Tonight I am going to Rules restaurant in the West End to celebrate a family birthday.
Rules is the oldest restaurant in London and is on Maiden Lane in the busy tourist area that is Covent Garden, not a part of London I enjoy unless I have a very good reason for being there. I have visited the restaurant a number of times in recent years and have never been disappointed. As soon as you step in, the bustling world of tourists and street entertainers outside is immediately forgotten.
The ambience is created by innumerable items of memorabilia which cover the walls and pay testament to the rich history of the restaurant. Those who accuse Rules of being old fashioned are absolutely right and if that is not what you are after then I wouldn’t recommend it. Old-fashioned is part of the charm.
The place is owned by John Mayhew, who also owns Lartington estate near Darlington in the High Pennines. This gives the restaurant an enviably direct link to the source of many of its meat and game, which it is quick to exploit. And, in part, it is John’s belief in this visible link between field and table which gives Rules that little bit extra.
Michael Winner recently visited Rules for his infamous Sunday Times restaurant review slot and I would have to accuse him of deliberately missing the point. While he could not find fault with the food, he did only order a cottage pie – surely he could have been more adventurous in a restaurant dedicated to game?
The whole point of Rules is that it should let you drift back a few generations to the time when the magnificent steam trains would transport the first grouse of the season from the moors straight to London on the day they had been shot. Perhaps nostalgia masks the truth of days gone by but there is surely nothing wrong in revelling in it from time to time.
Anyway, as you can probably tell I’m looking forward to it and will give a full report next week.