Upstairs at Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7LB
0207 836 5314
There are so few bars left like the bar at Rules, no music blaring out so the focus is on good company, good conversation and good drinks. Venture upstairs and you will find a dark wood bar where the barmen expertly mix classic cocktails, a Martini (stirred never shaken), a Gimlet, a Bloody Mary on a sunday afternoon. Understated glamour of a by-gone era and simple old fashioned elegance.
In a city alive with the buzz of the latest opening or pop-up, there is something reassuringly comforting about an establishment that has been open since 1798. That sure is a long time by anyone’s standards and so it is no surprise that the restaurant at Rules proudly proclaims to be London’s oldest. To be successful for that long calls for something a little bit special, and I reckon I know their secret.
It’s the bar you see, it’s a bit of a gem. To enter, one has to first enjoy the pleasure of a friendly greeting from the smartly adorned doorman who, unlike the majority in nearby Covent Garden, oozes all the friendliness of your favorite grandad. A short climb to the first floor and you enter into a charmingly intimate and classically-styled bar full of red swirly carpet and adorned with the sort of wall-hangings that can only be found in the most English of institutions. It could all prove to be a bit austere but instead it feels comfy, mellow and all a bit lovely.
Once you’re settled you’ll discover that old-English charm combines effortlessly with slick attention to detail to produce an experience that makes even the first-timer feel like a longstanding regular. Of course such an experience can also be enjoyed by a pleasing number of luxury hotel bars for example but there is something about the fact that there are no ‘special occasion’ visitors here that makes it all that more relaxing and enjoyable.
The drinks at Rules are understated in flair, but most certainly not on flavour. The house style is to combine classic flavors in elegant drinks to sublime success. High quality glassware and moreish complimentary nuts bring a touch of class to proceedings, whilst small touches such as serving shaken drinks direct from mini shakers at the table bring a smile to your face every time. The Jubilee-themed menu on offer during my visits reflected the creative capabilities and exquisite flavour balancing that they do so well. The ‘Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ was, for example a simple sounding but complex-tasting combination of No. 3 gin, Cinzano Orinoco and yellow Chartreuse, whilst the ‘Queen of Barbados’ mixed rum, passion fruit, Velvet Falernum and ginger in a manner that few could possibly dislike.
The bar at Rules is a real treat for cocktail lovers and it really is hard to fault. Exemplary service and beautifully executed classically-styled drinks are always a winning combination but Rules somehow adds something a little special you can’t quite put your finger on to make a trip just that bit more essential.
Rules Cocktail ~ Tanqueray, Dubonnet & Angostura bitters served in a coupette topped with Vintage Cremant, a sparkling wine from the Burgundy region in France.