I had planned a holiday brunch for five lovely ladies, and I wanted to pick somewhere upscale and lovely that would be decorated festively for the holidays. So, naturally, I picked Tabard Inn, as we all know the Inn is the most coveted Washington brunch spot, and I was sure it would be lovely.
The ladies present were my best friend Lindsey, who attends culinary school and works in the restaurant industry in New York; Diana, a realtor for Sotheby’s and blogger over at the Happy Hostess; Sophie, the sassy editrix behind Guest of a Guest D.C.; and Allison, who works in finance and is on the board of The Madison with yours truly.
While we’re all quite different, all ladies present happen to have impeccable taste, manners and decorum. Oh, and at times we’re all a bit too Bitchy for our own good.
Unfortunately, we were all more than little disappointed with our Tabard Inn experience. For starters, the enormous Christmas tree in the lobby was no longer there (this was mid-December, mind you). Perhaps a cost-cutting measure, but a bad decision in my book. Then, we sat in the normally charming but oddly dim Inn for what seemed like an eternity.
Lindsey said, “This guest Bitch is not a fan of waiting, especially when it’s over 30 minutes past our reservation time!” After patiently waiting to be seated, we were placed at an awkward circular table against the wall in a separate room from the restaurant. Then, we were greeted by quite the rude waitress with a side of attitude.
Immediately after seating us, the waitress plopped down a complimentary basket of house-made breads, with Parmesan foccacia, carrot muffins, blueberry muffins, and more. She must have known that carbs could keep us quiet, at least momentarily.
After taking a look around, which we had plenty of time to do, it was clear that Tabard is trying to shove more people in while skimping on quality. The napkins were paper napkins. I recall the dishes being nicer, but that may be me. Our round table was shoved awkwardly against an empty, un-decorated wall on the second floor. The whole place just seemed unkempt. At least, the second floor did. It seems that Tabard has lost a lot of its charm due to its popularity.
As for the drinks—when they did indeed arrive—my coffee was delicious as was Diana’s hot chocolate. Allison’s tea and my coffee were consistently refilled, so the service was good in that capacity.
Under official Bitch decree, if there are doughnuts on the menu, they must be ordered. I went ahead and took a hold of this responsibility. Tabard Inn is known for having the best doughnuts, and we gave them our Best Doughnut Award in the 2010 Bitches Best Brunch Bites. Today was no exception, the doughnuts were delicious: enormous, fluffy and hot. The doughnuts are coated in cinnamon sugar and served with house made whipped cream.
As for entrees, let’s start with Diana, who ordered the gumbo, which was good and spicy.
Miss Sophie ordered the huevos rancheros. She didn’t eat half of the dish, because, she says, “the red sauce they used tasted like a melted tire with cayenne pepper doused on it. It had an asphalt-y, metallic-y taste to it, that I can’t put my finger on.” However, she notes, the half that did not have the sauce was good.
After flip-flopping on entree choices, Lindsey decided to go the more traditional route and ordered the Eggs Benedict with salmon. Lindsey, who is in culinary school and has very discerning taste buds, said the English muffins were completely over-buttered and soggy before she even had a chance to pierce the poached egg and let the yolk seep through the nooks and crannies to give it the proper flavor.
Instead, her taste buds were inundated with butter, not only from the English muffins, but from the overly rich and excessive amount of Hollandaise as well. “Needless to say, I’m a harsh critic since I am a chef myself,” she quipped.
Allison opted for the salmon entree, served over rice with a teriyaki-style marinade. Hungry yet ladylike, Allison polished off the entire dish and became a member of the clean plate club, which speaks for itself.
As for me, I had the exact same dish I had when we brunched at Tabard more than two years prior, which I’m not sure says much about the chef’s creativity with the menu. The gruyere mushroom quiche was amazing, as it was in 2012. It came served with a light-and-fresh field green salad, also exactly the same. It was truly dining deja vous, and, had the quiche been any less remarkably, this may have been boring. In this case, it was not. It’s truly one of the best dishes on the menu.
In sum, be prepared for terrible service with lots of attitude and a decline in service and atmosphere.
The Bitches say: C+. A- for the food. But, Tabard Inn has gotten too big for its britches and is skimping on the service and details.
1739 N Street N.W.