London’s oldest chophouse, Simpson’s, can be found in the City of London, just off Cornhill, and dates from the mid-18th century.
Thomas Simpson had opened his first ‘Fish Ordinary Restaurant’ in Bell Alley, Billingsgate, in 1723, catering to a clientele made up largely of those working at the Billingsgate (Fish) Market.
When that was demolished, he retired briefly before purchasing the Queen’s Arms in Bird in Hand Court off Cheapside.
Located in Ball Court Alley, Simpson opened the current establishment in 1757 (although the Grade II-listed building itself dates from the late 1600s or possibly early 1700s). It was a gift from his father.
Customs at the restaurant included having meals were presided over a chairman who would ensure lunch started promptly as one (their job also included introducing notable guests and measuring the cheese – a task related to a tradition of placing bets on the height, weight and girth of the cheese).
Seating is arranged in stalls and the layout is apparently consistent with that of the 19th century (although some things, thankfully, have changed – ladies were finally admitted in 1916).
For more, see www.simpsonstavern.co.uk.
PICTURES: Elisa.rolle (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)