November 3, 2010

England, Part I: A recent vacation saw us visiting London's oldest restaurant, established in 1798. It still seems to be a firm favorite among domestic diners and foreign fans after 212 years.

Rules specializes in "game cookery," with an intriguing range of meat sourced from the Lartington countryside estate in northern England.

Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton cheese. An award-winning variety, produced at a family-run British creamery. Dense and flavor-packed; a far cry from mass-market cheeses.

Roast gray partridge on toast with chanterelles. After years of listening to Christmas choruses about "a partridge in a pear tree," we finally managed to munch on this gamebird. Fairly strong-tasting flesh, but with a texture similar to chicken (fowl is fowl, ultimately).

New season grouse. Note how the legs remain feathery at the tip (!). Only available between August and December each year during the permitted hunting period. Not the chunkiest or most tender of birds, but gorgeously aromatic. Served pink (nearly medium-rare), with game chips (thin, crisp chips that are traditionally eaten with roast gamebirds).

Rabbit curry. Thick. hearty and mildly spicy; I can't remember ever having had rabbit cooked in curry before, but it works as well as any other meat.

Highland roe deer with curly kale & ceps. Offers a firmer bite than regular venison; could certainly be mistaken for beef (that's meant to be a compliment, really).

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough & Buckshot Bullshot (a bizarre, Bloody Mary-like cocktail featuring beef consomme, Ketel One vodka, tomato juice, spices & a celery stick).

Rules 98 (Brut champagne, Tanqueray gin, pear liquor, poire william) & The Grouse (Famous Grouse Scotch whisky, The King's Ginger liquor, bitters).

Will Rules outlive us all and survive another two centuries? Future generations might be grateful if it does; service is sparkling and the sense of classic tradition here is superb.

Maiden Lane, London.