Bethan & I aren’t down in Cardiff as often these days, so last week we made the most of it and tried the intriguing lunch at the Gothic beauty Park House.
They offer a range of different menus and prices, from £21 for a two course lunch to a 7 course dinner with matched wines for £118.
We thought the set lunch would let us see whether the food can match the magnificent building..
On arrival, we had a good look at the fantastic old house
Built in 1874 for John McConnochie, Chief Engineer of Bute Docks, it’s a Grade I listed cracker.
Popular when first built, and widely admired today, the style is “Early French Gothic” and echoes can be seen across Cardiff (eg Castell Coch)
The main entrance is at the side, and you have to ring to be admitted.
Our coats were whisked away by the friendly staff, and we stared at the underside of the stairs (they’re in the wrong place – famously the only mistake in the career of architect William Burges).
There’s a pleasant bar, but we went straight through into the dining room (more impressive than my poor picture)
Our lunch menu was £21 for 2 courses, or £26 for 3.
There is also a £49 four course lunch which comes with carefully paired wines.
Wine and water arrived swiftly, the bread a little slow, arriving just before the starters
My duck liver parfait was a very posh pâté.
Soft, flavourful, and a generous portion, I loved it.
The brioche bread added further richness, and the heritage beetroot added a welcome sharp note.
The recommended Eden Valley Oz Riesling cut through all the richness too.
Bethan’s wild mushroom risotto with roast chervil root looked less impressive than the mountain of duck, but it was a tasty risotto, and a fine starter, bursting with deep, earthy flavours.
We were impressed.
After a gentle pause, our mains arrived.
I had the roast breast of pheasant, which came with a rich sauce and a pot containing some roast leg and roasted carrots.
Again, my photo hasn’t done justice.
Bethan worried it was too small, but pheasant breast is a big eat and I was very pleased.
The meat wasn’t bloody or rare, yet was soft and flavourful.
It had been removed from the bone with some skill and the toasted seeds added a little depth.
Bethan’s fillet of bream, with herb & hazelnut couscous and shellfish bisque, was a crispy-skinned delight.
I don’t like fish, but even I liked this.
That crispy skin! A crunch and then the fishy taste came through.
The couscous was enjoyable too, the nuts and herbs making reminding me of our homemade stuffing.
We were now very happy, and delighted to have a rest and look at our neighbours on the £49 menu.
Their food looked excellent too (hare suet pudding!), and the four paired wines looked generous measures.
One of them had pretty much cracked by the end the of second glass.
And they recommended a red with the fish course!
“The truffles and mushrooms with the halibut would be overpowered by a white”, their hunky waiter told them, as he poured the NZ Pinot Noir, and we swooned from afar.
WE WILL BE RETURNING! We want that tasting menu!
Our reverie was broken by the arrival of dessert.
That Valrhona chocolate tart was every bit as rich and chocolate-y as it looks.
The plain chocolate disk was a wonder, it broke my heart to break it.
The blood orange sorbet (I thought it was rhubarb!) lightened things slightly, but this is a big, serious dessert for people who want some proper food.
Bethan’s dessert was a complete contrast (thank heavens we ordered differently so we could do sharesies)
A medley of lightness, citrus, coconut and refreshing cold.
The official title is “Apple Buttermilk Ice Cream honeycomb – pedro ximenez caramel” but I don’t think it’s about that.
It was about freshening you up before you head off on your way.
We declined the coffee easily, but the digestifs took more avoiding.
They have a very fine range of cognacs, whisky and rum, but I’d had two glasses of wine, and the lunchtime drinking multiplier comes more into play as I get older.
Their wine list is the size of a small house, with plenty to interest you, and reasonable lower reaches to a terrifying top end.
The staff are knowledgeable and friendly without being pushy – I’d employ all of them in a shot.
I often end reviews by saying whether I’d go back.
Even as I watched the ladies next to us struggle with their final drinks, I knew I would be having their £49 menu someday soon.
4 or 5 different wines at lunchtime, paired with interesting, well-executed food?
20 Park Place
Cardiff CF10 3DQ
029 2022 4343