Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.
After enjoying our White Ladies and conversation, we were led back out through the front door of the Savoy Hotel and to the left along the Strand. I was told that the place we would be eating, actually pre-dated the Savoy Hotel.
Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is one of London’s most historic landmark restaurants and has been offering classic British dishes to its delighted patrons for over 170 years.
Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house – The Grand Cigar Divan – Simpson’s soon became known as the “home of chess”, attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests’ tables first came into being, a practice Simpson’s still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson’s of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous guests include Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
“Sherlock Holmes”? I know Arthur Conan Doyle was published in The Strand Magazine, but I’m pretty sure Sherlock, Mycroft, Moriarty, and the Hound of the Baskervilles were, uh, fictional. Or is that the Half-Asperger’s talking? Speaking of, Steven Moffat and the BBC are on a real tear with their Sherlock and Dr Who “reboots”. I can’t wait to come home from work Saturday night and watch the Dr Who season premiere, too bad we only get like 4 episodes of Sherlock a year, but at least Benedict Cumberbatch is in “Parade’s End”… Er, I digress.
Right, so they took us to the downstairs private dining room, where we were seated for a fine menu of British delights.
This is another picture of Christian from the Savoy, along with a few other bartenders I met on the tour.
There was a lot of cutlery, what is this Downton Abbey? Some confusion regarding bread plates and Wine glasses. Hey, we’re bartenders, not waiters or butlers.
After Erik Lorincz’ White Lady in the American Bar, we were joined by the senior representative of the Savoy Head Barmen, Victor Gower, who made the Sidecar Cocktail for the cocktail shaker time capsule.
The Savoy Head Barmen have so far been:
Frank Wells, 1893 to 1902.
Ada “Coley” Coleman, 1903 to 1924.
Harry Craddock, 1925 to 1939.
Eddie Clark, 1939 to 1942.
Reginald “Johnnie” Johnson, 1942 to 1954.
Joe Gilmore, 1954 to 1975.
Harry “Vic” Viccars, 1975 to 1981
Victor Gower, 1981 to 1985.
Peter Dorelli, 1985 to 2003.
Salim Khoury, 2003 to 2010.
Erik Lorincz, 2010 to present
Some amusing stories about Harry Craddock, the man, were relayed by Anistatia. He generally declined to drink with customers, but would sometimes have a drink with Journalist friends before he started work, or after. One particular bar assistant was said to be quoted, “He was a bear to deal with if I didn’t get three GnTs into him before the night started.”
Anyway, if you think the Savoy Cocktail Book has a lot of recipes, it is claimed Harry had an index box filled with recipes, and added the 2000th recipe card to the box in 1928. At the time, as a marketing promotion, the Hotel asked him to compile his recipes into a single book, and the Savoy Cocktail Book was published in 1930. It is also rumored that the recipe card index box still exists, perhaps in the hands of one of the head bartenders.
After the publication of the book, Harry Craddock became something of a household name, “The Dean of Cocktail Shakers,” or, “Mr Manhattan”, appearing in liquor advertisements, and frequently quoted in Newspaper and magazine articles. He used this celebrity to organize, with the head bartender of the Cafe Royal WJ Tarling, the UK Bartender’s Guild.
However, after 19 years, he left the Savoy Hotel in February of 1939, and took the head barman job at the Dorchester Hotel.
After coffee and dessert, we head out to the front courtyard of the Savoy Hotel, to be picked up by our little fleet of vintage cabs and swept off to another undisclosed destination.