It’s an impressive room, although the high windows mean little natural light, even during the day. We were shown to our table and given menus very promptly, but before we could read anything, a fat man in chef’s whites leant over and pointed a dirty fingernail at the most expensive item on the menu: Roast rib of Scottish beef (aged 28 days) roast potatoes, Savoy cabbage, Yorkshire pudding & horseradish. It’s one of their signature dishes and the most expensive item of food on the menu.
We were of course very grateful; it’s hard for three women make a menu choice unaided, based solely on what they prefer to eat. Better to be safe and have the most expensive and predictable item, recommended by a man who surely can have only our best interests at heart.
Perhaps you will be shocked to learn that we rebelled and each ordered something entirely different. H started with a Haddock Omelette, which was delicate and delicious, while T and I had another of Simpson’s signature dishes – the Lobster Soup. The soup was also good, although lukewarm, because of the peculiar way it is served. The waiter brings two soup plates to the table, each with a small pile of chopped tomato and parsley in the centre. Then he goes away and comes back with two small copper saucepans, and empties one into each dish. Given that the soup was probably in a larger pan to start with, by the time we get it, it has been decanted three times, and is therefore just warm.
H’s Steak and Kidney Pie arrived in a paper case with a disc of pastry on top. Her plate was placed in front of her, the disc of pastry placed on the side of the plate, and then all the Steak and Kidney spooned onto it. It smelt wonderful, and T and I tasted it – rich and beautifully cooked. T’s Duck Breast and my Panfried Ocean Trout were also very good. As you know, the more expensive the eatery, the less you get for your money. Any decent restaurant includes vegetables with each dish, but places like Simpson’s, charge you extra. It’s a snobbish and iniquitous practice. We had green beans, creamed spinach and mashed potato, all very ordinary and all £4.25 each.
The wine list went up to over £3,000, but we asked for the house red and got a respectable Bordeaux Chateau Martouret for £24.75. The service was oppressive: our wine constantly topped up and our satisfaction checked over and over again. The fat man trundled back and forth with his big silver dome on a trolley, sometimes with the beef uncovered and trembling as he went by. H confirmed something I hoped I had only imagined – he smelled of wee. The room was less than half full and the staff simply didn’t have enough to do.
The desserts were OK, but at over £8 each they should have been. In fact all the food was good, but the fussy and obtrusive service and the outrageous prices mean I’d never consider going again. The bill came to £156.75, but with 12.5% “discretionary” service charge, and a pound each to check our coats, it came in at just under £180. How on earth does this place stay in business?
DM Rejected April 2012