Rules are Rules by Matthew Fort Back to listing

Old codger said, yes, it had been a while since he’d eaten at rules and that it would do him nicely as he hadn’t much to do in the afternoon except decide what to have for dinner.

I’d always thought of Rules as something of a codgerish kind of place – London’s oldest restaurant, warren of small rooms with cubicles for privacy, red plush banquette seating, walls decorated very much a la mode de la Reine Victoire, with pictures covering every square inch, nice waiters and waitresses in black and white, and all lit in gentle, genial amber, which so softens the ravages of passing years.

Such places, it seemed to me, are the natural refuge of Codgers, codgers and those en route to codgerdom; and so it was, up to a point. There were plenty of codgers about – young, medium and old – but I couldn’t help noticing a table of three young women sitting opposite our table. They were distinctly uncodgerish in themselves, although they did rattle through a bottle of champagne in pretty short order before moving on to a bottle or so of something red to wash down the game pies they had ordered, and all in a manner of women who will have no trouble fitting into the newly enfranchised, Lottery-grabbing MCC.

As you might expect from a place of this kind, the menu is not given over to the wilder shores of fusion fancy. Nor does it bend a knee to what we are repeatedly told are the dietary norms, in spite of the motto at the bse of the menu: “Eat game for health, free range, low fat.” No, the menu at rules is pretty much as unreconstructed as it comes, with one section given over to feathered and furred game, a second to freshwater and sea fish, and a third to prime Aberdeen Angus beef. Even the first courses and puddings have an old-friend appeal to them – potted shrimps, prawn cocktail, plum crumble with sloe gin and treacle sponge pudding with custard.

perhaps not surprisingly, Rules has no difficulty filling its tables noon and night. Such food never falls from people’s affections, no matter what we are told.

But Codger and I were there for the game, so we passed on the fishy excellences: he plucking for the smoked grouse and smoked pheasant with quince marmalade and i had hare soup with redcurrant jelly, before moving smoothly on to roat teal with bubble and squeak. Grand marnier and crispy orange for him, and breast of grouse, spicy parsnips and carrots with damson-and-blackberry marmalade for me. he finished up with a Welsh rarebit and I with apple-hat suet pudding with a hot syrup cream sauce. (It was a cold day, i say in my defence).