Rules – the Oldest Restaurant in London
Tradition worthy of the silver screen.
Often popular restaurants held in high esteem are described as ‘British establishments’ though this label applies to no where as literally as it does to Rules. The oldest restaurant in London has witnessed countless scandals (political and otherwise) and witnessed over 200 years of change. One feels drenched in the history of the place upon entry: a certain gravitas that only comes with age permeates through the plush red seating and through the woven collection of artwork that fills every nook and cranny of the walls. During this time it has changed ownership only three times: the most interesting of these exchanges was between a relative of the founder, Charles Rule, and the owner of Alhambra in Paris who simply decided to swap restaurants. During WW2 Rules stayed open thanks to an additional reinforced wooden structure and was able to offer a bounty of shot game despite the rationing of the rest of the ingredients. Rules remains a marker of London restaurants that represents traditionalism at its finest.
The décor and the food go hand in hand: upscale, warm, hearty and refined. Most recently featured in the James Bond film Spectre under a dark blue filter, the reality of Rules is of course expectantly vivid. The menu is a showcase of British cuisine with a heavy emphasis on meat and a specialisation in game. Rules supplies its own game from Lartingdon Estate providing a remarkable personal quality that is difficult to find anywhere else. Following from this, Rules truly comes into itself during the colder months when you can revel in an early evening of roast spatchcocked quail, fillet and shoulder of wild hare, crowns of pheasant, and venison curry. The presentation of the food is clear and understated: the crisp golden skin of partridge on a bed of sautéed cabbage and mushrooms does all the talking it needs to without pretension. Their pies and puddings are a world away from any sub-standard school meals yet are kindly reassuring in their convention. Desserts are just as consistently delicious as the rest of the menu, providing family favourites such as sticky toffee pudding and apple crumble with a keen attention to detail and a mastery of spices.
Rules specialises in wines from the Rhone Valley. Shockingly, you can order a magnum bottle for only £99 and enjoy all the benefits of this storage method with your meal (the flavours tend to be slightly more intense and steady): ideal for a duo of hardened, determined wine drinkers (bonus points if you can drive home afterwards) or for a larger table of more responsible adults. Cocktails are worth having before a meal in the upstairs bar. As with most aspects of Rules, this is not without a historical anecdote: the location of the new cocktail bar was the room where Edward VII and his mistress Lillie Langtry used to dine in private. Should you chose to have an affair of your own, I would highly recommend taking your illicit partner to Rules as their food, drink and décor are sure to impress and their staff are very discreet. As a final cherry on top, do keep an eye out for the Margaret Thatcher mural by famous satirical artist John Springs.
Rules is located at 34-35 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LB
Open every day from 12pm-12am