Rules 333

35 Maiden Lane , London, WC2E 7LB

10 reviews

62 British Covent Garden

  • Rules Hare
  • Rules Banquettes

SquareMeal Review of Rules

As patriotic as a rousing chorus of Rule, Britannia!, this splendidly antiquated institution flies the flag for British dishes and ingredients with its proudly traditional menu. As London's oldest restaurant (opened by Thomas Rule in 1798), it would no doubt still be familiar to former patrons such as Charles Dickens, who looks down over the plush, panelled dining room from walls crowded with old sketches and paintings. Quality is consistent across the board, with confident renditions of staples such as potted shrimps, steak and kidney pie or golden syrup steamed sponge with custard. Game from the restaurant’s Lartington Estate in Yorkshire is a real draw in autumn, when dishes such as braised pheasant with lentils or roast grouse with game chips, bread sauce and redcurrant jelly make a perfect match for the savoury Rhône reds on the wine list. Expect to be treated like royalty from the moment you're greeted by the top-hatted doorman.

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6.6

Food & Drink: 6.0

Service: 5.4

Atmosphere: 5.9

Value: 4.9

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 3.0

Continental Diner platinum reviewer 01 October 2012

Rules is not retro, much more, it is as it has always been. There a few winks to modernity which can be found both in the déco and on the menu, but mainly, what we have got here is London's oldest surviving still operating restaurant. Yes it out-dates even the concept of ‘hotel dining’ and probably the idea of a ‘hotel’ itself in today's sense of the word. However, no, it is not a tourist trap. Very, very far from it. The food has something very rare about it. Whilr tasty it is somehow dignified and… well… I guest the phrase is ‘have stood the test of time’. It is great that now there is a very young-at-heart bar upstairs which serves one of meanest and best bloody marys in town. If you haven't tried it do – the 1970s restaurants with photos of famous people on the walls will never be the same again.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 07 November 2011

Amongst her many inane witterings, Kate Moss once said that she lives by the motto that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. She has obviously never tasted grouse. I am sure that the Daily Heil would argue that the Croydon Cretin’s utterance has led to an increase in teenage anorexia, rioting in her home town in protest and foreigners taking our jobs purely out of spite, rather than us Brits being too lazy to plaster a wall. Frankly I don’t care: Ms. Moss, who’s sole addition to the sum of human knowledge is to look good topless, will no doubt be a young, beautiful and (aided by the cocaine and fags she has ingested) very skinny corpse. I, on the other hand, intend to die old, fat and curmudgeonly, having partaken of as much fine food and quality wine as I can afford. Grouse is top of my list, grouse season is upon us and, despite other reservations about Rules, they sure know how to cook the succulent young birds. The splendid thing about Rules is that it has withstood the ravages of food fashion through the centuries. Pretenders and pretentions have come and gone, but Rules remains true to its British roots: all steak and kidney pud and game. The room itself is a splendidly ornate affair, oft seen in Parisian brasseries, but rarely seen in London. Lots of stained glass and lots of pictures of hunting parties, displayed en masse, like the smaller rooms at the Summer Exhibition, accompany antlers. Lots and lots of antlers. Service is of the old fashioned sort; stiff rather than rude, formal rather than brusque, but certainly a lot friendlier than I remember, and others seem to have had. The wine list too is traditional: on the red side there is little of that New World stuff, just good old-fashioned Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone. The white is more interesting, with Austria, Greece and some out of the way French regions, mingling with the Chablis and Grand Cru Burgundy. I often find this with what I’d term Red Wine Restaurants. You know, ones where you want meat rather than fish. They will then go and put some interestingly tempting whites on the list, just to throw you. Undeterred by this onslaught of white wines, it was grouse that I came for and grouse that I had. Now I know my grouse. And the Rules’ ones are pretty fine fellows, done the traditional way: roast with bread sauce (I can do without the redcurrant jelly. I have never seen the attraction of fruit with meat, other than perhaps Meat Fruit at Dinner by Heston) and, perhaps a nod to modernism, some parsnip shavings rather than game chips (posh crisps to you and me). For me, the bread sauce needs to be a bit thicker: it shouldn’t coat the back of a spoon, it should hold it upright. This is but a small trifle of a complaint, mind you, when the juicily beast, perfectly pink breasted, is the main show, brought to the table in its own copper platter, bits of thyme protruding from its derrière, a crisp bit of fried bread with the beast’s innards pated on top. I shouldn’t forget, in my grouse musings, to mention both the starter and the desert, and indeed my companion’s pie. My Desert Island Discs’ luxury (along with a record player, which it always seems odd that nobody is offered; if I have six records, at least let me have something to play them on) would be a meal starting with potted prawn, moving through roast grouse and ending with stilton. They are all here at Rules. The prawn is good, not the best, lacking a little in punch, missing a bit of nutmeg. The stilton, however, is magnificent: when it says stilton, that is what you get. A whole stilton and a spoon. And should you not fancy game, the pies are a joy. Juicy, packed with beef, kidneys and lots of gravy, with a crunchy/chewy crust. No mere jus here; no thick, highly flavoursome and most definitely gravy. Rules isn’t, and I’d guess never will be, the most hip of places to go: if you want hip in Maiden Lane, go to Da Polpo opposite. If you want good, British food, in convivial surroundings, it is hard to beat and, with the addition of the bar upstairs, a great, club like place to sip a cocktail before.

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 2.0

Natalie B. bronze reviewer 10 February 2011

I went to Rules for the name, Oldest Restaurant in London, as I love London, I really wanted to try a little visit Only to be really dispointed it was dark I didnt feel very welcome, I was crushed in the corner with my 6'4 boyfriend! the food was average, and EXPENSIVE I am sorry to say I wouldnt rush back

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 1.0

Chris M. 30 January 2011

Having dined at Rules 3 or 4 times over the last two years or so, and thoroughly enjoying delicious food, we were looking forward to another visit with out of town visitors. Rules always seemed the perfect spot for this due to it's longevity and reputation, despite paying GBP 380.00 for five our last time there. Last week's experience was miserable (25 January 2011). Many of the ‘traditional’ and fun menu items have disappeared. Sausages and mash, fish and chips, etc. These were a happy accompaniment to the game dishes and rib steak for two – a personal favorite. This evening we four all ordered beef – a rump steak, a ribeye and the rib steak for two. No one enjoyed the meal. The meat was tough and poorly cooked. The veg was hours old and very nearly inedible. Even the dessert selection has taken a hit with very ordinary, e.g. apple pie, offerings and many of the traditional steamed puddings now missing. Our server was hesitant, ill-informed and frequently missing. Previous experiences at Rules have been made even better with experienced English wait staff who clearly enjoyed their job. When we queried the waitress, we were told that there “is a new chef and he didn't want those things on the menu.” Now what shall I do? I have 3 different groups of visitors to London this spring and had counted on including Rules – as typically British with a flair – as a destination for all. Simpson's fell away some years ago. Is there anywhere in London where a superior quality ‘old British’ kind of meal can be found? Suggestions appreciated.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Christopher J. platinum reviewer 10 January 2011

For a restaurant to be consistently popular in London for two decades is some achievement, for over two centuries quite astounding. I find it difficult to describe Rules without becoming tangled in clichés but do simply say this. Should you be British, aspiring to become more British or interested in what British Food actually is, take three courses at Rules and a decent Claret and you will leave singing Rule Britannia.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 2.0

Paul E. 08 August 2010

The idea of Rules gets me frothing at the mouth. An institution of British tradition, well sourced British ingredients, particularly the meats, and well heeled serving staff that know a thing or two about service and traditional food. I've eaten here a couple of times recently for business lunches and I have been disappointed both times. The service is slow, inattentive and on occasion annoying. My spicy tomato juice was so heavily spiced it was brown in colour and acidic, perhaps I thought a bit of over enthusiastic seasoning until the waiter reassuringly informed me that it was in fact I who was wrong and that the recipe was over 200 years old. He later came back with a replacement admitting that my first had been an anomaly! The food was good but took a long time to come and it was almost impossible to get the attention of one of the many serving staff to enquire of its whereabouts. Tradition is all well and good, but the year is 2010 and I for one feel the need for a blend of modern standards when it comes to service. I suspect things will have to change if the management intend to get another 200 years of loyal local patronage – if this is indeed who Rules is even trying to appeal to.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Emyr T. silver reviewer 06 May 2010

Widely regarded as London’s oldest restaurant, Rules still thrives in the heart of Covent Garden, thankfully not succumbing to the tourist trap. The dining room is dark and cosy, with a gentlemen’s club feel to it, but the food is the real attraction, with its focus on seasonal ingredients, with game being a notable highlight.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Eddie bronze reviewer 19 March 2010

The only place in town for a proper Sunday roast lunch. The beef was perfection and the horse raddish hit the right spot. Yes it's expensive, however we arrived at 12.30 on Sunday and left at 5.30pm – 5 hours of good food, good wine and superb quality. A perfect Sunday

Food & Drink: 0.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 0.0

Michela P. 24 January 2010

Went to the restaurant for the first time for a dinner with my boyfriend on Thursday and was very very disappointed. We got deer terrine and fried goat cheese as starters and venison ossobuco and grilled sirloin steak as main courses (recommended by the waiter). Food was awful, extremely low quality (meat was hard and bad tasting, sauces very bland and and again bad tasting) very poor presentation – definitely not what you expect from the oldest restaurant in London as food was similar to Tesco precooked one . Also, the room was particularly cold and we could not manage to get it warmer even asking to the waiter to do something about it. Service was less the average. Overall a really bad experience – upsetting and disappointing to say the very least. Absolutely not worth the money they charge you. Awful. Never again.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 1.0

Mike H. 03 March 2009

Went for a pre theatre meal. Arrived at 6pm and our order, which was a main of Steak Diane and another of Lamb, no starters, was taken almost straight away. There was us, a few others and lots and lots of empty tables. After 35 minutes nothing to eat, no bread (table next to us got some) and sat with a soft drink and a glass of Pinot Noir. Finally asked the waiter about the food, who grandly infomed me that a (pan fried) steak diane, as my wife had ordered it medium/ well took 35 minutes to cook. Yes, if you have to go halfway across town to buy the meat, but otherwise complete tosh. How do they cope when it's half full? The food when it arrived was OK, not exceptional, but well cooked and presented. Now it was nearly 7pm and we had to move on, the waiter then seemed disappointed we only had time for coffee… whose fault was that? Cost : 1x cola; 1 glass Pinot noir; 1 steak diane; 1 lamb; 1 mixed leaf salad; 1 tomato and shallot salad; 1 espressso; 1 cappucino = £79.00. Overall a nicely presented place but as a dining experience, completely underwhelmed – never going back, there are many more that offer much better. I can understand why it appeals to tourists, but if you are going to spend money, go to somewhere where a fine dinging experience won't cost you much more, but will leave you totally satisfied – try The Square, Sketch, or even top floor Smiths of Smithfield, not fine dining but great atomsphere and very good food. If you have to stick to the group Sheekey's or even the Ivy are better, but London's got so much to offer – dig a bit harder!

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