From the Archives
One of London’s best known restaurant characters, carver Frank walker, has finally parted company with Rules in Maiden Lane after 20 years. Rules famous for nearly two centuries, has come in for a lot of criticism of late. The 1975 Good Food Guide rather unkindly describes its waiters as being “out of sorts with life”. Frank for his own part was renowned for his own special brand of personal service. It is said that a baron of beef on his trolley which should have given 30 goodly portions only produced eight.
James Sherwood’s Discriminating Guide said of the vegetables at Rules: “They tasted as if preserved since 1798”
Rules Restaurant that monument to Jugged hare, Grouse pie and Edwardian sized helpings is using a novel means of communication. Orders for meals are stuffed into used shotgun cartridge cases. These are then dropped down a copper pipe to the kitchen. When the brass cartridge caps rattle against a tin tray at the bottom, the noise alerts the chef.
1977 Good Food Guide…Four other well known London restaurants have also come in for criticism. They are The Savoy Hotel restaurant, Simpsons, Lockets and Rules. At lockets, the guinea-fowl in burgundy sauce “tasted more of curry”. At Rules, service “is sometimes brusque, sometimes flippant.” At Simpsons, you get “amazing sloppy waiting” and “seaside landlady’s vegetables” At the Savoy “hardly anyone yet likes the new Grill” Take no notice that the Good Food Guide says about the service at Rules says Harry Noyes “It was good enough for Mrs Wallis Simpson and Vivien Leigh, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and John Wayne are among those who have supped here without complaint in the 43 years that I have been at Rules”
1968…news that Fortune magazine has listed Rules as one of the 15 that “are among the best restaurants in the world” was greeted with unbounded joy at Rules. Fortune’s list after lots of grand-style eating around the world, its surveyors put Rules in that class above the likes of The Savoy grill, Wheelers, A l’ecu de France, tiberios and The White Tower.
Drew Smith For The Guardian 1984…”It has been a number of years since Rules was listed in the Good Food Guide, though it has often figured as a benchmark; other restaurants have to be better than Rules to be included. But the restaurants which survive the decades rarely do so on the strength of the food alone, because talent is elusive, but they do so on the atmosphere, the decor and service and the character. And if anyone compiled a list of the best British restaurants of the century, then Rules would probably figure prominently.”
Damien McCrystals Restaurant Review: I used to think the note on the menu: “We do not recommend the drinking of excess alcohol with oysters,” was just a witty joke from Rules’ management. Naturally, one must always have excess alcohol when eating oysters. One of the chief delights of oysters is that, when you are in the mood for them, you are also in the mood for over indulgence of all sorts.
For me, and most of its longer-standing customers, Rules has always been a place for celebrating the things of which modern, sterile lefties disapprove, food which has been killed for sport, much of it hung until it is smelly, large quantities of red wine and port; and last, but certainly not least, cigars.
I have been a fan for 15 years. Indeed, I have arranged large, private events there on several occasions, including dinners of the White City All Stars, my cricket club, which is a mark of high respect.
The menu is bewitching. Most game birds, including snipe and teal, in season, wild roe deer and then there’s hare and much more. “We specialise in classic game cookery,” emblazoned across the top of the menu, is no idle boast. Rules has the most enviable, comprehensive game suppliers of any restaurant I know in Britain.
And then they had to go and ruin it. Last year a smoking ban was introduced, instantly alienating a large chunk of customers. Suddenly, that note on the menu about oysters did not seem like so much of a joke but more of an early warning – missed by all of us – that dark forces were at work: a harbinger against hard-bingers.
So I stopped going as did most of my friends. John Carlisle, of the Tobacco manufacturers Association, was so incensed that he paid a special visit to distribute cigars to all the customers in protest, but he has not been back to Rules since.
However, curious to see how the place was shaping up since effectively barring many of the nicest people I know, I visited Rules again a couple of weeks ago with three friends – the Chefs Marco Pierre White, Charlie Rushton and Richard Phillips. The food has not changed since my previous visit. It never offered the most sophisticated of cooking, it must be said, being closer to the quality in a country house than a top restaurant. Good, solid food but made from exciting ingredients.
Adam Nicolson Rural Rides: Rules, the delicious restaurant in Covent Garden that is usually full of fat red men in suits drinking claret, makes eating wild animals something of a cult. There is a little brochure that sits on each of the tables to tell you why this is a good idea. Its basic sermon is this: wild animals are good for you because they spend most of their lives in the gym, migrating here and there, running this way and that, lean, not fatty like your lazy old farm slobs that hang about most of the time with nothing better to do than get fed. Wild animals are more admirable than that, always on the go, never taking time for a proper lunch, lean achievers, career creatures who make Elle Macpherson look like a pig that has junked out on pork scratchings.
“Wild salmon will have swum the atlantic,” says the brochure exhaustingly, “and so will have firm muscles, less fat and a varied natural diet.” No spare tyre on a wild salmon; of course you should eat them. All nature is a work-out, with the best possible organic niblets as a reward. Wild duck are ‘truly free-range birds,” sea trout eat only the finest pink shrimps, grouse taste of heather and snipe of bog or, as this brochure puts it, “sweetly rotting wild mushrooms.”
These animals are what they eat, you are what you eat too and so if you eat them, in a sort of apostolic succession, you will become an elk. Magic. There is no need to think of anything as disruptive as actually taking exercise yourself. You can stay in Rules, you can go red in the face, you can tuck into a capercaillie on fried bread, larded with strips of woodcock freshly braised in goose fat, and you will still be as slinky as a well-hung fox. It’s a religious event, the communion for the nineties: eat me, I am your lunch.
I did, and it was delicious too: potted shrimps, a tiny little teal with excellent muscle-tone, scarcely cooked, oozing blood as though it were gravy, and half a bottle of claret. The other half, the other teal and the other potted shrimps were eaten by Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who was paying.
David Fingleton The Spectator`: Traditional eating is best done in Warsaw’s beautiful Old City, lovingly restored since the war. Restaurant Bazyliszek occupies handsome premises on the main square. On the ground floor is a cheerful bar and the restaurant is spaciously arranged on the first floor with decor reminiscent of Rules in London.
David Brown The Daily Telegraph: Champagne corks popped in London yesterday as farmers and butchers celebrated Britain’s most expensive Beef on the bone.
A london restaurant paid a record £9,611 – £14 a pound – for the carcasse of a crossbred Limousin heifer at the Royal Smithfield Show at Earls Court. This was almost double the 1990 record of £5,880 – £7 a pound – when the beef trade was enjoying more prosperous times.
Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden said it wanted to be the first establishment to legally dish up Beef on the bone when the government lifts its restrictions. Rules bought the carcass to celebrate the restaurant’s 200th anniversary.
Giles Coren The Times; I had a roasted rump of belted galloway from paul Coppen’s farm here the other day, as I do whenever they tell me it’s in. If they’ve run out by the time you go, unlucky. Have something else. The pies are good.
Patrick French The Telegraph: Shortly before Monty Python’s Flying Circus started its first road tour in 1973, the six Pythons had an elaborate lunch at Rules, London’s Oldest Restaurant. Their publisher had placed silly menus on the table, and sketch-related memorabilia including sugar Gumbies and a chocolate replica of the giant hedgehog, Spiny Norma.
‘Here we were, being given and enormous and expensive free meal, in honour of us earning large amounts of money,’ Michael Palin wrote in his diary that night, ‘I can’t help feeling that Python is better employed creating than celebrating.’
Thirty three years later, I am having lunch with Michael Palin at Rules, and he is still creating. Around us sit florid men in pinstripe suits and a few pneumatic women. Dressed in his customary blue shirt, his eyes crinkling. Palin looks good for 63. he is an uneasy heartthrob, though – when groupies started to proposition him in the early days of Python, he found it ‘altogether more disturbing.’
His humour is instinctive, part of how he reacts to the world. ‘I’ll have the wild halibut,’ he says to the waitress. ‘A tame halibut would be no use,’ and he goes off on a Pythonic riff about a pet halibut.
Rose Jacobs The Financial Times: It may come as a surprise to Londoners, but the vast majority of Americans have never heard of that most important development in British cuisine since curry, the gastropub. While Britain has kept up fairly well with its former colony’s culinary crazes, from corn and potatoes back then, to super-size meals and Krispy Kreme doughnuts now, even cosmopolitan New Yorkers still think Brits today choose between fish and chips and chicken masala when it comes to dining out.
This means that while US visitoras are pleasantly surprised by the organic fennel-and-pear salads and grilled sea bass with wasabi laced crushed potatoes at the gastropubs circling my hackney home, they often dont feel it is quite what they came here for. Where is the Steak and Kidney Pie? What about the Yorkshire pudding, the offal, the glass of sherry before dinner?
I decided to evade these questions by taking my most recent American guest to Rules, the oldest restaurant in London and a paragon of British dining. The decor fulfills a henry james view of England, the walls crammed with old prints, paintings and animal antlers. The menu, meanwhile, meets foreigners’ expectations and the food surpasses them. The steak, kidney and oyster pudding best demonstrated that we were far from US shores, but it was my squab pigeon – beautifully prepared and ruby-red inside – that was the star of the show. (A plate of award winning British cheeses came a close second for both its quality and English authenticity.)
Most interestingly of all was that the restaurant created in 1798 jumped the gun on all those gastropubs when it comes to conscientious food sourcing. The game is from Rules’ Teesside Estate, and the origin of the seafood (from shores off the British isles) is also carefully delienated. Americans don’t count food miles much more than they do calories, but that doesn’t mean their hosts won’t feel a jolt of virtue somewhere between the Stilton and the Treacle Pudding.
Adrain Shaw The Daily Mirror: Gordon Brown had a cosy dinner with Kylie Minogue at a top restaurant. Friends said the pop queen was ‘really knocked out” at meeting the Chancellor. They dined with stars including Hollywood actor Alan Rickman, actor and author Stephen Fry and comedian Ronnie Anconna. The event at Rules Restaurant was organised by novelist Kathy Lette who said; “Gordon was very sociable and charming. he absolutely charmed everybody. Gordon and Kylie got on really well. They spent quite a bit of time talking to each other.”
Food Therapy 3 Day Residential Workshops on Rules’ own Estate in the High Pennines with Dr Daya. Following the 3 single day practical workshops on using food as therapy last year, it was clear that there was too much to cover all in the space of one day. In addition, one’s taste buds after a while got saturated and stomachs over stretched with tasting too many different foods over such a short period of time!
So what we plan for this year is to hold a similar training over 3 days as a residential programme to take the stress of travelling out of the equation, give more time to assimilate new information, discuss and integrate different aspects of health, practice and relax.
To make it even more enjoyable, we are most fortunate to be holding these workshops in the spectacular setting of Rules’ beautiful estate in the North of England. Here, in their three acre walled garden, they grow fruit and vegetables and have their own hens, sheep, pigs, beef and game. So close to the heart of nature, you will get the opportunity of tasting food again how it tasted years ago. You will get back the sense of enjoyment that comes from eating produce that is local, unadulterated, hand picked and hand crafted. You will be able to find food in its natural state, which for a lot of people will be an eye opener, take it back to the house and create a feast. This experience will most certainly bring back the joy of eating.
The programme will also include a visit to the local farmers who farm in the old ways with natural, herb rich hay meadows with no artificial fertilisers and animals that have no need of antibiotics as they get all the protection they need from the rich and varied grasslands. There are also wonderful ancient woodlands to walk in to aid digestion as well as picnics and barbecues by the river.
By the end of the course, you will certainly feel more nourished and relaxed in body and mind. This special and unique programme is designed to:
Help you find balance in different and important aspects of food and eating habits
Help you plan a menu that is varied enough, simple, practical and also most importantly, tasty and fun to do.
Give you an opportunity to try out some new ideas in food preparation, with supervision, to give you the self-confidence to do this in your own setting at home.
Includes teaching and discussions on other aspects of health, putting food in perspective. This will include a better understanding of the gut, the endocrine and immune system, the liver and above all mental relaxation.
From C.S to JPM. Aux Gouts Du Monde….Je suis chargee des reportages pour l’emission Aux Gouts Du Monde, qui est programmee chaque semaine de septembre a decembre sur TV5 Monde. Cette mission montre les savoir-faire et talents gastronomiques a travers le monde et nous voudrions une petite lecon de cuisine typiquement anglaise (avec trois ou quatre plats ou desserts traditionnels). Nous avons choisi votre etablissement parce que le decor est aussi tres typiquement anglais. Nous aimerons que quelqu’un nous explique, en francais, aux cotes du chef et/ou des serveurs, les ingredients, la tradition, de quand elles datent, etc.
Ce serait un plaisir d’en profiter pour dire quelques mots de l’histoire du Rules depuis sa creation. Il faut compter environ une heure et demie de tournage, et il n’y a pas besoin de filmer les clients que nous laisserons ainsi en paix. Le jour qui vous conviendra sera le notre, et notre journaliste, Axel, est a Londres jusqu’a samedie. Il parle bien anglais et peut egalment entrer en contact avec vous si vous etes d’accord sur le principe, il se debrouillera mieux que moi, I’m sorry!
The Daily Telegraph 9 June 2010: Every five years, the graduates and fellows of Oxford University are invited to elect a Professor of Poetry. Previous incumbents have been W.H.Auden and Robert Graves. It is a prestigious post…Roger Lewis when asked what poetry might be came up with a catalogue….M.F.K Fisher’s description of the restaurant-buffet at the Gare de Lyon. She was an American who lived in France before the War and in The Art of Eating she said, “When I write about hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth, and the love of it..and then warmth and richness and reality of hunger satisfied….The colour of Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes….The tilt of Garbo’s face in profile….Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, on a winter afternoon, half empty…..etc
1881 Will of Benjamin Rule (Personal Estate £7,245) 2 July. The Will of Benjamin Rule formerly of Covent Garden in the County of Middlesex but late of Theydon Garnon in the County of Essex.