Thursday, 3 December 2009

Rules, Covent Garden (revisited)


I don't often do this. I have done this of course, occasionally, for restaurants which on return visits have proved themselves to have significantly improved, or at least shown that the first was an unfortunate fluke. And I don't subscribe to the (largely American, or at least New York) view that in order to fairly assess a restaurant you have to visit multiple times - nobody (at least nobody normal) obsessively visits a place twenty times just to check if it really is as crap as they think it is. If it's not good they will never go again, and if it is, they'll tell their mates about it. Restaurants are only as good as their last service, and I quite like that control factor - it seems fair and squarely based on the habits of the average punter.


But you'd think with a score of 9/10 there wouldn't be much need to re-review Rules. 9 is as near as dammit, and why not leave it at that - I'm only opening myself to criticism if someone pays a visit on the back of my glowing write-up and then doesn't enjoy every bit of it as much as I did.

Well, two reasons.

Firstly, I wanted to give Rules 10/10 after my first visit but stupidly thought that with El Bulli looming the week after I may need some room to manoeuvre. But as much as I would like to think the scores I give are "absolute", the universe in which the scoring system operates is essentially, necessarily as fickle as my own fads and preferences. "What if I think this restaurant is perfect, and then El Bulli is more perfect?" went the reasoning. It was a mistake to think like this in the first place - there's no shame in flexibility. And anyway who cares, it's not like an angry mob is going to burn my house down if I get it a point or two wrong. Get over yourself, Pople.



Secondly, and most importantly, Rules really is that good. Everything I've ordered and eaten myself, or nicked off someone else's plate over the two visits (possibly around 12-14 dishes in total) have been consistently, giddily delicious. Last weekend I went with a few friends for a birthday meal and tried first the Crisp Wild Rabbit, boasting robust flavours and some fantastic texture contrasts; the Pheasant Pie, a seasonal speciality shot through with earthy morel mushrooms and a tangy white wine sauce; and the Rib of Beef for Two, cooked absolutely perfectly and served with a spectacular 6" high Yorkshire Pudding. And of course, I couldn't resist the opportunity to order the grouse again. I've gone on about this bird far too often already, so I'll just say this - it's probably the best thing I've ever eaten ever in my life. Let's leave it at that.


In the light of the recent "disclosure" controversies, and just to reassure anyone who doubts my own integrity (HA!), you can be sure this isn't any kind of PR-led fluff piece or freebie-fuelled reciprocation, because Rules doesn't employ a PR agency. It doesn't need one. It ticks over very nicely thank you very much, all year, without having to do anything other than carry on doing what they've been doing for the last 200+ years. The reason for Rules' astonishing success and longevity is hardly rocket science - the very best British ingredients, sensitively cooked with a respectful nod to history (it would be too much of a disservice to call the food at Rules "simple", as anyone who has ever tried to roast a grouse themselves and not have it end up inedibly tough will tell you) and with a superb bar upstairs manned by a handful of the best drinks makers in London. The perfect restaurant? As near as dammit.

10/10

Rules on Urbanspoon

18 comments:

Patrick said...

Oh my. That tray of beef looks amazing.

Greedy Diva said...

You're still floating on the pleasure wave from this one, aren't you! Love it! Never been - must do.

Boo said...

I'm so pleased that Rules was just as great second time around, I'm mightily impressed by that yorkshire pudding. Did you pay Brian a visit too?

ginandcrumpets said...

You've convinced me.

Helen said...

10/10! This is a landmark moment in food blogging and the people better BELIEVE ;)

Dan said...

Haven't eaten in Rules - it's near the top of my list to visit....but drank in the bar upstairs a good few times and have to agree....it's wonderful. Hard to fault....beautiful drinks, steeped in history. Fantastic place.

Su-Lin said...

Yup, with a review like that, I've got to visit it now!

An American in London said...

I associate Rules with Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair." And now, with your 10/10.

Re: visiting a restaurant more than once (the NY Times reviewer visits five times) - it's fair to say your average diner isn't going more than once to a restaurant, but that doesn't mean you won't get a more accurate view of a place if you *can* and want to go more than once, no? (i.e., a bigger sample size is always better for accuracy).

Wild Boar said...

After such enthusiasm from you, this is entering my list of places to sample.

The Ample Cook said...

I will make it here one day. Looks and sounds wonderful.

Douglas Blyde said...

I find it hard to articulate quite how much I am pleased that you didn't showcase the Douwe Egberts commercials, Chris. I'm going to book Rules on the back of your review...

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

great review - think I'm going to HAVE to book myself in there for an early New Year blowout ;)

Eléonora said...

Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

fidelma said...

I ate there a few weeks back, partly based on your first review (it was a celebration and I wanted proper British food). It was a really wonderful experience, though I couldn't finish my main (an amazingly tasty special of venison pie with the most buttery pastry I've ever tasted) or my dessert (chocolate souffle) because they were just too much for me. The grouse was off or I would have had it. Thanks for the review!

Nic said...

The new cocktail bar at Rules is wonderful. Bryan is a consummate host, (Why is it we brit's can't be as charming). His Negroni's are amazing (ten, count them), the best in London but his Bloody Mary is even better. A fantastic spot for a pre-dinner drink. after a walk around London.
Nic Wing
www.citiesinsound.com

Amanda said...

I've walked past Rules a million times and never actually managed to eat here. After reading your review, I've finally booked to go... Getting hungry just thinking about it!

Covent Garden restaurant guide said...

I had been to this place once previously. Although that was a couple of months ago, my recollection is that this restaurant did quite good.

Laura Nickoll said...

Just discovered your blog. Great Rules post. I loved it 8 or so years ago, but had since let myself forget what a great meal we had, and have also heard very little about it (few write-ups). Glad to hear they're still on top form, and doing well. Look forward to a return visit asap.