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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Upstairs at Rules, Covent Garden

The Charles - a brandy and sweet vermouth-based number I've enjoyed in numerous drinking dens -  is a prince among cocktails. In honour of our future king, I'd like to see them served in cheeky tiki Toby jugs with china lugs for handles.  At Establishment fixture, Rules which has been serving superior scran and liquid libations to Charlie's sort for over two hundred years, the drink is presented in exquisite antique frosted stemware. But the doctored hooch it contains comes as a surprise: the house recipe here calls for Tanqueray 10, absinthe, maraschino and grapefruit bitters. On balance; I prefer the new-look old boy.  London’s oldest surviving restaurant, Rules was established around the same time Marie-Antoinette - on whose pert protuberances traditional champagne coupes are modeled - was giving head for France. I can't vouch for France's current chatelaine Carla, but Garland, Gable and most of Hollywood have dined here. Their great loss was not to know its cocktail lounge for, despite the antique pose - all red plush, dark wood, Disraeli and heroically overwrought Balmoral baronial - it only opened in 2008. Overseen by patrician Boston shaker Brian Silva (see footnote) - a ringer for Ted Kennedy, only still breathing - it’s a honey. Ted/ Brian pooh-poohs fancy schmanzy molecular mixology for the classics, executed with élan and attention to detail - the unwaxed rind of a lemon fresh picked and flown in from Sicily, (in its own private jet, i imagine). With matador-like precision, he sizes up his prey before administering the coup de grâce - in my case, a stunning Sazerac built on Pappy Van Winkle 13-year-old. Bull’s-eye! Hola, Death In The Afternoon - well, 11pm-ish as far as I can recall. For Hemingway's favourite, the daiquiri, or pretty much anything else worth swallowing, Brian is your boy at this quasi-secret hideaway in Covent Garden.

UPDATE: Spring 2013. Brian Silva, now at Balthazar, has been replaced by capable Chris Lacey and both the room and his cocktails - such as remain a 'RECOMMEND'

Rule’s, 35 Maiden Lane, WC2.  7836 5314