To a long lunch at Rule’s for a family get together sadly reduced from four to two. One party requiring the sobriety required to take on three hours of Richard III later in the evening. Another on a yellow card for a bout of geriatric fruitiness got out of hand. So we were just two but met under the tacit understanding that should it be required we could scoff’n’booze for four. And if you want to do that thing Rule’s isn’t a bad venue.
I arrived to find that my uncle had already got stuck into the Black Velvet (served by the pint in a chilled pewter tankard) while I’d been lurking doing the crossword in the Porterhouse up the road. It seemed uncivilised not to join in on the BV and so I did while we perused the menu.*
But first, the room. Rule’s is Historic, dating back to 1798, but inside at least wears its history lightly. The opulent décor lends gravitas and there’s a splurge of artistic production over the walls that could keep an active mind amused all day but the atmosphere seems to be as formal as you make it at table.
The menu features beasts from the restaurant’s own Yorkshire estate and majors on English classics. By which I mean it’s best to be on the hungry side when you arrive. Under the Guinness’s influence I went for half a dozen oysters to start which arrived on a bed of ice and with a variety of garnishes to be applied as one liked. I gutted and consumed them immediately. In the meantime we’d started on a bottle of Meursault and talk flowed.
A son on one hand and a father-in-law on the other being missing chat turned to inter-generational relations, helped along by an unexpected Turgenevian present.
We’d put away the starters and now arrived the mains and a bottle of claret. Rabbit leg was promised on the menu and didn’t disappoint, being a whole leg in a bowl of juice, peppers and spuds to be decanted onto the plate. Up top we had fresh minted peas and spears of broccoli to share. The red was slipping down nicely I felt more and more like a trencherman as discussion turned to Brexit, Nigel Farrage, sciatica and the therapeutic power of walking in London.**
By this time I was riding a boozy bus of bonhomie and any resistance I had to the onward march of Trad Food was futile. Toffee pudding was the order of the day and what’s this alongside? A large glass of Tokay. I stuck away the remains of the red and munched golden syrupy-fluffy pudding promising myself that Sunday would be a monkish bread and water day of penance. The Tokay caressed my tastebuds.
After climbing the stairs to the jakes I passed through the cocktail bar which seemed an admirable retreat from the horrors of the modern world. In fact, Rule’s as a whole has that effect. The charming service, calm room and well-cooked food is a guaranteed stress-buster at a smaller price than you would pay to be made to feel both anxious and unwelcome in some ponced up bit of fusion flim-flam bollocks such as appears in and disappears out of both the West End and colour supplements on a weekly basis.
* My first ever. I’m not entirely certain that I’ll repeat the experience as I found that it ranked alongside Irish Coffee in taking two things that I love (in this case Guiness and Champagne) and by mixing them rendered them far less satisfactory. While the BV is not nearly as filthy a thing as the IC (which adds to the crime of ruining good whiskey with coffee by then further mixing it with sugar and cream) it is definitely an acquired taste.
**Farage, whom I once thought to be a minor English Poujade seems likely to be one of the most influential Englishmen of the twenty-first century. Who’da thunk.
To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).