Review of 'Rules'

Rules bills itself as London's oldest restaurants having been established by Thomas Rule in 1798. Located one street to the south of Covent Garden it is known for serving traditional English food, specifically, for game and their famous “Beef Wellington” (though I have been told you have to order the Wellington in advance - it was not on our menu). You could be forgiven for passing it by walking to/from Covent Garden despite the large wine-coloured awning with their name writ large and it's own taxi rank but it is certainly worth a look-in.

We were looking for a place to have a Christmas dinner with friends where we could relax and enjoy some good, quality, food. We chose Rules and were very happy we did so.

A doorman opens the door for you into the warm, welcoming interior. The ground floor has two seating areas with old pictures and various hunting or sport memorabilia crammed on every square inch of the walls. We were shown to our comfortable table with two of the four of us seated on a bench against the wall.


The large single-sided menu is split into “House Cocktails”, “Starters”, “Pies and Puddings” (savoury pies and puddings, not desserts), “Main Courses”, “Game” (with an indication it may contain “lead shot” as much of it is obtained by hunts), “Vegetables & Salads”, “Puddings & Cheese” and finally “Coffees & Leaf Teas” with, of course, a separate wine menu (modest but with a good assortment of wines with a wide range of prices to cover anyone's taste). It is not as pricey as you might think with, for example, the main courses ranging in price from £21.95 (for Wild Rabbit Cassoulet) to £42.50 (for “Dover Sole Meuniere”). The dishes are generally English with a few French influences. Quality comfort food not necessary haute cuisine.

I chose to start with the “Potted Shrimps (with toast)” (£15.95) which was presented in a simple tower with a small micro-herb salad. It was not the best potted shrimps I have had but it was suitably rich and tasty enough. The toast was served in a small bowl - Fingers of nicely crunchy home made whole grain bread.

Potted Shrimps

My companion had the “Rabbit & Ham Hock Terrine (with piccalilli & toast)” (£11.95) which she said was delicious, in particular the piccalilli.

Rabbit and Ham Terrine

I knew for my main course I wanted to try the game as it is unusual in these days to see it on a menu particularly wild game that has been shot. I was toying between the “Breast of Pheasant (with cider, bacon, apples & cream)” (£20.95) and the “Roast Red Leg Partridge (with roast squash, wild mushrooms, hazelnuts & sage)” (£27.95). I eventually settled on the Partridge as it is even more unusual to find than Pheasant. It was an excellent choice with a very firm, tasty meat and delightful nutty accompanying vegetables and a rich jus.

Roast Partridge

My companion chose to try the Pheasant instead (for the first time having eaten it) finding it very moist and delicious but after trying my Partridge agreed mine was the better choice.

Neither of our game courses was what you would commonly call “gamey” with the meat having not hung for a very long time (causing the gamey flavour many know) which means it is far more accessible to the average restaurant goer and, for us, a far more pleasurable flavour. The meat was treated with respect with accompanying vegetables and sauces that did not overpower the delicate flavour and texture of the meat but rather enhanced it.

Breast of Pheasant

On the side we shared the “Dauphinoise Potatoes” (£4.50) that were one of the standouts of the evening - Deliciously light and buttery. Splitting a single order between two people was a good idea as although our mains were rich and filling they were not massive.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

After finishing our game the menus were returned to us and we were asked if we wanted coffees but one of our party rightly suggested this would be better following the pudding (or cheese) course instead. From the desserts I chose the “Golden Syrup Steamed Sponge (with custard)” (£8.25) which was absolutely delicious. A small, light steamed sponge that was sweet but not overly so with an enormous amount of custard provided on the side in a gravy boat (yes, I used it all!).

Sponge Pudding

My companion had the “Pecan Maple Tart (with praline sauce & clotted cream)” (£8.25) which she said was “awesome” though found it a bit dry. Certainly a much larger portion than mine.

Pecan Maple Tart

While relaxing after our meal sipping our drinks we soaked in a bit of the atmosphere which is quite relaxed. A few of my party were worried about the 3 hour “slot” we had been given for lunch but I preferred to ignore this and, sure enough, so did the restaurant not bothering us when the deadline came and went. To be fair, the place was only about half full though even so it was very quiet and comfortable to just sit and chat.

Our server throughout was very polite and unassuming though willing to offer suggestions if asked (with the wine it initially seemed as though he was not familiar with the bottle we were asking about but on further questioning it was very obvious he did). He was at the table precisely when needed to either remove old plates or deliver new ones.


Great place to experience old-fashioned English dining and service. Despite being in the heart of touristy London it did not feel this way at all. I am suspecting tourists may not be comfortable with the prices (though not as expensive as many in the area; we paid about £100 each for three courses and including wine) as well as not being able to secure a table (reservations are highly recommended. The food is of very good quality with perfectly sized portions. Do not expect innovative food here but classics done well.

A wonderful place for a comfortable classic English meal in Covent Garden.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-12-29

Cuisine: American/British

Address: 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7LB ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Covent Garden

Location: London (England) - Covent Garden



Show in Google Maps  Get Directions

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7836 5314