The quiet charms of bar and Harry alike have Stirling longing for a return to The Knights Bar at Simpson on the Strand…
100 Strand. A neat, classic address, befitting of a neat, classic bar. The Knights Bar shares the address with Simpson’s in the Strand, and offers the opportunity to enjoy the high standards found in the ground floor restaurant in a relaxed quieter environment of an upstairs bar. A suave, refreshing reception greets patrons, and Harry Bereton (head bar-person) leads the charge with a fine selection of bespoke cocktails, exemplary service and one bar snack in particular that stopped me in my tracks. More on that shortly.
The current cocktail menu delves full on into the delights of the british garden, allotment and orchard. This produces drinks which can be fresh, rich or deep on the pallet and able to compliment mood and weather alike. Perhaps you’re basking in some late summer sun, in which case the take your pick from either the ‘Elder Flower’ with gin, elderflower, grapefruit oils and English sparkling wine, or the ‘Cucumber’ blending cognac, cucumber, grape and anise into a drink sure to freshen your day.
Maybe you’re looking for something to warm your cockles as the evening draws in? Look no further than Harry’s personal favourite, made by the talented Italian stallion, Andrea Di Chiara: The Plum. An elegant aperitif that champions the glut of British Plums we have had this year because of the hot weather. It consists of Plum infused gin, Cocchi Americano, Cocchi Rosa, Cynar, Umeshu and a touch of soda. Harry loves it because it reminds him of the plum tree he had outside of his house growing up in Newcastle.
The Knight’s Bar team take time to craft in-house as many ingredients as they can. I tasted ‘batch #4 triple sec’ which was made with a blend of Mandarin peel and Seville oranges. Batch #3 was Blood orange, and my preferred version. There is a small reserve of this hidden away, but keep that between me and you.
Where ingredients can’t be made in-house, bespoke, small batch producers are sought. Harry tells me “The gins are made for us by two different Suppliers. The first; Simpsons London Dry is made by Portobello Road Distillery. A classic London Dry Style which means it is a one shot distillation. The notable Botanicals are Amalfi Lemon, Mace and roasted Globe artichoke along with all the classic London Dry botanicals such as Coriander, Orris root & Juniper. Our signature serve is garnished with crisp Juniper berries and a lemon peel. However the savoury notes of this gin from the Globe artichoke also lend it very well to be used in a Red Snapper (bloody Mary with Gin).
Order me a hangover immediately so I can try this drink for myself. The second gin is Simpsons Old Tom. Harry continues “Made for us by the lovely Sarah at Black Down Distillery. The gin is made in a compound style which means lots of single botanical distillations that are then blended together to create the final product. The notable botanicals are black Cardamom, star anise, sweet and bitter orange peel and it is sweetened with Birch sap that is harvested once a year on site at the distillery (this is also what characterizes the gin as an Old Tom). We garnish our signature serve with Grapefruit and Rosemary to announce the birch and soft citrus characteristics of the gin.”
I think I’ll work up that hangover with a couple of G’n’T’s… Meanwhile, back at the Knights Bar bar I’m compiling a list. Not my Christmas list, it’s a ‘bit’ early for that. It’s the ‘top bar snacks in London’ list. A hard list to get onto, my standards are ridiculously high. Entry onto that list should be considered a Michelin Star all of its own. Here’s one that made it on. Suffice to say there’s a new entry, and it’s a guaranteed top three.
Presented with a hint of reverence & ceremony then set before us with a good dash of pride is a golden cloud containing all that is holy to a classic roast lunch. Beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, gravy. The smell conjures images of rich meats dripping with sauce, hearty veg & a glass of something red and delicious and moreish. A deep anticipation grows. My eyes tell me wonderful things await, but how does the ‘Yorky Sandwich’, the ‘top of the food chain’ bar snack at the Knights Bar tastes?
Oh. My. God. This is utterly brilliant. The inventor of this delight should be raised high and marched down the Strand to cheers of a delighted crowd. Crispy yorkshire pudding on the outside, softer in the middle. The balance across the other ingredients if excellent, the flavours hit every mark. Each mouthful has a slightly different mix and gives a new experience each time. Go and have one. With a cocktail, a beer, or a glass of wine. You won’t be disappointed. Other bar snacks are available including a hearty, English charcuterie board. The curing processes are inspired from all around Europe. There are Italian, French and Spanish techniques that are used on finest British produce, the duck being a particular winner for me.
I’m feeling replete. Warmed from food, drink & the charms of Harry we leave The Knights’ Bar, also nodding a knowing & polite farewell to Simpsons as we pass by, and walk slowly down the Strand. I shall return. For the style of the bar, for the cocktails, for Harry’s modest charm – and most certainly for the Yorky Sandwich.
Find out more about The Knights’ Bar here.