Simpson’s Tavern - History and Facts | History Hit

Simpson’s Tavern

Chris Smith

09 Sep 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Ewan Munro

About Simpson’s Tavern

Not to be confused with Simpson’s in the Strand, Simpson’s Tavern is known affectionately as ‘the oldest chophouse in London’. Its traditional British fare dates back to 1757, challenging Rules’ claim to the capital’s oldest restaurant mantle. Situated in a Dickensian courtyard, accessed via a narrow alleyway, Simpson’s Tavern is one of London’s most charming, historic eateries.

History of Simpson’s Tavern

Thomas Simpson had been a restauranteur for 34 years when, in 1757, his father gifted him a site down a central London alley. There, Simpson’s Tavern has proudly remained for over 260 years, with its signature catchphrase ‘Do you want a sausage with that?’ still being repeated daily.

Now based in London’s financial district, Simpson’s Tavern was originally at the heart of the capital’s food trading area at Cornhill – then literally a hill where corn was sold. Similarly, nearby Bread Street, Poultry, Honey Lane, and Milk Street reveal aspects of London’s commercial history.

Simpson’s Tavern is connected through labyrinthine alleys to other iconic establishments. London’s first coffeeshop, The Jamaica Wine House, stands opposite while a short walk takes you to The George and Vulture, a famed chophouse referenced in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.

Many consider Simpson’s Tavern to be the “usual melancholy tavern” Ebenezer Scrooge visits in A Christmas Carol. Dickens spent many an hour in the taverns of Cornhill: the streets, the people inspired the author, Dickens in turn bestowed their legacy. Other eminent former patrons include author William Thackeray and diarist Samuel Pepys.

Simpson’s Tavern today

Having survived the Victorian era street-widening policies, Simpson’s Tavern and its surrounding courtyard remain relatively untouched, at least structurally. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Dickens’ immortalised London of cobbled streets and quaint windowfronts, this is the place for you.

Inside, dark wooden panels still adorn the walls, House of Commons green benches still stretch from connect tables inviting conversation, brass hat stands still punctuate the booths where diners continue to enjoy their hearty, boozy respite from city life.

Getting to Simpson’s Tavern

Simpson’s Tavern is a three-minute walk from Bank and Monument tube stops. The real fun however is finding the right alleyway.

While Simpson’s Tavern gives its address as 38 ½ Cornhill, it’s actually in Ball Court. Stroll down Cornhill, take in the history, and keep your eyes out for the semi-secret path to this hidden gem.

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