"from the dummy's chair" [MAZA]
[Editor's note: "From the Dummy's Chair" is a regular column on the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, written by Steven Doyle, BSI ("The 'Western Morning News'"), who is the author of the Edgar-nominated Sherlock Holmes for Dummies. Because of the limitations in the print world, he wasn't able to completely fit everything he wanted into the book. This column serves as a real-time continuation of that labor of love. Steve is also half the team behind Wessex Press.]
Few trifles in the Sherlockian canon escape examination and investigation. Every story is sifted for insight into the character and personality of the master Detective — even his taste in restaurants. It is generally believed that favorite restaurant is Simpson's-in-the-Strand, one of London's oldest and best-known traditional English restaurants.
Dining Out with the Detective
Located in the Strand, an historic street in London, Simpson's began as a smoking room and coffee house, but eventually became famous for its traditional English food, especially its roast beef. Holmes wasn't the only famous personality to enjoyed a meal at Simpson's. The restaurant was frequented by many historic characters, including Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli and William Ewart Gladstone.
For years I have imagined the Great Detective and the Good Doctor retiring to Simpson's upon the conclusion of yet another successful case, but the restaurant was actually only mentioned in two stories; "The Dying Detective" and "The Illustrious Client." What are the implications of this? Should Simpson's-in-the-Strand still be considered Holmes's favorite restaurant by virtue of it being mentioned twice? Or are a mere two mentions not enough to earn that distinction? After all, I know that sometimes it takes two visits to determine that a restaurant's quality...one to have a bad meal, and a second to have another bad meal. In this case two visits wouldn't make such a place my favorite.
Consider that both of Holmes's visits to Simpson's followed cases in which Holmes was physically incapacitated. In "The Dying Detective" he craved Simpson’s following a three day fast. In "The Illustrious Client" he had nearly had his brains beaten in and had just finished a period of recuperation and bed-rest. The evidence seems to indicate that Holmes perceived Simpson’s not as a place to go with Watson to discuss the loose ends of a case over a casual celebratory dinner, but rather as the destination for a much-needed restorative meal.
Despite our romantic sentiments about Simpson's being his favorite restaurant, this must be true. Holmes, whose body was a mere appendix to his brain, who at times could not spare energy for digestion lest it detract from his mental processes, didn't commonly dine for the mere pleasure of the experience. What the implications of this revelation are for the quality of Mrs. Hudson's cooking, which was passed over even after a three day fast, I will leave to someone else!
Image credit: Josh Friedman Luxury Travel (Flickr)