Rules claims to be the oldest restaurant in London and it is indeed a venerable insitution, somewhat reminiscent of the grand old Parisian brasseries. Despite being quite a large place, it does get booked, so book before you go. Inside, the walls are covered with pictures - from a somewhat disturbing caricature of Margaret Thatcher in knightley armour (the Iron Lady, geddit?) to certificates for cattle at Smithfield market from a century or more ago. The waiters are unfailing polite and dressed in those long white aprons they wear in France. The clientele is mixed - from tourists to businessmen to couples - and the atmosphere is posh but not snooty. They were happy to bring us tap water and refilled it unbidden, for example. Meat is the big thing on the menu, sourced from the restaurant's own Scottish estate. We started with duck salad (£9) and unbelievably tender, thin slivers of smoked venison (£10). For mains, I sampled my most expensive ever, 30-day hung sirloin steak for £18. It was worth it, and came with a mount of thin, crispy chips - just the way I like them. The roast partidge was also a success. Washed down with some perfecly quaffable house claret (£16 a bottle), and throwing in the service charge and a couple of aperetifs, the bill came to around £100. You could do it cheaper, but I recommend putting your self in treat mode, getting out the credit card and savouring every mouthful. You could always use some visiting foreigners as an excuse to come here and prove that there is such a thing as a traditional Endlish restuarant, and a good one at that. (They also have a late night two courses for £18 deal, which is well worth trying if you are hungry post-theatre).
Rules Restaurant, 35 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LB, www.rules.co.uk, Tel. 0207 836 5314; Open noon-midnight, Mon-Sun; Tube: Covent Garden or Charing Cross