesecake recipe