29 Bedford Street, WC2 020 7836 3304 www.paul.fr Open 7:3oam-9pm Mon-Fri, 9-9 Sat & Sun You’ll find no more agreeable lunch stop around Covent Garden than this exemplary Gallic patisserie/ cafe. Exquisite breads, cakes, tarts and flans are sold in the shop, or you can enjoy big salads, omelettes or tartines toasted bread with toppings from the elegant cafe at the rear. Cheap Rules British through & throug 35 Maiden Lane, WC2 020 7836 5314 www.rules.co.uk Open noon-ii:3opm daily to io:3opm Sun Open continuously since i798, and owned by just three families since then, Rules in Covent Garden is the capital’s oldest restaurant and it positively drips with history. Venerable diners have included William Makepeace Thackeray, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable. The interior is a Victorian fantasy, with chandeliers and spectacular coloured-glass skylights illuminating walls lined with dark wood and crimson banquettes. Everywhere you look are portraits, pastoral scenes and animal trophies characteristic of the style of grand English country houses. The restaurant is particularly beautiful over Christmas, decked out in traditional ornaments. Altogether, there are three floors and several private dining rooms. One of the rooms is named after the best-known author of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens, who was himself a regular at this restaurant. However, what prevents Rules being a mere Dickensian pastiche are the slickness of its service and the supreme standard of its food. The menu is carnivore heaven, and one of the few places in London where you can sample superb game – especially wild duck and pheasant -much of which comes from Rules’ own estate, Lartington Hall Park, in the High Pennines. You can sign up for a shooting party or fishing at the estate, if you already have experience. Don’t believe there’s such a thing as high-quality traditional British cuisine? An indulgent meal here of, say, hare soup with armagnac, or Morecambe Bay potted shrimps, or roastyoung grouse with celeriac and damson sauce, or fillet of Highland venison with wild mushrooms and Chartreuse sauce is guaranteed to change your mind. Round off the experience with sticky toffee pudding oozing butterscotch and vanilla custard, or apple and blackberry crumble.