The actions of an apparently capricious landlord has forced London’s oldest surviving chophouse to close.
Simpsons Tavern has been open in its narrow alley location since 1757 and is famous for its unfussy food and much more, its determined retention of 19th-century dining, with communal tables shared by diners. Those age-old tables are from the underwriting room of Lloyds and were soaked in its ink and now the Claret from generations of Brokers, underwriters, and agents.
It also serves a decent breakfast with regularly topped up coffee, which is a boon if you’ve been working overnight in the City.
Like most restaurants, Simpsons was forced to close during the lockdown and says that it was seeking to negotiate a settlement on rent that the landlord was still demanding to be paid in full. A lot of landlords have been fair in treating long-standing tenants hit by the lockdown, and while Simpsons says that they thought the negotiations were progressing, it seems that the landlord may have been stringing them along.
The chophouse believes that the Landlord had been using this period of negotiation to deceive and run the clock out on the government arbitration process and then cynically seize the property, which they have now put up for sale as a vacant building.
In a message sent to their customers, Simpsons said that they “remain shocked and dumbfounded by the callus and unnecessary actions” taken by the landlord, who exercised a clause in their lease to enter the property a couple of weeks ago and evict them.
Simpsons says that their rent has been paid for this quarter to December 2022, and they’ve been taking Christmas bookings from customers and ordering Christmas food.
But now the doors are locked, the lights are dark, the coffee is cold, and the sausages aren’t sizzling.
The eviction notice placed on the windows of the tavern is dated 16th October, and as an indication of how unexpected this is, there’s also a notice from the City of London planning department confirming permission to use the alley space for tables and chairs — dated 11th October, less than a week before they were evicted.
As Simpsons has no income due to the eviction, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to secure the future of the chophouse.
Simpsons Tavern is one of those eternal secrets of old London town that young people starting in the city are introduced to by their bosses, and in turn, they pass on the knowledge to the next cohort of regulars, and generation after generation, are able to keep one of the city’s foodie traditions alive.