Having afternoon tea in Victoria is something everybody should do at least once.
Some of you may know it as “high tea” though technically I found out that term means a heavier meal served at dinner time.
The tea I’m talking about is usually served between 12 and 4 in the afternoon, and the Gatsby Mansion Inn & Restaurant serves theirs between 2 and 4.
Either way, if anyone has told you that enjoying afternoon tea can only be done by the older or hoity toity folk, then they clearly have never done tea themselves.
Yes, it can seem a bit formal at first, with the white table cloths and the well mannered servers, but don’t let that scare you off of spending what can be a very relaxing and delightful afternoon.
Now there are a few choices of where you might want to go for tea in Victoria.
The one you probably hear about the most is at the Empress (which you can read about in my review later if you like), simply because well, it’s in the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel.
What you might not know is there’s another spot, across the Inner Harbour from the Empress that also serves up this mid afternoon delight.
The Gatsby Mansion Inn and Restaurant not only serves tea, but also serves it with a beautiful backdrop of gardens, Victoria’s Inner Harbour, and most importantly, a historic old mansion that oozes history and has that comfort feel like you’re visiting your grandma’s house.
When I first got to the Gatsby Mansion I was a bit early for my 3:00 reservation, so I asked if I could look around a bit.
The manager (Selena) was more than happy to give me a tour of the several restaurant rooms, as well as some of the accommodation rooms (it’s also a Bed and Breakfast).
The Mansion, which was built in the late 1800′s, has a real Victorian era feel to it, with its high ceilings, stained glass windows, and fancy chandeliers.
“Nothing feels more like Victoria than Gatsby Mansion”, says their website, and I believe that’s true.
I was fortunate to book my reservation for tea on a nice day, so I asked if I could have my tea on the patio.
When I sat down I was happy to spend a few minutes just sitting and looking at the lovely view. If you can come on a nice day, I highly recommend asking for a spot on the patio to get a better view, but the view from inside is also quite good.
After only a couple of minutes, my server (“Tate”) came to my table and asked me what kind of tea I wanted.
Now I have to admit, I’m a bit of a newbie when it comes to tea, only recently building up a taste for it, so I didn’t really know which one to choose.
He started naming a few and I chose “English Breakfast” tea, which was one I knew I’d had before and liked.
Just a little note before I move onto my meal, for those of you who may be coming to have tea at the Gatsby Mansion for the first time. When I got to my table, I didn’t actually get a menu to order from.
When you book a reservation for tea, you just tell them for what time, and for how many. There are no choices except for the type of tea you want to drink, and the “Tea for One” that I was having is priced at $24.95.
So, after I got my pot of English Breakfast tea, Tate brought me what he said was my first course, which was a “Fresh Fruit Plate”.
It was a small plate of pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.
The fruit was fine, nothing spectacular, but fruit is fruit, right? I will say it was nicely presented on the plate though.
Moving on to my second course, which was the “House Baked Currant Scones”. The scones were served with bumbleberry jam and Devonshire cream.
First, about the scones. They were pretty good, but I thought they seemed a bit hard, not as fresh tasting as I was hoping. Maybe I just like my scones made a bit softer, like my grandma used to make them.
The bumbleberry jam was great though and the Devonshire cream was amazing so that made up for the scones a bit.
My next course was the “Assorted Tea Sandwiches”. There were four different types; tuna, cucumber and cream cheese, egg, and ham and swiss with dijon mustard.
One of the things I love most about afternoon tea is the way the sandwiches are served, with the crusts taken off.
I also like being able to sample more than just one kind and the smaller sized sandwiches allow your stomach the room to do that.
Overall, I thought Gatsby’s tea sandwiches were average. I guess I was expecting a little more taste out of them, as none of them stood out to me.
I’ve had tea sandwiches at a few other places in Victoria and I’d say these were just mediocre compared to them.
Also, the sandwiches were a bit hard around the edges, as though they had been in the fridge or something. It definitely tasted as though they weren’t just made fresh.
Now I don’t want to get nit picky, just being as honest as I can here.
Moving on to my fourth and final course, “Dessert”. Aaahh, my favourite!
Incase you didn’t already know, having afternoon tea is a great excuse to eat lots of yummy desserts. At the Gatsby, I had five different desserts to sample.
First was the incredible vanilla mousse.
It was so incredible that while I was eating it, I had to tell myself to slow down and savour every mouthful as I realized I was devouring it super fast due to its amazing taste and smoothness on my tongue!
Next there was a small piece of carrot cake, a nanaimo bar, a brownie, and a pecan caramel square. All of the squares and cakes were pretty good, but the best one I thought was the pecan square.
None of the squares blew me away like the mousse did so if you’re getting full and trying to decide which dessert to go for first, I recommend starting with the mouse.
If you’re looking for a nice relaxing way to spend an afternoon in Victoria, the Gatsby Mansion is one place you can do just that.
It’s a great spot to take in the beautiful views of downtown Victoria, to sip at your favourite tea, and sample some yummy desserts.
You don’t have to dress up fancy for this place, but you do need to call ahead to reserve your spot.
IN A NUTSHELL…
Gatsby Mansion Inn & Restaurant
Address: 309 Belleville St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 388-9191 or (800) 563-9656
Hours (Tea): 2 pm – 4 pm, Thurs – Sun (call to check first as these hours change throughout the year)
Price (for tea): $$$ ($15 – $25 per entree)
Dress: Smart Casual