In the year Napoleon opened his campaign in Egypt, Thomas Rule promised his despairing family that he would say goodbye to his wayward past and settle down. No sooner said than he opened an oyster bar in Convent Garden. To the surprise and disbelief of his family, his enterprise proved to be not only successful but lasting.
Contemporary writers were soon singing the praises of Rules’ “porter, pies and oysters”, and remarking on the “rakes, dandies and superior intelligence’s who comprise its clientele”.
Rules still flourishes, the oldest restaurant in London and one of the most celebrated in the world.
In over 200 years, spanning the reigns of nine monarchs, it has been owned by only three families . . . just before The Great War, Charles Rule, a descendant of the founder, was thinking of moving to Paris; by sheer coincidence he met Tom Bell, a Briton who owned a Parisian restaurant called the Alhambra, and the two men decided to swap businesses. (During the war Tom Bell was an officer in the Royal Flying Corps, and left the running of the restaurant to Charlie, the Head Waiter, who had served Charles Rule for many years.)