Simanaitis Says

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WE SLUMMED around with Holmes and Watson yesterday at Goldini’s Italian Restaurant. One restaurant we visit today was a favorite of the world’s greatest consulting detective and his chronicler. Another also befitted their class.

Simpson’s Tavern and Divan, prior to 1903. This and following images from In the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, by Michael Harrison, Frederick Fell Publishers, 1960.

Simpson’s started simply enough as a cigar store on The Strand. However, it soon evolved into an eating establishment suitable for Holmes, Watson, and others of their class. In fact, it became their favorite.

In “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,” Watson notes, “I met him by appointment that evening at Simpson’s, where, sitting at a small table in the front window, and looking down at the rushing stream of life on the Strand, he told me something of what had passed.”

Then later in the same adventure: “I did not see Holmes again until the following evening, when we dined once more at our Strand restaurant.”

The Strand, with the church of St. Mary le Strand in view.

At the successful conclusion of “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” Holmes says, “When we have finished at the police-station, I think that something nutritious at Simpson’s would not be out of place.”

Simpson’s in the Strand cuisine today.

The establishment has undergone considerable enhancements, from Simpson’s Cigar Divan, Tavern & Divan, and Simpsons-on-the-Strand, to today’s Simpson’s in the Strand.

The Holborn Restaurant, note the Buffet Entrance on the right.

Another London eatery up to a proper gentleman’s standards would have been The Holborn Restaurant, 129 Kingsway. It was described in an 1880 advertisement as “one of the sights and one of the comforts of London” with “attractions of the chief Parisian establishments with the quiet and order essential to English custom.”

The Holborn Restaurant, c. 1900. Image from The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels (Slipcased Edition) (Vol. 3), edited with notes by Leslie S. Klinger, W.W. Norton, 2006.

In The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Klinger cites a Sherlockian scholar having “a less benign view, describing the restaurant architecturally as ‘Victorian classicism at its worst.’ ” On the other hand, he also cites that the place was a favored establishment of the Prince of Wales. Alas, the Holborn was demolished in 1955.

The Holborn menu, 1884.

I would have had the Consomme with Italian Paste, Whitebait, and Half Roast Chicken and Ham. I’d have passed on an Entree; this, despite a Holmes-era waiter’s comment, “that something must be the matter… for most people at the Holborn eat their dinner steadily through.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017


  1. Michael Rubin
    August 22, 2017

    Where’s the wine list?

  2. Tom Phillips
    August 22, 2017

    Hi Dennis,
    In 1966 or ’67 there was a short story in R&T about the last car after cars had been outlawed. Do you know where I might find it?

  3. Skip
    August 23, 2017

    That menu got me laughing. After one look, my wife would have indignantly stood up from the table and marched straight out. Probably leaving me behind to have a second look….

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This entry was posted on August 22, 2017 by in The Game is Afoot and tagged , , .
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