Rules may look as though nothing has changed for 50 years (or more, the restaurant was established in 1798), but this old-stager hasn’t made it this far without adapting to the times. Together with the dark wood and red colour scheme, patterned carpet, caricatures and old paintings are modern touches. Witness the Kate Middleton cocktail (Sipsmith gin, Pinky vodka, Lillet aperitif wine and crystallised violets and rose petals).
A menu of classics, with an emphasis on game, runs from potted shrimps to saddle of rabbit. Everything is cooked plainly, but with care and using decent ingredients – for example, the sirloin steak with béarnaise and chips, was pretty much perfect– golden chips, crunchy on the outside, hot and yielding on the inside; tender meat, grilled just-so and with real flavour. Guinea fowl caesar salad was an average salad lifted by top-notch bird; grilled plaice topped with artichokes and capers, served with a side of braised red peppers (from the specials list), scored for looks and flavour. Kir royal jelly with blackcurrant sorbet and summer fruits ‘salad’ made a good summer alternative to the wintery delights of golden syrup sponge pudding with custard.
Service is polite and attentive, characteristics much admired by the mainly middle-aged-and-over clientele. Like the menu, the Rhône Valley-oriented wine list holds no bargains, but is carefully constructed.