Rules was opened by Thomas Rule in 1798, primarily as an oyster bar but served, and continues to serve, traditional British Cuisine. Rules specialises in game and has its own estate known as The Lartington Estate in the High Pennines.
The restaurant stayed in the Rule family until the First World War, when Charles Rule swapped businesses with Thomas Bell. Bell's daughter subsequently sold the restaurant to John Mayhew (who still owns the restaurant) in 1984.
Efforts have been made to carefully preserve the original features in the main restaurant and in the cocktail bar. The walls are decorated with a series of sketches, oil paintings and cartoons which have been collected throughout its history. A number of its artworks depict theatrical history. Rules has been frequented by Henry Irving and Laurence Olivier amongst others.
The restaurant has featured in novels by Graham Greene, Dick Francis and Evelyn Waugh. Sir John Betjeman complained to The Greater London Council in 1971 when the restaurant was under threat from demolition.