With my bag, full of books and a notebook, slung across my shoulder, I eagerly entered the double doors of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).
It was bustling with activity.
The lobby was a mix of knowing faces, confidently walking towards the African Art section on the first floor or up the stair towards European Art, and people with their noises in a museum map, confused on where to start. The gift shop was a claustrophobic mess of bodies and trinkets. And people waited at the top of the stairs on the second floor, presumably for a presentation in the nearby auditorium.
I turned to my right and made my way passed the gift shop and towards the tucked away restaurant at the end of the hall, Gertrude’s Restaurant.
And, before long, I was seated at a cushioned booth, excited to play the part of a classy gal who puts her pinky out when sipping her tea.
I dressed up for this and everything, ya’ll!
Ok, now onto the nitty gritty.
For a while now, I had been wanting to try out Gertrude’s Afternoon Tea, especially since it’s not something you see offered a lot in Baltimore (and even this one was, until recently, only offered the first Saturday of every month).
So, I said to myself, “Ok, Morgan! Payday’s a-comin’ and you ain’t doin’ a damn thing.”
I made the reservation.
My overall impression? Well…it had its highs and lows.
1) The opposite of tea-rrific
Looking at the list of teas, I was pretty excited to see two of my favorites, Moroccan Mint and Ginger Peach, on there. I started by ordering the Moroccan Mint and was quickly brought a small, white teapot.
I immediately started to pour the liquid into my cup and it came out clear.
I thought, “Of course, duh, gotta let it steep for a hot second.”
I opened the teapot to pour the contents of my cup back inside and was surprised to find one, lonely looking teabag floating at the top of the pot.
There had to be some mistake…
Where was the loose tea?!
I looked back at the menu and it didn’t have any specifics about the teas besides them being local to Baltimore.
Do no Baltimore-based businesses sell loose tea?!.
Now, maybe I’m just being a tea snob, but for an afternoon tea I feel like they could have splurged a little bit and got the good stuff. It wasn’t their first rodeo either, which made it even worse!
Has no one ever complained? Am I crazy?
I felt so betrayed. And, even after it steeped forever and a day, it tasted like I was drinking water with a faint hint of flavor. At first, I thought the tea just wasn’t strong enough, but the same was the case when I ordered the Ginger Peach (a black tea).
Obviously, one teabag wasn’t strong enough for an entire pot.
This was further confirmed when the ladies next to me said the exact same things that I was thinking to the waiter. I should have talked to the waiter about it too, but
I’m a coward I get anxious about giving negative remarks to people handling my food and drink. I’ve heard my share of kitchen horror stories to be worried that someone might be triggered by me sending stuff back.
Regardless, I was extremely disappointed since the tea is kinda THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of an afternoon tea. I wonder if they’d be insulted if I brought my own loose tea with a tea infuser next time
(just kidding, there won’t be a next time).
That’d make things 10x better!
2) That’s not how any of this works!
With the way Gertrude’s presents it’s savory and sweet treats to go along with the
mediocre tea, things can look rather depressing if you go to the restaurant alone.
Instead of putting everything on the three tier tray at once, they bring your food out in courses.
You start with savory
And end with…sweet again? Not complaining, I just wondered why they separated their “Gertrude’s Candy Bar” from the other sweets.
Funny sidenote: The guy next to me made the connection between me reading 1984 and the current administration.
As you can see, all of the images show lonely trays since it was just me.
I was expecting a more traditional presentation with the savory items on the bottom tier, then sweet, followed by the scone(s) on the top (correct me if I’m wrong). That would have also filled up the serving plates regardless of your party size.
It’s probably more of a pet peeve, but I really wanted it to feel a bit more authentic…
If nothing else, they’d have less dishes to clean.
1) Bite-sized happiness
Despite not being able to experience my food the way I expected, I can honestly say it was mostly pretty good.
I definitely enjoyed the sweet treats much more than the savory. However, a highlight in the savory department was the salmon salad sandwich.
I could have just gotten a platter of that and been completely satisfied.
*outdated movie reference in 3…2…1* I [you] just got served!
Let’s just say I didn’t have to do this…
…at all during my dining experience.
“And that’s all I have to say about that”
3) A dash of culture
One benefit of having afternoon tea at an (free) art museum is getting to roam around afterwards.
I’ve gone to the BMA several times, but was able to explore a newer exhibit called Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Book right before the museum closed that day.
Ok, ok, so the good section was extremely short, sue me!
It’s not like this post was just a ploy to complain about their tea or anything…
Overall rating: 6/10
Get some loose tea guys!