Rules Reigns

Two websites have recently featured articles about Rules, the restaurant near Covent Garden, in both of which Evelyn Waugh is mentioned. Eater London has a background article on the restaurant, its ambience, and its food. The article opens with this:

Rules describes itself as specialising in “game cookery, oysters, pies and puddings,” and it has appeared in books by Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, as well as John Le Carré. It also stakes the claim of being London’s oldest restaurant, and of having once served Dickens. When under threat of demolition in the early seventies, it was another author, John Betjeman, who leapt to its lyrical defence in a letter to The Greater London Council: “A place which has been constantly used by actors, managers and famous people, as Rules has,” he wrote, “acquires an invisible atmosphere, just as a church frequented by praying people acquires an atmosphere. We have all experienced it in our lives. We can sense it and it will not photograph.”

Betjeman’s support is commemorated with a dining room in the resstaurant named for him and another room is named for Graham Greene. These are both mentioned on the Bloomsberg news site which recommends the best private dining rooms in London. Here’s what they say about Rules:

When the lights are dimmed, it looks as if nothing has changed since this Covent Garden restaurant opened more than 200 years ago. Rules traces its history to 1798, when Thomas Rule sold oysters on Maiden Lane. The restaurant has featured in novels by Graham Greene, Dorothy L. Sayers and Evelyn Waugh… There are two private rooms and a hidden cocktail bar worth seeking out. But it’s not just for tourists. Rules is a charming restaurant with first-class British food.

Size: The John Betjeman Room can seat 10 and the Graham Greene Room 18.
Cost: There are room charges of £200 and £350, respectively, for weekday dinner; no charge for lunch and weekends. You choose from set menus costing from £62.50 to £80.50.

The restaurant has, perhaps somewhat presumptuously, posted a historic plaque on its premises which also recites, inter alia, its associations with the writers cited above as well as several others. The plaque notes that Waugh has mentioned the restaurant in his fiction, although neither Paul Doyle (A Waugh Companion) nor Iain Gale (Waugh’s World) contains any references. These citations are difficult to trace, however, as Waugh was in the habit of referring to “Rules” as such and not identifying it as a restaurant, assuming his readers would know what he meant. Your correspondent read such a reference to the restaurant in the past week, probably in Put Out More Flags, but has been unable to relocate it.

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