I really enjoyed my first visit to the Parc Thistle’s Social last year, so when I saw a Living Social voucher offer for two courses and a glass of Prosecco for two people for £29 I snapped it up and we were looking forward to our next visit.
Unfortunately, in common with our recent lunch at Jamie’s Italian, it was yet another dining disappointment. The décor and service in the Social were as they were before, and we enjoyed our glass of Prosecco, adorned with a strawberry, at the bar, but when we saw the menu, our hearts sank. Instead of the admittedly pricy but very good menu we chose from last time, which was bordering on fine dining and still had echoes of the early attempts to bring Michelin standard food to Cardiff, we were presented with a generic Thistle Hotels restaurant menu, complete with details of room service and a selection of Chicago Town pizzas (yes, really – and they’re still displaying their Michelin Guide sticker in the window!) There was a specials menu, but it seemed to be more of the same.
We actually discussed the possibility of drinking our Prosecco, cutting our losses and going elsewhere, as we knew we were pretty much guaranteed a bad meal, but it was 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and we didn’t want to be trailing round Cardiff trying to find somewhere else that could fit us in (especially not as I had new shoes on!) so we decided to go with it.
To start, I chose ham hock terrine served with a poached egg and chutney. This was reasonable, although the terrine needed more seasoning and I’m never a fan of cold runny eggs, as this one was.
Mr W went for a selection of charcuterie, which included some more of the terrine, some cold cuts and some rather unappetising-looking pate.
Bizarrely, neither of our starters came with any kind of bread, so we had to order extra, which attracted a charge, and wasn’t the freshest it could have been. It also came with some rather unpleasant tasting dipping oils.
I really struggled to choose a main course. As well as the aforementioned Chicago Town pizzas, there was a selection of Asian inspired dishes, a pasta section and some more traditional style mains. Once again, I found myself asking whether it’s possible to do all of those things well in one kitchen. In the end I opted for a duck breast, served with thyme fondant potatoes, green beans and an orange sauce. Unfortunately, it was as bad as I expected: the duck was dry, tasteless and had a greyish hue to it which was very offputting. The potatoes, beans and sauce were actually quite nice, but the potatoes were not fondant and didn’t have any discernible thyme flavour to them.
Mr W decided to play it safe and go for a ribeye steak. He’d had a steak on our previous visit, which was excellent. This one was okay – not the best steak he’s ever had, but certainly not the worst. The accompaniments, however, were not great: the chips and onion rings just tasted of oil, and the peppercorn sauce was watery and synthetic.
I left my duck breast and our waiter asked whether I had enjoyed it. When I said I hadn’t, he offered us a dessert free of charge, but there was nothing I really fancied (a selection of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was on offer alongside what I’m sure would have been fairly generic pre-produced puddings) so he offered to make us a dessert cocktail instead, which was actually really nice – but, as with my experience at Jamie’s, I would rather have paid the going rate and had a dinner that I’d enjoyed.
It’s really disappointing to see that the concept they were going for at the Social hasn’t worked, and has gradually gone downhill from having Michelin star aspirations, via something diluted, to a generic hotel menu. Pretty much all of the other diners seemed to be staying in the hotel, and I can’t honestly imagine you’d eat there otherwise. I certainly won’t be again. The service was excellent, and we recognised one of the waiters from when we’d eaten there previously. I felt bad for him and his colleagues that they’re offering such good service when the food that’s being churned out is so bad.