Tuesday, 22 September 2009


A week or 2 ago I joined a few fellow bloggers for an evening at Rules, London's oldest restaurant. Working just around the corner from Maiden Lane I have often wandered by yet never visited. The exterior I feel somewhat belies the magnificence within. I thought it looked a bit stuffy, like a lunch meeting for suits kind of a venue.

The beauty of it is that it can be that, but it is so much more too. I genuinely think there is something for everyone at Rules. Head Chef Richard Sawyer's broad menu offers such a diversity of dishes and the restaurant is steeped in history. There is a real special occasion feel to the place, a beautiful dining room and recently refurbished bar area upstairs where we began and rounded off the evening.

I was not aware that my fellow diners that night had already decided they would all have grouse, on Simon's (Dos Hermanos) recommendation. I wanted to try something different once I learned this but the euphoria all round upon devouring the little birds (they really were devoured too, see Chris' write up if you don't believe me) made me feel I too ought to have sampled this, owing to it being peak season and all. Yet the quality of the dishes I had were similarly outstanding, I'm determined to return very soon, if not for the grouse then for the Sunday roast or one of the many pies on the menu.

Rules have their own estate (Lartington Hall Park) upon which they rear their own game, or rather Phillip and Dona Morgan do. You can read all about this on the website, but it is clear that there are many established relationships between the people at Rules, combining to provide the diner with a memorable experience and, in my opinion, a result as close to culinary perfection as I have ever sampled.

My starter that night was the dressed Dorset crab with lemon mayonnaise. For me this was a marvel, an amazingly light yet hearty dish, exquisite in both taste and presentation, served on a bed of ice in the shell was a deliciously rich and meaty selection of white crab meat, lifted by the citrus hit, with a layer of finely diced egg yolk flanked beautifully by layers of delicious piped dark meat.

For main course I had the special of fillet of lamb, sliced on a bed of asparagus, mushrooms and baby onions. The meat was buttery in texture, full of flavour and the accompanying vegetables were crunchy and a fine accompaniment to the meat. We ate in silence as my companions were rendered speechless by the quality of the game. The scent of the grouse was intoxicating.

We sampled some good wine at the table but where drinks are concerned at Rules, it's all about the talents on display upstairs. We met at the bar where mixologist Brian Silva entertained us and we struggled to tear ourselves away from him to take a seat and enjoy the food. We skipped dessert in order to return and enjoy some more of his great tales and incredible cocktails and after dinner aperitifs. Having briefly left to work at The Connaught, Silva returned to Rules setting up the new look bar here which really is a must see.

I sampled a heady mix of expertly combined alcohol, I started off with a Rules Sling, Brian prides himself on using each and every bottle he has behind the bar and watching for around an hour I can vouch for that. Returning later on in the evening we had some excellent Colton Basset stilton paired with Pedro Ximines sherry, recommended by Brian. Without doubt the finest sherry I have ever tasted.

In all, this was one of the best meals I've ever had, I shall return to Rules on a regular basis, it's not cheap, I spent around £80 but we had an abundance of food and drink and when it's of this quality and the evening is as enjoyable as this, it's what restaurant dining is all about. The knowledge and love of the people behind Rules is infectious and I certainly feel the need to spread the word.

35 Maiden Lane

Rules on Urbanspoon


Dan said...

Boo, so jealous, would love to try Rules, excellent write up. The food looks amazing.

Gourmet Chick said...

Sounds great boo - I have never had grouse so keen to try it - seems to be flavour of the month at the moment.

Ben said...

Nice write-up. You should send it to Brian. I'm sorry I forgot what your starter was in my write-up. I think my oysters were in the way!

Laissez Fare said...

So glad you had such a great meal there.

When I first moved to London from New York about 10 years ago (scary!), I took my parents to eat at Rules on their first trip to visit me. Unfortunately, it sticks out in my memory as one of the worst dining experiences I've ever had: every dish was appallingly bad and it certainly didn't come cheap.

I was embarrassed to have taken my very foodie parents there, and bollocked my friend who had recommended it.

I am glad to see that some things do change, and might consider giving them another try a decade on.

I have heard good things from others who have dined there recently too.

Great review.

All the best,


Helen said...

Well it's nice to see some other dishes apart from the grouse. That crab in particular looks really rather good.

Boo said...

Dan - definitely try Rules, the bar is particularly special.

GC - I did try some of Chris' grouse and it was amazing, the smell was seriously powerful stuff. Definitely worth heading to Rules while it's still on the specials menu.

Ben - no probs, I forgot that ypu had oysters too actually! I've read your review, it's hard to convey just how brilliant an evening it was.

LF - That's such a shame, sounds like a completely different experience to ours. It's worth giving them another go though, clearly they've upped their game in recent years.

Helen - the crab was amazing, I love dressed crab, this is the best I've had. Star of the evening had to be the grouse though.

Planethalder said...

You've convinced me to go. Fantastic blog by the way.

Alex said...

I love it there! So jealous as I haven't been for a couple of years...

Boo said...

Planthalder - Yay! Do pay them a visit, Brian is such a talent.

Alex - there an enormous difference by all accounts, I'm glad you love it too, it's in my top 10 now

The Ginger Gourmand said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time! And not a grouse in sight...

I have it on my list for cocktails for sure. Soon.