The world according to Simo Simpson

Robyn Black

Robyn Black

24 August 2020

Owner of whisky specialist Milroy’s of Soho and its new sister in Spitalfields, Simo Simpson geeks out over meowing dogs, gravitational waves and beige food with Robyn Black

It was a Bunnahabhain 1989 independently bottled single cask that made me fall in love with whisky. I tasted it in Milroy’s the shop, back when I was still a restaurateur, and my palate exploded.

In the whisky world I’m a tattooed hipster. I was unusual when I first started. It was full of wingback wankers back then, all posh boys wearing velvet jackets.

I hate people who say: ‘an Old Fashioned is an Old Fashioned.’ Whisky is one of the most complex drinks on the planet, you can pull so many flavours out of it and so every drink you make with it is different. At the new Spitalfields joint we wanted to do one with Buffalo Trace, so we created the Coconut Butter Fat Washed Old Fashioned to make the most of all these vanilla and coconut notes we were getting from the whiskey.

People down south forget whisky is a ‘working man’s’ drink. Part of why I fell in love with Milroy’s was that it was about a drink for everyone. My bars today are the same – anyone is welcome. I love that a woman can come in there for a drink by herself and she won’t have to worry about it.

I love a good geek out. One of the best conversations I’ve ever had was with two guys from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of them invented the wireless phone charger and the three of us spent about five hours geeking out about gravitational waves and whisky. They missed their flight home in the end.

My mum was the boss when I was growing up. I grew up in a matriarchy and am 100% feminist. My mum hates the saying ‘behind every great man there’s a good woman’. She used to say ‘in front of every great man is a great woman guiding him’.

I buy two pairs of the same Levis every year. To go with them, I buy two two-for-£12 t-shirts from Topman and I wear those with my Red Wing boots. I don’t own a suit.

Nobody calls me Martyn anymore, except my parents. When they come into the bar and ask to see ‘Martyn’ no one knows who they mean.

My dog doesn’t bark but he might meow occasionally. I bought him off some tramps in Soho when he was five months old. I said, ‘You can’t keep a five month old puppy on the streets, he won’t survive’, gave them some cash and took him home. I already had a cat, who basically brought him up.

I eat just about enough vegetables to keep me alive. My food pantone is basically beige. I have zero palate for food, everything tastes really bland. I’m a beans-on-toast, spicy curry kind of a guy.

Simo Simpson's CV

2005 Quits university after a year to start a construction company
2010 Establishes a series of illegal pop-up bars in Shoreditch, the first of which is called Lewis & Co
2012 Opens the Coal Vaults restaurant on Wardour Street, Soho
2014 Buys Milroy’s of Soho
2019 Opens Milroy’s of Spitalfields

Listen to Simpson talk to Imbibe deputy editor Millie Milliken about new make spirits in a special episode of the SipAdvisore by Imbibe podcast.

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