I cannot speak for Boris Johnson’s politics, for he can barely speak for them himself, but his taste in restaurants in excellent. According to people that follow his romantic entanglements – for I follow none but my own – he dined in Rules of Covent Garden on Valentine’s Day with a woman whose name escapes me. But she looked like that healthy sort of upper-class – or fake upper class – girl who could, at a witch’s nod, be turned into a set of bowls; that is, athletic, and always laughing at something – but most probably nothing.
Ah, Rules! My own best restaurant! The supper club of my unmarried years – but I have never been hip – in which I sat with a female friend, sucking cow bones until all the meat was gone. It lives in its dingy – but pleasingly dingy – lane, which is very close to the river. It is always glowing, like the orphan hero of an Edwardian novel’s fantasy restaurant, designed to be watched from the outside: lush reds, bright lights, sweet meats, pies, puddings and custards. It is not the restaurant for a slender man, or woman; our fattest recent king, Edward VII, put the weight on here, dining in an upstairs room – now a bar – with Lillie Langtry.
I was last in Rules the night that Donald Trump ate Blenheim Palace. I mean ate at Blenheim Palace. He had smoked salmon and roast beef apparently. We had exactly the same at Rules, and I would stake my living as a restaurant critic that it was better done at Rules; never was meat so soft, damp and tasty; and the puddings! Golden syrup pudding with custard or cream – who makes that now, except my husband? It is unfashionable, and it is wondrous.
I was there at Christmas too – it was this magazine’s Christmas review – when the decorations, which are not subtle, make it yet brighter and more fantastical, a restaurant from myth. Is that why Johnson likes it, myth to myth? Does he wish to summon the ghost of Winston Churchill for a belching competition, or just advice? I wrote then, without knowing that Rules serves as Johnson’s seduction meat net, that it looks like a restaurant that voted for Brexit. There is a painting of Margaret Thatcher as Britannia on the wall and, such is the confidence in her expression, it is in no way obscene. It is glorious, as Rules is. I wrote that in Rules, as in all great restaurants, you feel that nothing bad can happen. The wind of history blows through you, and all is well. Perhaps Johnson thinks that too. Or perhaps he was just hungry.