Since Martin Blunos abdicated his throne at The Crown Social nearly a year ago, the de-crowned and rebranded The Social has kept a low profile.
‘New’ head Chef Iain Inman’s CV includes stints at Chez Bruce and The Square. Whilst he’s ditched the small plates, the concept is still informal fine dining. Starters weigh in around the £6.50 mark, mains £18 and desserts £7. We were dining using a Travelzoo voucher nearing its expiry date, giving us 3 courses each and a glass of prosecco for £39.
A bread board of good wholemeal, average foccacia and slightly dry sodabread kept us occupied whilst we made our selections from the menu.
To start, I ordered the leek and bacon pasty (£7). What turned up wouldn’t have looked out of place behind the counter at my local Gregg’s. However, if I could buy a pasty this good for 99p, I’d need a winch to get me out of bed in the morning. Packed full of finely diced salty bacon and creamy leeks, its richness was balanced by a smear of white onion puree. A little pile of radish slaw tasted predominantly of melted butter but added some texture to the plate.
Mrs G’s herb gnocchi (£6.50) with swede fondant looked beautiful and tasted just as good. The soft herb gnocchi and sweet swede fondant were complimented well by parmesan shavings, a scattering of girole mushrooms and a smear of the same white onion puree which accompanied my pasty.
For main I ordered the ribeye of Usk Valley beef (£20) with red wine jus. Even though it was tender, it lacked flavour and was served medium-well done; despite following the recommendation to order it medium–rare. Underneath the meat sat an incongruous mix of slightly underdone French beans, dried tomatoes, and sautéed mushrooms.
Whilst these components disappointed, a little pot of triple cooked chips (£2.95) were categorically the best I have ever eaten in Cardiff. Triple cooked, they were supremely crispy with a staggeringly fluffy interior. I could happily have spent all eternity dipping them in the meaty red wine jus.
Mrs G’s main of deeply flavoured guinea fowl had bobby dazzler written all over it. It was served with some excellent potato dauphinoise, fresh summer vegetables and a heavy hitting meat jus. The only flaw on the plate was a slightly dry yet still flavourful croquette made from the shredded guinea fowl leg meat.
After 2 courses it was 2-0 to Mrs G. And, by the end of dessert, she’d completed her hat trick.
Her dessert of raspberry macaroons, raspberry sorbet and liquorice cream was spot on. The macaroons’ crisp exteriors gave way to a soft and slightly chewy centre. A raspberry sorbet was as smooth as Usain Bolt’s pre-race chat up lines. The final element on the plate, a delicate liquorice cream, added a clever dimension to the dish.
My dessert, a contemporary take on rhubarb crumble and elderflower fool didn’t live up to the memories of two of my favourite old school puds. Soft poached rhubarb was far too tart and it masked the flavour of the subtly delicious gooseberry and elderflower fool. Lastly, a scattering of crumble pieces lacked the golden brown top and fruit soaked base achieved by baking it with the fruit.
I’m not quite sure what to make of The Social. Whilst we both agreed the service was excellent and Mrs G had a fantastic meal, I feel a little bit more on the fence. One thing is for certain.......that's the best pasty and chips I've had in Cardiff.
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