Saturday 3 July 2010

Rules, and other places to take your parents

So, back in May when we still thought 23 degrees was "hot", Mama and Papa Diva came to visit me in London. Having moved to the other side of the world, forcing them to fly wedged in a plane for 24 hours all the way from Australia to visit me now and then, the least I could do was show them around some decent restaurants. I couldn't have them accidentally wandering into Bella Italia.  In my excitement, I also baked them a lemon drizzle cake. But that's another story.

In between cups of tea at home and polite samplings of my attempts to proximate Mama Diva's cooking prowess, we made day trips to Oxford and Brighton (where our random food findings left a bit to be desired, but the change of scenery was very nice). However, London was where I really hit my straps.

Breakfast at The Wolseley was a hit (and certainly better than semi-burnt toast at my place overlooking Prowlers). Pre-theatre dinner at The Ivy was as terrific as always and "Holding the Man" at Trafalgar Studios is hilarious (and tear fest inducing - which is also quite embarrassing when you're in one of the front rows and still sobbing mercilessly in the faces of the cast as they take their bows) - although possibly not one to see with your parents unless they're as cool as mine and you all get a bit intoxicated first.

We toddled up the road to Dean Street Townhouse one night, and although I prefer the noisier, clattering part around the bar, Mama and Papa Diva seemed to appreciate the quieter room on the side where we were seated in big, comfy chairs and more spacious, decadent surrounds. Perhaps a nice relief from the poky and noisy "character" of Chez Greedy.

But I think the most parent-impressing place on our agenda was Rules. We saved it for our last night on the town together, and it was all fairly fabulous.

Established in 1798 by Thomas Rules, Rules claims to be London's oldest restaurant. I haven't verified this, but it looks like they might be right. There's lots of old people not smiling in photos cluttered along the walls and beady eyeballs staring down from stuffed birds crammed in every cranny. It's probably not the best place for staunch vegetarians. Furnishings are rich, plush, dark and comfortable. Despite the clutter, it feels special and luxurious.

Rules specialises in ultra traditional British food - there's lots of gamey stuff and potted things, with rich, wintery puddings to finish you off. It's all totally old school.

My venison loin with pear, roast chicory and spiced ruby plums was decadently rich and super-gamey (£26.95). Every bite was a luxury. Mama and Papa Diva both enjoyed the rather large grilled sirloin steaks with chips, bearnaise, roasted tomato and mushroom (£22.50).

We're still talking about the puddings to whoever will listen - sensational. Little Sister Diva back in Melbourne has since blocked us from her Facebook account. I had some kind of strawberry tart in a shortbread pastry while Mama Diva had a delicate strawberry souffle, both of which were absolutely divine. Papa Diva had ice-cream, which was never going to compete, but the choice had to be expected from a man who would choose a Ginger Snap biscuit over a Chocolate Royal. (All around £7.50)

Despite fearing it might be stuffy and overpriced (based on a peering through the windows on past occasions), service was close to perfect - attentive, helpful, friendly, not overly fussy. Sure, it's a bit pricey, but for me it's a special occasion place (like oh, it's Wednesday) and worth every penny. The bar upstairs also looks rather tempting and I hear they make a good cocktail.

Rules has 3 new fans. Traditional, straightforward food, cooked well in charismatic surrounds. You won't find anywhere like it anywhere else.

Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7LB (Tel: 0207 836 5314)

Rules on Urbanspoon


  1. Having recently had my parents visiting from Oz, I enjoyed your post all the more! Entertaining writing and a great review. And hey, there's nothing wrong w a ginger snap!!

  2. Thanks Lex - I remember those great posts about your parents' visit. Look, a Ginger Snap will do in desperate times, but they've got nothing on a Mint Slice, Tim Tam or Choccie Royal (preferably, milk choc with jam).

  3. Well I think the inheritance is safely in the bag after that lot! The Wolseley, Ivy & DST are all all-time favourites of mine and I agree that the quieter room at the latter (it's called The Parlour don'tcha know) is more parent-friendly as long as they don't look too closely at the wallpaper...

    Rules on the other hand is a tricky one for me. I do love tradition, and their game is excellent, but I've never quite felt able to reconcile the ouchy-wouchy prices with the overall experience which I think is 'nice' but not amazing. Saying that, nowhere else really does what they do - own farms, trad service etc - so for a one-off treat I guess it's hard to beat.

    Mama & Papa Diva are lucky to have you :-)

  4. Anonymous03 July, 2010

    I think Little Sister Diva should have stuck to her guns and not read this post! Why block facebook chatter when you can read scrumptious sounding descriptions while pouring over the photo evidence at the same time?
    Best go and crack open my block of Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly chocolate - it is absolutely DELICIOUS & my new favourite!! Is that available over there? I hope not!! ;) Love ya sis xox

  5. They make some of the best cocktails in London. I went to their cocktail masterclass - incredible. Brian Silva (the barman) is a legend.

  6. Hugh - I might have neglected to mention that while I directed proceedings, Dad was doing most of the splurging! So funny - I didn't notice the wallpaper at DST but will inspect closely next time. Good to see we're almost match for match on our good taste though.

    LSDiva - I'm willing to bet that block is just a pile of crumbs by now. So it takes a special mention before you leave a comment on my blog, eh?! Thanks! xx

    Helen - I remember reading about that masterclass - think I must definitely stop by for a martini one of these summer nights soon.

  7. My parents are visiting in september - I will take note!

  8. Gourmet Chick - Have fun!

  9. Another great place for parents is Scott's - such old school glamour. You can have a pre and post dinner cocktail at The Connaught then too, which can never be a bad thing!

  10. Anonymous05 July, 2010

    I had a fantastic meal over there, late in the evening, after everybody had gone. It was magic... And of course the meal was inaugured by some beforehand drinks upstairs

  11. I had a forgettable meal there (well, I was 17) but have been back to sample their cocktails which are ace. I am waiting for grouse season to kick off before I go back for food...

  12. Emyr - Good suggestions!

    Mathilde - I really must get there and try one of Brian Silva's martinis.

    Lizzie - Would be great to try out the grouse. I noted the same thing on my last visit (grouse season is advertised on the menu).

  13. My friend and I were staring lustfully through the windows of Rules last night. Those puddings!! I've heard so much about it...
    fact we have also been hatching plans for breakfast at the Walsey. It mades it way onto the 'best places to Brunch' list- but I guess that's no suprise really...

  14. Lou they are both great... hope you enjoy!


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