If you had found yourself passing through the ancient alleyways off Cornhill within the City of London on the eve' 13th November you may have stumbled upon a small Georgian microcosm. Set within the historic surroundings of Simpson's Tavern and under flickering candlelight the inaugural dinner of the Georgian Dining Academy was under way….
City of London guides and champions of the 18th Century, Miss Tina Baxter and Miss Kitty Pridden are your energetic and entertaining hosts for the evening. They have created a dining event themed and inspired by Georgian London. Bespoke traditional menus have been devised with the head chef of Simpson's Tavern to offer a delicious and hearty three course meal. The large, wood panelled booths are a fantastic way for likeminded guests and lovers of history to mingle and share this unique experience. Inspired by the entertainments of the 18th Century they have imagined an event that draws elements of the past into an evening of fine fare, merriment and music.
Established in 1757, Simpson's Tavern has a firm stake in the history of the City of London. Situated within the same complex of alleyways as the notorious George & Vulture with its links to the Hell Fire Club, and a mere stone's throw from the birth of the London Stock Exchange at Jonathan's Coffee House. Even the grandfather of the coffee shop Pasque Rosee set up London's first coffee house there in 1652. So it was an obvious choice when seeking out a venue. Simpson's Tavern is usually only open until the afternoon so it is a rare sight to see the place candle-lit and alive during the evening.
As dusk descended and the guests arrived they were greeted by the hosts with a warm welcome and a glass of gin punch served from a large punch bowl, all to the lively tunes from a Fiddler in the corner of the bar. To suit this Georgian themed evening the gin was provided by Berry Bros & Rudd, whose premises on St James's Street have been selling wines and spirits to the London public since 1698.
Some of the guests are dressed like the hosts, in full Georgian dress while others have taken the opportunity to be simply inspired by the 18th Century fashions. Dressing up is always encouraged but never mandatory.
As the guests took their places at their candlelit tables they found a curious collection of items waiting for them at their tables, and as the evening progressed their purposes became clear. Guests were invited to be involved in the tales told by the hosts which created a great immersive atmosphere and with the throw of a dice piles of chocolate coins could be won or lost between courses. The hosts regaled their audience with topical talks on historic foods, traditions and 18th Century characters that would have graced Simpson's Tavern during Its infant years. With a background as City of London guides a colourful and exciting picture of Georgian London is brought to life through this series of brief and enlightening talks between courses.
The menu had been inspired by dishes popular within the Georgian period; a delicately cooked salmon dish, a rich and hearty beef stew, a juicy apple pie and the evening finished with an ample serving of stilton washed down with a glass of port. Regular guests to the Georgian Dining Academy will find the menu changes throughout the seasons, always taking inspiration from the 18th Century.
The relaxed and jovial atmosphere encouraged guests to add their own flare to the evening, and not just with their outfits. Renditions of 18th Century drinking songs could be heard emanating from the Tavern after the wine had been flowing, which under candle-light created a scene that Hogarth may well have recognised!
The Georgian Dining Academy was set up by City of London guides Tina Baxter and Kitty Pridden as an immersive, historical dining experience. After the success and feedback from the first dinner plans are now underway for the next, taking place on Thursday 26th February, tickets are available via the link below.
Twitter; @GeorgianDining @18thCent_Kitty @MissBTakesAWalk
Written content of this post copyright © Kitty Pridden, 2015
Photographs © Andrea Liu and Kitty Pridden, 2015