Review: Rules Restaurant, Covent Garden, London

Rules Restaurant, Covent Garden, London

London, a place that just screams BUSY at you. So it was with surprise that when I first ventured into Rules and asked the doorman if I could visit the bar, that I found myself alone with my server being Brian, the bar manager. [No Doorman? Just pop inside and ask.]

Bar at Rules RestaurantWhilst my first visit may have been on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, the place is literally a stones throw from the main hubris of Covent Garden Plaza. Had I stumbled upon a secret place, or was I going to be let down – I wasn’t too sure. The reason for the visit, I asked the simple question of ‘Where do you think the best cocktail bar in central London is?’, something that could be a divisive question; afterall everyone has their favourites. A variety of responses came back, but Rules Cocktail Bar was one of the closest places to me and most common answers, from a lot of people I respect.

Since that visit I’ve returned on many occasions, to sample the cocktails and work through the ‘menu’. It’s a refreshing change to the cocktail menu, only consisting of 10 drinks. Though of course, the staff are well versed and have always been able to serve old classics, as well as other new twists on drinks that were on menus past, and menus future.

Charles II - At Rules

Many a time I’ve just asked for a ‘nice’ Gin cocktail, and it was Brian (a true gentleman, and legend) who made me a Charles II (Maraschino, Chartreuse, Jensen’s Old Tom). Beside looking rather pretty, the taste was sublime with well balanced flavours, and proved rather easy to imbibe.

If you do manage to get a seat at the bar, make sure to strike up a conversation about spirits, cocktail history etc if that’s your kind of thing, I’ve always found the staff willing to share ideas as well as learning a bit more about cocktails.

I’ll warn you now, be careful when you get asked if you would like one more drink, there have been occasions where that one drink turned to four. I can’t blame them, it’s just my lack of willpower, which once meant I kept delaying a radio interview I was meant to be giving. By the time I got around to doing the phone interview, I was a little bit too well lubricated!

Pricewise, this is certainly at the higher end of the scale with most drinks being around the £10-12 mark, plus service. That said, for the knowledge of the staff (just the other night we ended up discussing the type of icecube they use!), the quality of the drink, as well as the standard of ‘bar snacks’ (which have in the past involved a salmon terrine and foie gras, not a pickled egg in sight!).

Negroni - At RulesThe décor is rather antiquated, after all this is Rules (Londons oldest restaurant since 1798 – full history link: ), with a mixture of plus sofas, chairs, barstools, and just a rather pleasant atmosphere.

Whilst it might not be your regular drinking haunt, if you are just passing through London it’s worth a visit, and if you are based in London then you have no excuses not to pop in at least once. I’ve never had a bad drink here, and even though the drinks may be dear we all need to treat ourselves at some point!

Oh and don’t forget, Rules is a great restaurant too, so why not head down for food and then back up for après cocktails!

Atmosphere: 9/10
Staff: 9/10
Price: 8/10
Drinks: 9/10
Overall 8.75/10

Location: 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7LB
Website: Rules Restaurant

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  1. Martin says:

    Couldn’t agree more – Brian is a superstar and the bar is a wonderful cocoon away from the insanity of London and its overpriced, watered-down dross.

    I second your restaurant plug – I had grouse there at the start of the season and it was absolutely stunning, I’ll be going back in a couple of months without a shadow of a doubt. In fact, we had pre-prandials in the bar then returned to a grinning Brian and a (few) rounds of digestifs and a lovely cheese plate to round off everything.

    Brilliant restaurant, superlative bar, a true great.

  2. Ann/applelisafood says:

    Totally agree with your view – Brian is great! Met him first years ago when he headed up the Home House bar (and it was sad to lose him). Have had delicious bar snacks at Rules, accompanying superb cocktails! The Golden Negroni is a star…

  3. Billy says:

    I popped in on Friday for a last drink before going home, and while Brian wasn’t in I got an excellent martini and the rest of the table seemed pleased with their drinks. I need to pop back sometime with a smaller group (ie. just me) so I can have a sit at the bar and watch what’s going on.

    The restaurant is also still on my “to visit” list…

  4. Adam says:

    Your review is spot on! Fantastic little escape from the hoohah of Covent Garden with, in my opinion, some of Central London’s best cocktails! Definitely worth a visit for anyone who hasn’t been there.

    Only problem is, as you say, ‘one more’ has a tendancy of becoming 2, and 3 and 4…

  5. Kate says:

    What’s wrong with pickled eggs??

    (Thanks for the tip though)


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