When we told our landlord/housemate that we were heading to Victoria BC for two days, she suggested to go have afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. She also mentioned it was on her bucket list. I, a lover of tea and all things British, looked up this event online right away and knew I had to experience it.
It was definitely a splurge, but one I thought might be worth it, especially since we were going to be there during their lower price season and it was a birthday trip, so splurging a bit was in order.
As soon as we walked in, we were surrounded by rich fabrics, antique tapestries and rugs, elegant chairs, vintage furnishings and wooden tables. We were also delighted by live music from the pianist.
Reservations are recommended but we arrived without one because it wasn’t their busy season. We got a table right away, near the windows.
The Inner Harbour makes a lovely backdrop if you can get a table by the windows.
As soon as we sat down I was impressed with the beautiful china in front us.
The Empress Tea China was originally presented to King George V in 1914 upon the opening of the Booth factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The china was first used by The Empress in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The pattern is now produced by William Edwards exclusively for The Fairmont Empress.
Soon after, our afternoon tea began with fresh strawberries and cream.
I do have to mention that I always remove the whipped cream from desserts in restaurants because I don’t like it, but this cream was astounding. It was a bit thicker than what I usually see and it wasn’t too sweet. It was velvety and delicious. A great start.
Next, we had to pick our teas from a selection of five teas included in the price, or four other premium loose leaf teas for an extra cost. You can also opt to pay a bit extra to begin with some sparkling wine. We opted out (to save our money for more affordable drinks somewhere else.)
Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling
Fairmont Earl Grey
Kea Lani Orange Pineapple
We chose Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling tea (“A 2nd flush tea with a delightful fresh character with distinctive Muscat grape notes and hints of currant”).
Next came the best part. The food.
Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Dill Cream Cheese
Roasted Honey Ham with Tarragon Dijonnaise
Free Range Egg Salad Croissant
Cucumber & Ginger Mascarpone on Butter Brioche
Moroccan Spiced Coronation Chicken on Marble Rye
Usually, I love the cucumber ones, but these time my favorites were the egg salad croissant (because anything tastes good on a croissant), the Moroccan chicken with bold flavors, and the fresh tasting smoked salmon.
Freshly Baked Raisin Scone with Strawberry Jam & Empress Cream
The best scone I’ve ever had. I think it was in great part because this is the best whipped cream I’ve ever had (same one from the strawberries).
Maple Pumpkin Dacquoise
Chocolate Cherry Tea Cup
Citrus Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
Spiced Vanilla Shortbread
My favorites were the shortbread dunked in the tea, the cheesecake, and the chocolate teacup because chocolate.
We ordered a second pot of tea to try, the Kea Lani Orange Pineapple, which given its description of “slightly tart” was awfully sweet. I went back to drinking our first choice.
Our waitress kept coming back so we never had an empty cup of tea nor a cold one. We got constant refills with our milk and sugar preferences.
I took mine with milk no sugar. Josh took his without milk and one sugar.
Would I do it again? No. I think once is [expensive] enough to experience this.
Do I regret it? No. The food and the tea were great.
What I would do differently: We kinda wished we had splurged a tiny bit more and ordered sparkling wine. I feel like we would’ve enjoyed ourselves more.
What I didn’t like: The lighting in the room was a bit too dark for my taste, but it’s probably to create a specific ambiance. Our table, although close to the windows, was not very comfortable because our chairs didn’t fit underneath it and I kept hitting the table every time I scooted my chair (I got up a few times). This is not the case with all the tables.
What I liked: Everything else. As mentioned: the tea and the food, the decoration, the setting, the music, the experience as a whole.
Things to know:
Hours of Operation
Tea Service starts at Noon daily with the last seating at 3:45 p.m.
Evening Tea is also available starting at 7:00 p.m. with the last seating at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from May until September.
May 1, 2015 – September 30, 2015 – $63.00 CAD per person.
January 1, 2015 to April 30, 2015 – $49.95 CAD per person.
Children 12 and younger may choose the regular Afternoon Tea menu at 50% off the adult price, or enjoy the Prince and Princess Tea Menu.
Dress code is casually elegant. No torn and/or ripped jeans, short shorts, cut off pants, beach wear, flip flops or baseball caps.
Reservations are strongly recommended however walk-ins may be available.
Have you ever had afternoon tea at a fancy place? How was your experience?