Rules was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London; that, coupled with the fact it appeared on Downton Abbey last year, put it on my hit-list of places to try. Yes, that’s right, I’m a Downton Abbey fan; and not just me, there’s a little group of us – Downton tourists I suppose you might call us! The date was set months ago, and this weekend we went on a day trip to Covent Garden.
As we approached Rules, we were transported back in time as a Doorman held the door open for us. We walked through the restaurant where walls are filled with an eclectic collection of pictures and prints to the best table in the house. We could watch the comings and the goings, and study the experienced and attentive waiting staff hard at work.
Rules serves traditional British food, specialising in classic game, oysters, pies and puddings. It even has its own estate – Lartington – where some of the game, fish and meat served in the restaurant, is sourced.
Between us we ordered pies, suet puddings, salmon and for myself, Pan Roasted Breast of Guinea Fowl served with shallot puree, peas, mushrooms and smoked bacon. Mum had the Chargrilled Salmon with crispy courgettes, chilli & mint dressing and although I don’t like salmon, her plate certainly looked fabulous. As for the suet puddings and pies, well, what can I say, they had rave reviews all round, especially from Dad who ordered an oyster on top too! They were generous in size, so I managed to get a forkful of suet pastry and steak just as Dad was started to struggle. I was also lucky enough to sit next to my Aunty who ordered the chips to go with her suet pudding and she slipped one onto my plate. What I learned from our visit, is the middle is a good place to sit, everyone’s plate is within reaching distance!
As usual, we could have all stopped there, suitably stuffed. But we soldiered on and ordered puddings and coffees. I couldn’t decide between the Sticky Toffee Pudding and the Warm Chocolate Fondant so I asked the waiter for his recommendation. Without hesitation he sang the praises of the latter, claiming it was the best dish on the menu. He was right! It was served with honeycomb ice cream and short of licking the plate, I scraped that plate clean the best I could. All etiquette flew out the window. Dad had the Chilled Coconut Rice Pudding and he didn’t share a morsel of it, so I can only guess that he enjoyed his too!
I was so sure before our visit I would then go on to have cheese and biscuits and then perhaps a coffee with truffles, but my tummy has shrunk of late, and I just couldn’t manage any more. Luckily for me, Mum had ordered truffles with her coffee and only managed two of them so I did the ladylike thing and got a paper napkin, wrapped them up, and popped them in my handbag for the journey home. Even though they got a little crushed in my bag, I’ll never forget those truffles. I ate them at a red light – thank goodness – because I had to shut my eyes, they were so dreamy!
We all had the most perfect dining experience at Rules and the service was exceptional, something you don’t find very often anymore. So if being a Downton tourist means I get to have day trips such as this, that’s just fine by me!