Just a casual stroll from the frenzy that is Covent Garden piazza, there exists an oasis of calm sophistication and old school opulence; Rules is London’s oldest restaurant, famous for it’s game and classic British fare. It is also, arguably, London’s best cocktail bar.
Upstairs is where the ‘mixology’ magic happens - here you’ll find cosy carpeting, heavy upholstery, original fireplaces, wood paneling and lots of red. There is a definite time capsule feel to the decor but, come Christmas, it’s got to be one of the most festive places to indulge in an artfully muddled cocktail.
I took my Mum after a particularly fabulous trip to the Opera House to see The Nutcracker; technically it was home-time but the desire to prolong the magic of the evening was too much, Rules was a-calling, and so, up those carpeted stairs we tottered,
It was close to kicking-out time when we visited and so we quickly nestled into a corner table and selected our tipples with minimum fuss or debate.
This was mine - a seasonal and spicy number containing Combier Elixir, Cecchi and Sipsmith’s gin - the Negroni’s Christmassy cousin if you will. Mixed and shaken table-side before being deftly administered from a height into the glass. In normal circumstances Mother would have referred to the measure as ‘vulgarly full’ (the description of just about every drink I poured from 1999 up until three years ago), but, in this case, she and I could only marvel at how-the-hell that drink wasn’t breaking its banks. Poetry in motion it was.
Mum’s refreshment was a slightly more sophisticated lemon and sage concoction that she was able to lift to her lips to sample. As opposed to leaning over the table and getting stuck in like an ever-so-slightly more delicate interpretation of a horse at its drinking trough.
Brian Silva’s cocktail list is a short and succinct grouping of ten that should satisfy every alcoholic penchant but he and his select team (of one on the night we visited) are more than happy to come up with a glass of something bespoke if none are floating your boat.
You get a generous bowl of nuts which are always useful for soaking up at least some of the booze. Food is available upstairs during lunchtime but for dinner you’ll need to head downstairs.
What I love about Rules is that, in all its years, it doesn’t seem to have changed; and I can say this on absolute authority having not been there when it was founded in 1798… but you know, upon entering, that you’ve found a place steeped in history where you very much wish the walls could talk. There are no gimmicky new tricks here, just a class polished act. Fashions fade, Rules is eternal.
Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7LB