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Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia?

Anyone know anything about this? I presume it's some kind of chain but can't find it online. It's going into the former Bennigan's in Columbia at Snowden River Parkway and Route 108.

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  1. I noticed this last week. It would be terrific for the area if it is a true Gastro Pub, but I feel that this is a term that's quickly getting watered down in our country. Is it the next "Bistro", which has little meaning anymore and is thrown onto anything?

    1. Victoria opens on December 10th..

      1. Went tonight.

        The good news:

        Nice space. Discrete, elegant, yet not stuffy. The interior designer earned his or her pay.

        Ample staff, attentive service, only occasionally stepping over the line into "Am I under surveillance here?" territory

        Unfortunately, my impression went downhill fast.

        Intro - After the usual "Hi, my name is..." sentence, the server gets to rattle off a prepared speech about how the place is "Warm and inviting" with food that's good, "but not pretentious". Sorry, dude, if you have to give a speech about it, it *is* pretentious - even if the food isn't, the speech is (and it was repeated verbatim at each table around me). Seriously, if anybody from the ownership reads this, PLEASE just print that stuff on the menu and spare your servers and the customers the rote performance of the canned speech.

        He also mentioned how the intent is "...small portions, so you can try a lot of things." Not at these prices, bucko! More on that as we go on.

        Onion soup - They don't call it French Onion Soup (Onion Soup Gratin is the listing, I think). Not bad. Two problems, though.

        First, we're talking *maybe* what would pass at most places for a large "cup" of soup - $8 Even if we call it a bowl, not a cup, it's a couple bucks above "normal" pricing one would expect unless we're in Maestro or the like.

        Second, do you know anybody who makes French Onion Soup with chunks of roast beef floating about in it? Me neither. It wasn't billed as "Beef Onion Soup", and I was expecting the usual rich brown beef stock, onions, crouton, and the melted cheese - that's it. Maybe they were "cheating" on enriching the stock, and nobody told the line cook that it's good form to strain out the beef divots before serving. Some more onion on the loose in the onion soup would also have been nice.

        Duck Fat Frites: I've heard about the ecstacy of eating good duck fat frites, and I've always wanted to experience this simple gastronomic marvel. I'm still waiting. At $6, these were only a baby step above McD's in flavor, and far behind in value for the money, sad to say.

        DLT sandwich: Duck Confit, Smoked Duck Breast, Bibb lettuce, tomato - DLT, get it?
        Somehow, I really thought they'd at least get all the ingredients on there, but the tomato was AWOL. Perhaps they only had beefsteak tomatoes, and they didn't want the size of the tomato slice to draw attention to the fact that the sandwich is on Pullman-style square bread, toasted, measuring about 4" square.

        We're talking a single tea sandwich, folks, and this wasn't a case where small bread is used to make the "busting out all over" filling look more ample - there was barely any overhang. $11 But it does come with your choice of frites, maple baked beans, or a baby spinach salad. I ordered the salad. I got more frites. You'd think the fact that I'd already had a batch would have given somebody a clue.


        I was tempted to drown my sorrows, but at $7 per, even Guinness on draft didn't seem to be a winning choice, so I made do with my usual water.

        I looked over the dessert menu, but decided that if they weren't even willing to list prices, I wasn't going to chance it. And besides, I forgot my jeweler's loupe, and given the "Lilliputian portions" boasted of in the waiter's opening monologue, I figured I might need it.

        I finished out the evening with a tab of $26.25 (before tip) for a meal of what I consider to be a cup of soup, a half a sandwich (if one goes by "typical" bread size) and missing a named ingredient, at that, and two orders of fries - no drink, other than water. You've got to be kidding. I don't even get scalped like that in hotel restaurants in the middle of nowhere, when there's no other option for miles.

        Knock about $3 off per item, and we *might* be in the ballpark. Or keep the pricing and the portion sizing, and absolutely freaking blow me away with the stellar quality of ingredients, sublime preparation, and dazzling presentation. But this? No way.

        That said, they just opened. The missing tomato and the frites for salad goofs I can write off to normal opening week slips. And maybe they'll adjust portions or prices, or both, once the novelty wears off and they start to get a feel for what the market will really bear. Or maybe they'll find enough customers willing to pay, and keep happily on their present course.

        I just know that I'm in no hurry whatsoever to go back. Sad thing, because what there was of it all was pretty tasty. Just "Liliputian", which I don't see as quite the point of pride that the ownership seems to.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Warthog

          We went tonight as well.

          I agree with everything you have said and just want to add 2 things.

          Fiance got the venison and it was DIS-GUS-TING. My pork chop on the other hand was very good.

          The dessert we had was $6 and it was the Apple Dumpling and it was good. A little heavy on the dumpling part and a little scarce on the apple inside but it was tasty.

          1. re: ryzaroo

            Sounds like it is worth it to wait for a month or two before going to see that they work out some of the kinks.

            I wonder if new restaurants surf the web for feedback and buzz on diner experiences.....?

            1. re: Pool Boy

              I work right across the street. Did you notice any mention of a lunch menu or specials? This area is big for business lunches, so I assume they factored that into their dinning equation. I will make it there at some point in the next couple of weeks, so I will have a lunch report.

          2. re: Warthog

            $7 for a Guinness? Wow, I can find that cheaper in NYC!
            This place sounds like it is doomed already.

            1. re: hon

              As I noted above, I hope that perhaps a little "adjustment" on their perception of what the market will bear will occur in over the next couple of weeks, but last night, the place was packed, so they are likely to be riding the wave of first-time visitors for a while. It's only after they notice that fewer people than expected are coming back (assuming that proves to be the case), that reality may sink in.

              1. re: Warthog

                I work up the street and around the corner from this place, it just doesn't sound like something I would want to check out after work unless they get it together!

                1. re: hon

                  My wife and I went there last night. I was a little taken aback by the prices so I went with the poutin and the missus got the fish and chips. I liked the poutin, how can fries cooked in duck fat with and covered in duck confit and cheese not be good? The fish and chips, on the other hand, were a disaster. The fish was totally devoid of flavor. I mean, it had NO FLAVOR at all, no salt, no spice, nada. To their credit, they took it back and my wife ordered the "kobe" burger. They also poured me a beer on the house.

                  As others have made mention of, they should probably revisit their prices. I mean, charging $4.95 for a Miller Lite?

                  The persistent shoulder-touching gets a little tiresome as well. It's obvious that the management trains the wait staff to do it as a way of increasing tips, but doing it every time the waiter stops by isn't necessary.

                  I'm holding out hope for this place.

                  1. re: Beto_pan

                    Seems like this place is banking on a clientele of foodies with more money than common sense.

          3. Anybody gone recently? Despite the significant problems (see my early review in this thread), the place could still be worthwhile, with suitable adjustments to portion size, pricing, or both, and a little work on the service model.

            In light of that, I'd be very curious to hear from anybody who has been there in the last week or two, to see if any adjustments have been made. It's not unheard of for a new restaurant to change things up a bit once they see what's working, what's not, and what sort of feedback and reviews they get. I'd be curious if Victoria has reached a point of making changes, or if they have found sufficient customer base to support them "as is".

            3 Replies
            1. re: Warthog

              I went a few days ago, and it was great.

              When we walked in the hostess seemed to ignore us. That didn't make my girlfriend too happy but eventually someone else ended up seating us.

              We got excellent service. Probably the best I've had in a long while. The server made some small talk and had some recommendations (upon request), but he was completely out of the way. I didn't get the canned intro and he didn't try to sell me anything. I'm not sure if they changed the protocol or the server was just lazy. Either way, I liked the non-intrusive service.

              I ordered the salmon and my girlfriend had a pasta dish (not sure of the name). I believe they were $16 and $14 respectively. That's not outrageous but those are the cheapest entree's on the menu. Some of the dishes are up to $10 more. The portions are pretentiously small so I'd suggest both appetizer and dessert. My salmon was cooked a little more rare than I'm used to, but it had this light sauce and it tasted great.

              For dessert I got the chocolate prailine. I don't remember too much about it except that it was awesome. The portion was small ofcourse.

              So overall it's a bit on the pretentious/expensive side. When I go back, I'll most likely order an appetizer, entree, and dessert because the portions are so small. With that in mind I'd say it runs at about $30 per person (or more with a beer). You could spend less but you'd be limiting your options and you'll probably walk out hungry. I probably won't go back for a while just because the prices are so high.

              In reply to, "the persistent shoulder-touching gets a little tiresome as well. It's obvious that the management trains the wait staff to do it as a way of increasing tips", I don't think that's something managment would teach thier waitstaff. It sounds like the server was trying to "con" you into tipping them using sly tactics such as "being friendly". Some servers just have annoying habits, but I wouldn't fault the entire establishment on that.

              1. re: Warthog

                My son and I went last week on a Wednesday night and it was quite busy. There was a small wait but the hostess was nice. We were seated fairly quickly at a decent table. The tables tend to be close together but since we were at the end I felt we had enough room.
                The server was very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. My son ordered the salmon wrap and I ordered the roast chicken and dumplings, a "safe choice", figuring that if my son didn't like the salmon wrap, he'd could have some chicken.
                They brought some very good biscuits to the table which were quickly eaten. The waiter was good about refilling our glasses without needing to be summoned.
                The salmon wrap had a big piece of salmon in it. Larger than I was expecting. It was delicious, my son could only finish half, with a nice play between the soft but flavorful salmon and the crunchy, tangy veggie filling. The french fries that came with it were good as well - similar to the fries at Five Guys or Cheeburger.
                The chicken and dumplings were good. Actually, the chicken was very good in a nice mushroom sauce and not dry. The dumplings were luke-warm, noticeably cooler than the chicken and gravy and they were sort of gooey. Not terrible, but not as good as the chicken.
                We split an English trifle for dessert. Actually, I had the trifle. It used unsweetened whipped cream which my son didn't like, though I thought it set off the berries quite well. Probably an adult vs. child taste thing.
                The chicken I thought was more expensive than surrounding restaurants, but not drastically so. The salmon wrap was good quality and excellent value - not expensive at all. They do have more expensive items on the menu, including a lobster grilled cheese sandwich for something like $24. I overheard the waitress saying that they've been changing the recipe for that since it opened to try and get the balance of lobster and cheese right.
                The challenge for this restaurant will be to stand out from the near by competition. There's a Donna's not far away and Eggspectations and Pasta Blitz are across the street. Those restaurants aren't trying to be upscale, but they do offer good family food for less money.
                I would say I liked the restaurant. I do feel that it's trying to charge upscale prices without the upscale atmosphere. The service is quite good, but its a decorated as a pub and it just seems odd to be paying higher prices in a pub.

                1. re: dzoey

                  Went there at the end of December for a quick lunch. Funny you should talk about how they are trying to get the balance of the lobster and cheese....

                  For starter I had a small salad with pancetta - it was good, but nothing out of this world. My boyfriend had the barley soup which was very good. Even though it was small it was filling.

                  For lunch we both had the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich and fries. It was only $12 at lunch and, after reading the reviews on here, I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the sandwich. While the sandwich was good, I did feel that the cheddar style cheese that they had with the lobster just didn't fit. It truly overpowered the Lobster and it didn't melt right. A friend of mine went two weeks ago and had the Lobster Grilled Cheese but they were serving it with Brie. I'm not sure how that panned out, but I thought it was funny that you mentioned they were trying to work on the right balance for that sandwich.

                  I have not had drinks there but I did hear from friends that the beer prices were outrageous.

              2. My wife and I stopped here for brunch a few weeks ago. We stumbled over it on our way to Eggspectation and thought we'd try it out. Since we rarely see duck on a menu in any form, we were amazed at the different selections. We started by splitting an order of duck fat frites, which nearly did us in all on their own. They were wonderful, but even though her baked eggs and my omelet were perfectly cooked we were so stuffed by the richness of the starter that we couldn't finish them.

                According to our personable server, they are really trying to push their brunch menu. I think Eggspectation across the street might be too much competition for them to have much success with that.

                We were impressed enough to return last night for my mother's birthday. Our waiter, while friendly enough, was not very informative or knowledgeable. I gather he was new, and it didn't really detract from our meal. When I asked him to recommend a white wine to go with my order, he raved about one that he new was "Austrian", but couldnt; remember anything else about it. I went ahead ordered it, an Anton Bauer Grun Velt, and it was excellent, a good aroma with crisp taste.

                We started with a Charcouterie plate that we all split. Nice enough for a deli platter. My mother ordered the Amish Chicken, which was nice and tender. My wife ordered the DLT, which was amazing - almost overstuffed, and definitely the best dish on the table. I ordered the fish and chips, which I found overfried and didn't feel that the shrimp meshed well with the fish, but my wife enjoyed the pieces I shared. Everything is personal taste, and I think the chefs try to let the ingredients speak for themselves, but I think they may still be trying to find the right balance of those ingredients.

                I only had coffee afterwards, but my wife greatly enjoyed her Creamsicle dessert and my mother loved her Gaelic Brew (Irish coffee). I thought the $95 bill was well worth it.

                Based on other comments, I did check out the beer prices. Steeper than other bars, to be sure, but it should be noted that the $7.50 Guinness is a 20-oz. pour. Most drafts are available in 10 or 20 oz. glasses. It should also be noted that the higher priced beers are usually the ones with a higher alcohol content.

                The decor is marvelous. If you don't want to sit in the pub proper - a great space in and of itself - ask for the Seven Sisters room. I think that might be the "Kids-Free" zone other people were talking about.

                1. Went for brunch on Sunday and had a great experience. At around 1:00 p.m. the place was somewhat busy, but there was no wait. The service was great!!!!! We started with Poutine (duck fat fries with gruyere cheese, duck confit and duck gravy) they were tasty and almost filled me up. I had their take on eggs benedict with biscuits, blue crab meat spinach and citrus hollandaise. It was great, had loads of crab and was only $12. My wife had the lobster grilled cheese, $12. The cheese was a brie gruyere fondue, there was a ton of lobster meat and it was delicious, the Belgian fries that came with were also very good.

                  We were too full for dessert and took home the extra Poutine which heated up quite well and served as dinner for me. We will be making the drive from Baltimore again in the near future.

                  1. I went to Victoria Gastro Pub two weekends ago. Here are my comments:

                    - kudos to whoever came up with the interior layout. Considering it used to be a Bennigan's, the space was surprisingly nicer than expected.
                    - the menu is too big - there were some hits and some misses.
                    - the biscuits were a major hit!
                    - cheese plate was good but quite large which is a bit offputting; the store bought flatbread crackers were a miss; really liked the homemade pickles (bread and butter)
                    - roasted beet salad was very good and big enough to share
                    - braised beef short rib was enjoyed but massive and extremely rich, especially considering it is served over mac and cheese - yikes!
                    - the wild mushroom fondue panini was not a panini, was served cold and I have no idea why the word fondue is in the name
                    - as a side note, all "vegetarian" dishes included mushrooms with cheese or cream which is completely unintelligent and early nineties.
                    - there is a major gap in the wine list and it is uninspired - it goes from moderately priced to majorly priced - the Harlan Cab?!? Sure, I'm impressed they have it, but...

                    1. Just curious, have the portion sizes and prices found some sort of happy equilibrium? I went in the first few weeks they were open, and found the tiny portions (and not just on the "Liliputians" section of the menu) a serious mismatch to the standard-size prices. I would assume that eventually some adjustment would take place, just curious if it has.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Warthog

                        Hey Warthog,

                        I only ordered apps and entrees and felt that the portions were plenty big and matched the prices in that regard. I actually felt the quality to price ratio was mismatched. The food wasn't high end enough to match the prices although the effort is certainly there.

                        1. re: SGI

                          At 10 PM on a week night, this seems to be almost the only thing open in Columbia. Wish I knew what the food was like. Stood in the entrance of the restaurant a few minutes wondering if it was open. A waiter squeezed by us without saying anything: on his way back I asked him if the restaurant was open. Eventually we were seated in the bar area at a table. After 10 minutes with menu but no drinks, the manager came by, but just to chat to his friends. I asked if I could order, but he needed to make a personal phone call, and no servers came near, so we left. He did look up at us as we departed, but spoke not a word. First and last visit.

                          1. re: crowsonguy

                            Post deleted cause even though the resturaunt closes at 10, they still have late night with a late night menu until midnight.

                            That was still insanely rude though.

                      2. Some comments from a semi-regular.

                        I moved to Maryland in January, but quickly settled in at Victoria. I can't vouch for the restaurant part/sitdown service, but I spend a good amount of time at the bar and have ordered at least some portion of the food menu.

                        It's weird that someone walked in one night to eat and wasn't greeted. I generally walk in confidently and just blow by the counter at the entrance, but there's usually someone there to at least greet you. They're (bar area) open until 1 or 2 every night, and the kitchen usually stays open until 10 or so for dinner and then midnight or 1 for light snacks.

                        The beer menu is overpriced, no doubt about it, but it's not ridiculously overpriced if we want to quibble. Anything on draft will be in a 10oz or 20oz Belgian glass or nonic, so that takes some getting used to as far as portions and pricing math. They've recently expanded the beer menu and tend to rotate fairly regularly on the taps and a little less on the bottle list. Right now there are 18 taps and 65 bottles with a very respectable selection.

                        Service at the bar varies, but here's why:

                        In keeping with the classic English pub theme, they apparently use some slow "ticket" system which slows all the serving staff down as they tab in orders and settle bills. I've generally found the staff to be courteous, and since becoming a regular we've all warmed up to each other which has helped but sometimes they get a bit busy when it doesn't seem they should be. Don't know what to say for that, but like all of them personally.

                        The busy nature of the restaurant from the opening seems to have settled down. In the bar there are some crunches sometimes and space can be at a premium for a very short time, but when I look towards the entrance I don't usually see much if any of a wait for the restaurant.

                        As for the food, it's good. The poutine is quite good, same with the duck fat fries. The charcuterie plate is basic but the meats are solid and as someone said, those pickles are really good along with the mustard. I can't stand brie but anyone else I've ever gone with enjoys the lobster grilled cheese ($12). The menu changes occasionally, so there aren't many staples, but it's a fairly small menu and the prices are up there but not exorbitant either. The burger I had once was decent but not spectacular, but they also offer a Kobe beef burger. Their salads seem inventive, but I'm not much for salads. The lobster & jicama plate is wonderful, I went several months without trying that until this week and I feel like I've been missing out.

                        At brunch, all I've had is the French toast which was wonderful, but they offer an English Breakfast and a Maryland style Eggs Benedict with crab which looks intriguing. People tend to rave about the biscuits but I've yet to try any.

                        Overall the menu is unusual, there's some pricey big plates and then there's the "lilliputians" which are fantastic snacks but not much for a meal. There's little inbetween, which works well for the bar crowd but probably frustrates the dinner crowd.

                        For a converted Bennigan's, the architecture is great. The pub itself is a great space, with a decent amount of room and bar space as well as perimeter 2-3 seater tables as well as two small lounge areas, 1 near the entrance and 1 near the back.

                        Anyway, I like Victoria, I can understand some of the criticisms, but for a regular several months past the opening hiccups I can see where they're going and they seem to be realizing what they are and what works.

                        1. I just had dinner the other day there and was pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere is nice, the service is fine, and the food is good. Especially in the HoCo area, where so many of the restaurants are chains, it's nice to fine something that has an executive chef and a different point of view for food.

                          I wasn't too pleased with the renaming of "classic cocktails, but I suppose that they're trying to emphasize a theme. I also wish they had a Pimm's Cup or Pimm's lemonade on the list and that they spelled Tanqueray correctly. Or used Hendrick's. But they made up for it in the beer selection, which was resonably priced for the volume of beer. ($4/10 oz., $6-9/20 oz). And then they served my beer "ice cold" - so cold that ice formed in the glass (not a plus, but they did have Arrogant Bastard!)

                          The food was decent - the DLT is a really rich sandwich. I don't recommend getting the spinach salad side (which leaved a lot to be desired as a pile of spinach with some balsamic dressing on the side), but the duck fries were excellent at the pasta was as well. The burgers are also interesting-- they have different types and the healthy choices are there. They're just not as many choices-- which I liked because what they had all sounded really delicious.

                          I don't foresee myself going there very often because I live in Baltimore, but it was a very viable solution to eating-at-anything-but-a-chain-restaurant in the suburbs of HoCo. If their manager is reading this, they would do well by working with the local farmers markets and getting seasonal ingredients and emphasizing this on the menu. Overall though, I was very pleasantly surprised.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tizinu

                            Yeh, they generally serve beer in the frosted glasses. Next time just specify you want a "room temp" glass.

                            Some beers are actually ok in the chilly glasses, but I think they're the exception rather than the rule. But, the beer drinking public generally wants cold glasses (as I did before I started seriously getting into beer) so I can see how the default setting at Victoria -- especially in the dinner area and not the bar -- is for a cold glass.

                          2. They just upgraded from 18 taps to 24 the other day.

                            Plus 68 bottled beers on their bottle list.

                            1. Did Saturday morning brunch there today as an alternative to Eggspectations of Donnas. Very positive experience - good space, good service, very enjoyable food. Coffee from Orinoco was great, and bill with tip came in a around $20 a head with copious orange juice. Little pricey, but felt entirely worth it. Egg's Benedict with crab and prosciutto on a biscuit was particularly good. Fully intend to go back and try the duck fries in the future.