An homage to Simpsons on its 25th anniversary

With its walls hung with menus by legendary chefs at legendary restaurants, Simpsons set out its stall in those early days.

This is a serious place, its avuncular chef-patron Andreas Antona was saying.

A place that is part of the great tradition of gastronomy.

And it was. And still is 25 years later as it celebrates its quarter-century anniversary and its 19th year of holding a Michelin star.

Simpsons in Kenilworth was the first restaurant  reviewed – a one-off for the Birmingham Post before I became the Birmingham Mail’s food critic.

Simpsons restaurant
A sketch of Simpsons restaurant in Kenilworth. It was an unassuming frontage.

It was also my first ever Michelin-starred meal, opening my eyes to dining far removed from that I had hitherto experienced and, for that, it has my undying gratitude.

I recall food that was muscular and bold but with finesse and guile.

I vaguely remember my review over-used a boxing metaphor to describe the dishes I ate.

It was to Simpsons in Kenilworth that I returned soon after to gather a recipe for a duck dish for a column I was then writing for the Mail.

A young, gauche chef called Glynn Purnell patiently taught me how to cook the perfect duck breast before we ate it was sharp green apples and peppercorns.

Glynn Purnell
Glynn Purnell. Picture by Sam Bagnall

Glynn is one of many culinary luminaries who’ve emerged from the Simpsons kitchens.

Other protéges include Adam Bennett, Andy Waters, Glynn Purnell, Jerry Toth, Marcus Eaves, Matt Cheal and Nathan Eades.

Steadfast in the kitchen has been Andreas’s right-hand man Luke Tipping, who has been a crucial figure in maintaining the restaurant’s high standards and developing the talents of so many young chefs.

Luke Tipping
Simpsons Luke Tipping.

I ate several times at Simpsons in Kenilworth and have visited many more times since it upped sticks and moved to Edgbaston in 2005.

For reviews. For special occasions. For the sheer delight of eating exquisite food served beautifully by a skilled front-of-house team.

I’ve watched its cuisine develop over the years, never aping the latest trends but constantly seeking from them new inspiration.

I remember eating precisely-cooked red mullet with a red wine sauce given savoury oomph by star anise.

I still grow weak at the knees as I recall a pot of toasted pearl barley, cracked wheat and quinoa that came with a pork, octopus and cauliflower combo.

Simpsons
The new-look Simpsons.

The simple – and dated – elegance of its decor was replaced in 2015 with a bright new contemporary look.

But the quality of food, beverage and service remained.

This is a place that has never failed to deliver whenever I’ve visited.

And it’s a place that was central to Birmingham’s development as a great place to eat and drink.

For, as well as producing great chefs, it also taught a generation of Brummies how to eat well and created confidence in the industry that there was a discerning market here in this fantastic city.

All of which is reason to rejoice a quarter-century of Simpsons and to look forward to many more years of excellence.

How Simpsons will celebrate

To celebrate, Simpsons will be hosting a series of events throughout 2018 which will include guest chef dinners with former Simpsons chefs, revisiting the most popular dishes from the past 25 years.

There’ll also be special offers, collaborations and masterclasses in Simpsons recently opened Eureka Kitchen.

Andres Antona
Andreas Antona, Birmingham’s culinary godfather.

Andreas said: “25 years ago, Alison and I set out to create a family-run business that provided the best dining experience in the Midlands.

“Our ethos was to source the best quality ingredients, cook these with care and attention and serve in a friendly atmosphere. These values still hold true for us 25 years on and we are proud to have been and to remain a launchpad for many illustrious careers.”

For more information, go to https://www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk