200-year-old Simpson’s in the Strand, once a prized London institution, is auctioning off key artefacts, such as its signature Drakes silver-plated meat-carving trolley, and delicate Wedgwood crockery, as the restaurant moves in a different direction for the future. Such items will be on offer to loyal patrons and interested buyers, who will get the chance to own a piece of this legendary establishment’s history.
Simpson’s, which has been under the direction of the Savoy Hotel since 2005, has unfortunately struggled in the past few years despite a relatively recent refurbishment in 2017. Its doors have been closed since March 2020, with the pandemic having taken a toll on the restaurant, and this popular mainstay seems to be no longer. While a spokesperson for the restaurant enthusiastically points to its ‘new chapter,’ it is uncertain what the future of Simpson’s holds.
Once the favourite haunt of British icons such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and his literary fabrication, Sherlock Holmes), Charles Dickens, and Winston Churchill, Simpson’s has been the place for high-class service and quality British cuisine for decades. Located inside a grand Grade II-listed Savoy building, near bustling Covent Garden, Simpson’s originally opened as a coffee shop and chess club in 1828, not becoming the restaurant that it is now known as until 20 years later.
Simpson’s took pride in serving seasonal British produce and championed fresh, classic flavours that became world-renowned, being one of the first restaurants in the UK to win a Michelin star in 1974. A symbolic piece of its history, which will soon be up for auction, is the silver carving trolleys, which were trundled out to chess players mid-game, to serve roast meat without interrupting their play. These carving trolleys quickly became an eminent Simpson’s tradition, which buyers can now have a piece of, for up to £6,500.
Also up for auction are Simpson’s staples such as 19th-century Waterford crystal chandeliers, grand pianos, fireplaces, mirrors, Robert Angell chairs, bespoke tableware and more, perfect for restaurateurs looking for a new look, diners wanting a conversation piece, or just fans of the institution. These unique pieces showcase the history of the restaurant’s notable style, and suggest a future that looks very different.
Auction Director, Simon Rose, commented on the upcoming sale: ‘This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for buyers to get their hands on some truly unique pieces that were once part of one of London’s most iconic establishments.
'We are expecting strong interest in these beautiful items which have been carefully chosen for their design excellence as well as their historical significance.’
The auction will take place at Simpson’s on both 2 and 3 August 2023, from 10:30am, and exclusive pre-sale viewing will occur on 1 August. Bidders can participate in the auction both in-person and online, and it will be broadcast live for those who want in on the action.
With regards to the future of Simpson’s, a spokesperson stated: ‘While the stories, history, and foundation of Simpson's endure, a select few items will be available for purchase as it enters a new chapter.’ He added: ‘The Savoy eagerly awaits the opportunity to share its exciting plans for the future.’
While we do not yet know what the future of Simpson’s in the Strand will look like, with the intended reopening date announced for 2024, one thing is for sure: the restaurant will certainly not look the same.
Looking for somewhere else to enjoy classic British fare? Check out our round-up of the best Sunday roasts in London.