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EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Downton Abbey eatery in race row over ‘un-PC’ decor

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Rules is the oldest restaurant in London, founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule, the year Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt.

And it’s barely changed since, with the decor, menu and service remaining comfortingly similar for two centuries.

But now the Covent Garden venue — which is so timeless it appeared in episodes of ITV‘s hit period drama Downton Abbey — has been forced to remove some of its decorations after one complaint, by MasterChef judge and London Evening Standard restaurant critic Jimi Famurewa.

The writer took offence at an antique charity donations box, held by a carved statue of a black man.

Rules (above) is the oldest restaurant in London, founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule, the year Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt. And it's barely changed since, with the decor, menu and service remaining comfortingly similar for two centuries

Rules (above) is the oldest restaurant in London, founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule, the year Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt. And it’s barely changed since, with the decor, menu and service remaining comfortingly similar for two centuries

The Covent Garden venue - which is so timeless it appeared in episodes of ITV's hit period drama Downton Abbey (above) - has been forced to remove some of its decorations after one complaint, by MasterChef judge and London Evening Standard restaurant critic Jimi Famurewa

The Covent Garden venue – which is so timeless it appeared in episodes of ITV’s hit period drama Downton Abbey (above) – has been forced to remove some of its decorations after one complaint, by MasterChef judge and London Evening Standard restaurant critic Jimi Famurewa

‘One of the first things I saw on entering was a wooden donation box carved into a grotesque caricature of a black man, red-lipped and grinning like a minstrel,’ says Famurewa, who is British-Nigerian.

‘Having mentioned its offensiveness to staff on the way out, I was told that they were ‘looking into changing it’, but that the centuries-old nature of the boxes makes this complicated; I would gently suggest that it should probably be quite a high priority that some of your patrons aren’t depressingly dehumanised by the decor before they’ve even taken their coats off.’ 

A spokesman for the restaurant declines to comment.

However, a source tells me: ‘The antique has been there as long as anyone here can remember and there’s never been a complaint until now.

Famurewa (pictured), who is British-Nigerian, took offence at an antique charity donations box, held by a carved statue of a black man, inside Rules restaurant

Famurewa (pictured), who is British-Nigerian, took offence at an antique charity donations box, held by a carved statue of a black man, inside Rules restaurant

‘Part of the charm of Rules is that it’s like walking back in time. Clearly, there are some aspects of the past that will no longer be tolerated.’

When I visited the 223-year-old restaurant this week to see the offending item, I was informed that it had been covered up, while staff figured out how to remove it without damaging the wall panelling.

Famurewa was so upset by his experience at Rules — which counts historical figures including writers Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Galsworthy and H. G. Wells among its former customers — that he junked his review and wrote about a trendy Shoreditch Italian joint instead.

Happily, he found the kale salad and fazzoletti pasta there delightful.

Olivia wears heart on her tattoo sleeve

Pop star Harry Styles’s love of tattoos appears to be rubbing off on his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde.

The actress, 37, has had the names of her children inked on her forearms. 

Pop star Harry Styles's love of tattoos appears to be rubbing off on his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde

Pop star Harry Styles’s love of tattoos appears to be rubbing off on his girlfriend, Olivia Wilde

The 37-year-old actress has had the names of her children inked on her forearms

The 37-year-old actress has had the names of her children inked on her forearms

She had Otis, seven, and Daisy, five, with her ex-fiance, the U.S. actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis, 46.

Styles, 27, has at least 60 tattoos, which he had to cover up for his roles in films including Dunkirk.

Memo to anyone lucky enough to entertain James Bond star Naomie Harris: under no circumstances serve her a salad. 

‘I never go anywhere near a cold lunch,’ declares the 45-year-old actress, who plays Moneypenny in No Time To Die. 

‘That’s my idea of hell. I don’t even drink cold liquids.’ 

Harris, who lives with banker boyfriend Peter Legler, takes her own food on set, adding: ‘I have a little oven in my trailer, and I heat up my food.’

Shy Lily hides her beau at the ball…

Lily James seems to be wary of being photographed with men since she was pictured canoodling with The Affair’s married star Dominic West in Rome.

The 32-year-old Mamma Mia 2 star is now going out with American rocker Michael Shuman, but they didn’t pose together at a charity gala in London’s West End.

Shuman was, however, seen leaving with Lily in the back of a taxi.

Lily James seems to be wary of being photographed with men since she was pictured canoodling with The Affair's married star Dominic West in Rome

Lily James seems to be wary of being photographed with men since she was pictured canoodling with The Affair’s married star Dominic West in Rome

The 32-year-old Mamma Mia 2 star is now going out with American rocker Michael Shuman, but they didn't pose together at a charity gala in London's West End. Shuman was, however, seen leaving with Lily in the back of a taxi

The 32-year-old Mamma Mia 2 star is now going out with American rocker Michael Shuman, but they didn’t pose together at a charity gala in London’s West End. Shuman was, however, seen leaving with Lily in the back of a taxi

Perhaps she was worried about whether the bass guitarist, 36, would keep his clothes on for the cameras?

His band, Queens Of The Stone Age, has a reputation for on-stage nudity.

… as Eddie wows in ‘girl mode’ 

It was Eddie Izzard’s first big red-carpet appearance since the comedian spoke of a desire to be ‘based in girl mode’. 

Izzard, 59, who used to wear men’s suits with high heels and varnished nails, came dressed in a sparkly frock. 

Eddie Izzard, 59, who used to wear men's suits with high heels and varnished nails, came to the gala dressed in a sparkly frock

Eddie Izzard, 59, who used to wear men’s suits with high heels and varnished nails, came to the gala dressed in a sparkly frock

AC/DC-loving former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is delighted to welcome Prince William into the heavy-metal fraternity. 

The future king mentioned on a podcast that he enjoyed listening to the rock band to start the day. 

‘Not only did he choose Thunderstruck as his Monday morning song, he says he’s listened to it a million times,’ enthuses Whittingdale.

‘Well, it is a bloody good song.’

Meghan’s pal eyes up Cambridges’ school 

While the Duchess of Sussex shunned this country, her best friend retains her love of Britain.

And now U.S. TV producer Lindsay Roth, who asked Meghan to be maid of honour when she got married to British accountant Gavin Jordan, is planning to send her son to a Thomas’s school, just like the one attended by Prince William’s children. 

U.S. TV producer Lindsay Roth, who asked Meghan to be maid of honour when she got married to British accountant Gavin Jordan, is planning to send her son to a Thomas's school, just like the one attended by Prince William's children

U.S. TV producer Lindsay Roth, who asked Meghan to be maid of honour when she got married to British accountant Gavin Jordan, is planning to send her son to a Thomas’s school, just like the one attended by Prince William’s children

‘Are there mums with kids at Thomas’s Kensington who wouldn’t mind speaking to a prospective parent (me!) about it?’ Roth asks fellow West Londoners on Facebook.

If only Meghan hadn’t been so rude about her sister-in-law, I’m sure the Duchess of Cambridge would help out…

Ian Botham, who raised more than £30 million by doing 10,500 miles of charity walks, thinks they almost paralysed him. 

‘I’ve just had the worst two years of my life, forget lockdown,’ says Lord Botham, 66, who was made a trade envoy to promote British business Down Under. 

‘My spine had to be redone from when I had it fused in 1987. It shifted from the walks.’ 

Beefy adds of the doctors: ‘They were worried about its potential to cripple me.’ 

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