Recently, Baltimore Magazine put out its list of the 50 best restaurants in the Baltimore area. And Victoria Gastro Pub in Ellicott City, a fairly new restaurant to even be in contention for this prize, made the list at number 47. So when we needed a place to go for Mother’s Day Brunch, we figured what better way to celebrate Mom than at a restaurant deemed one of the best around. Well, we don’t know what Baltimore Magazine was thinking – but there is no way this restaurant deserved to be in the top 50! The meal was terrible and we were so disappointed we actually went out for pizza later to truly celebrate our Mom.
Sure, the newly remodeled Victoria’s (the space had been occupied by a Bennigan’s before) was a beautiful space. The dining room had been divided into separate rooms, each with their own decorative English flair. The dark wood finishes and chandeliers provided a nice dining atmosphere. And with both a separate bar area and the ability to dine outside on their terrace, the seating layout was a step up from your normal chain fare. And, we give them credit for showing off for Mother’s Day, as the manager came by and gave our Mom an envelope full of goodies. But, a restaurant experience is more than just ambience and decoration. The best part of a restaurant should be its food and service. You could be in the Taj Mahal, but if you have terrible service and an awful meal, you won’t enjoy it. The same is true for Victoria’s.
When we first walked in, the restaurant was pretty empty, but the hostesses still made us jump through hoops to get a table. They wanted to know if we had reservations, and that they couldn’t guarantee us a seat if we didn’t have them (again, there was hardly anybody in the restaurant so this was an interesting angle.) Then they made us put both our names down (just an annoyance here) and wait while they figured out where to seat us. So when they took us back, they put us right next to the door where all meal long, servers and busboys were walking back and forth and constantly intruding on our dining space, even though the room we were in had 4 other empty tables!
Looking down at the menus they gave us, nothing looked familiar. Yes, the upscale menu may have looked foreign to us as we are not gourmet connoisseurs, but no menu item was explained, and the prices were difficult to locate. Victoria’s is an English pub/restaurant, and they by no mean hold back infusing the entire menu with English selections. There was no plain “American” breakfast choice to get just eggs and bacon, or French options of crepes, or Mexican breakfast entrees. Every single selection was in an English style. (Even the most upscale restaurants we’ve been to have always tried to mix in a few non-themed menu options to give diners some options.)
While we tried to navigate the confusing menu, the waiter asked for our drink selections. One person asked for a small juice, and the result was a huge glass of OJ no one could finish in one sitting. Another asked for hot chocolate, and was told they didn’t have any. (How can you not have any?) The waiter came back later to happily reply that they did have hot chocolate and brought a small cup out. This was just the instant kind, (not the gourmet kind we were expecting from such an upscale establishment, and the kind we’ve seen at other chains) and then they charged a ridiculous amount for it! (We’re talking more than Starbucks here – for instant.)
When we finally ordered our food, we ordered off the “sides” menu. We asked for simply eggs, potatoes, bacon, and toast. (Again, we asked for rye toast, and were told they didn’t have any. So basically, anything that wasn’t directly listed on the menu wasn’t available to us.) After what seemed like a really long time, the waiter finally brought us our food. We were not given any condiments (including salt and pepper) for our meals, and when we did ask for one, we were brought such a small amount that there would have been no way to possibly share it between 3 diners. (We asked for butter for our toast, and received one spoonful.)
The food, besides being delivered slowly, was actually terrible. Our eggs were undercooked and cold. Our toast, if you can call it that, was really just a huge slice of what would normally serve as their French toast, which had been toasted on just one side. The “Gruyere Potato Cake” was a thin smattering of chopped potatoes with a slice of gruyere cheese “melted” on top. Really, the cheese was probably placed on top just moments before the potatoes were done, as it was hardly melted at all. Again, a part of the meal that went cold fast. Perhaps the only good part of the meal was the bacon. It was crispy, and had no icky fat pieces attached, and the seasoning made it actually taste good. However, it was probably a bit too spicy, but overall it was the best part of the meal.
When the bill came, we weren’t surprised that the meal was very overpriced at $50. For cold eggs, and toast that wasn’t even made right (and really, how can you mess up toast), we had to drop a good portion of our Mother’s Day budget. Plus, after we left, our brunch companions ended up sick all day (we’re guessing from the runny, undercooked eggs) which made the holiday not as enjoyable as it should have been as we had to leave them home from our pizza outing. Overall, our meal was a disaster at Victoria’s and the next time we want to go to brunch, we’ll take the extra time to wait in the line outside of Eggspectations for a meal we know we’ll enjoy. One thing we know for sure, we will never go back to Victoria’s, no matter what Baltimore magazine has to say about it.