Winston Churchill is one of the greatest leaders in world history. He was Great Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II, and led the allies to victory; an impressive feat. What makes Churchill’s accomplishments even more impressive is the amount of food and alcohol that he would consume during his lifetime. Some historians estimate that Churchill smoked in excess of 200,000 cigars and drank around 42,000 bottles of champagne. Whether these were full size or the special one pint bottles created for him by Pol Roger, I could not tell you. That is a lot of bubbles. Churchill’s impressive presence was seen around many top London bars and restaurants, so we thought it would be fun to give you a few ideas of places in London where you could eat and drink like the former Prime Minister.
The Caxton Bar, The St Ermin's Hotel
The Caxton Bar is a bar filled with history. Winston Churchill is said to be a frequent customer of the bar. He occasionally stayed in the St. Ermin’s, the Special Operations Executive, also known as Churchill’s secret army, was devised and set up in this bar and the Secret Service Bureau took over an entire floor in the hotel and used it as its headquarters during the war. More importantly than that, it serves a delicious dirty martini - just as Churchill would have liked - sans vermouth. He allegedly said “Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely.”
The Churchill Arms
While the former Prime Minister has never been to this Kensington pub it is not far from his final home so we feel we can include it. This Churchill themed pub may be the most visually appealing of all London pubs. The exterior of the building is completely covered in flowers. Did you know, the Churchill Arms is one of the very few pubs to win at the Chelsea Flower Show? Inside the pub, the Churchill Arms differs from other pubs in that it offers a full Thai menu. I wonder what Churchill would have ordered?
Donovan Bar at Brown's Hotel
The Donovan Bar was Winston Churchill’s favourite bar in London. He was a frequent guest here and would order a Plymouth gin martini while sitting by the roaring fire. It was perfectly placed between the House of Commons and his Bolton Street home but he still came back to visit after he moved. It was also a favourite with the Roosevelts, both uncle and nephew, who stayed here before winning their respective presidential elections and consider it a lucky place to stay. I agree with them.
The Savoy was one of Churchill’s favourite restaurants; he would routinely bring his cabinet to the Savoy for lunch. The Savoy grill has a traditional English and French menu, and if you book, ask to be seated at table number four, also known as ‘Churchill’s table’. The Savoy was the hotel where Churchill and Lord Birkenhead founded The Other Club in 1911, a political dining society, which still meets in the Savoy to this day.
Simpson’s in the Strand
Simpson’s in the Strand is a restaurant owned by the Savoy, but operates separately. It was one of Churchill’s favourite London restaurants. Simpson’s at one time was the home of chess in London. It not only hosted matches between several different coffee houses in the 19th century but was famous for hosting the biggest names in chess right up until the start of the 20th century. If you get a chance to visit, I recommend the full Sunday roast. I can imagine Churchill thoroughly enjoying a few slices of roast beef with a glass or two of claret in between cigars.
It is currently temporarily closed due to a restoration, and we are awaiting its imminent reopening.
Peer’s Dining Room
Did you know that you can eat lunch or dinner in the House of Lords? The Peer’s Dining Room at the House of Lords is located inside the Palace of Westminster, and is only open to the public when Parliament is in recess. So, if you fancy dining like a lord, look out for the next opening dates. If you are lucky, you can sometimes eat in the House of Commons dining room - Churchill would approve. He turned down a dukedom so that he could remain in the House of Commons. He was eventually knighted in 1953.
As a tour guide and a lover of London, I will be writing a series of interesting stories about London; tales I have heard, places I have visited, tasty food I have eaten and delicious drinks I have enjoyed. Watch out for this every week or so.