Fairmont Empress Hotel Afternoon High Tea0
So I admit that as a local in Victoria, I have intentionally stayed away from what I believe to be “tourist trap” type of restaurants.
Every year I see tons of tourists flocking to the Fairmont Empress Hotel for Afternoon HIGH Tea, and I have thought they were probably getting ripped off by the rather high prices.
What I discovered though is that this supposed “tourist trap”, is nothing but.
Yes, the prices are higher than tea places elsewhere in Victoria, but in our opinion, this indulgence, which is really Victoria’s grandest tradition, is absolutely worth doing at least once, even if you’re a local.
Upon arriving for our 2:00 reservation, my friend Mark and I were promptly seated at a window table overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
As soon as we sat down we took a few minutes to take in the beautiful surroundings of this fine English Tea Room.
It is indeed “opulent” as described on their website, yet I did not experience snobby or hoity toity servers like I thought I might.
In fact, the servers were quite friendly while maintaining a high level of professionalism.
After a few moments of relaxing in our regal chairs, our server came around and presented us with a “Fruit Cup” and a tea menu, which had eight types of tea to choose from.
I ordered the “Berry Berry Tea” and Mark got the “Empress Blend Tea”, which is a blend exclusive to the Fairmont Empress. Both turned out to be good choices.
One thing I noticed right away once I had my tea was the lovely china it was served in.
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 Royal Doulton exclusively for The Fairmont Empress.
By the way, in case you were wondering, both the fruit cup and all the tea you can drink is included in the price of the “Empress Afternoon Tea” ($47 – $58 per person).
You pay the higher amount if you choose to add on a glass of award winning Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut and make it an “Afternoon Royal Tea”.
Once we finished our fruit cups, our server delivered the main event – a “Three Tier Tea For Two”.
We decided to start from the bottom tier and work our way up…
On the bottom tier were five delicious sandwiches (five each).
These included a smoked salmon pinwheel sandwich with cream cheese, a carrot and cream cheese sandwich, a mango and curried chicken sandwich, an egg salad croissant, and a mushroom pate on crostini.
Though all of the sandwiches were yummy, my favourites were the carrot and cream cheese one (melted in my mouth!) and the egg salad croissant (so very fresh).
As an aside, if when you first look at the amount of food that you are given and think it doesn’t look like much, it actually is all quite filling if you make it all the way through all the tiers.
On the middle tier there were two scones with strawberry jam and whipped butter. As far as scones go, they tasted quite good and fresh, though I would have to give the scones at White Heather Tea Room a slight edge.
They are bigger there and also come with clotted cream which in my opinion, really makes the scones taste heavenly.
Finally, the top tier was composed of 5 different desserts.
We each had a shortbread cookie, a lemon tart with strawberry, a truffle, a mini cheesecake, and a marzipan square.
Once again, we were not disappointed. These desserts may change depending on what the pastry chef has created that day, but the quality of them I am sure will not.
We actually couldn’t finish our desserts as we were quite full by the time we had our tea, sandwiches and scones so we took what we couldn’t eat home with us.
As a special gift you also get to take home a commemorative box of the Empress Blend Tea, which is just a nice little bonus.
After we got the bill, Mark and I decided to sit and enjoy our time there a little bit longer.
If you aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere afterward, The Empress Tea Room really is a lovely place to sit and relax and take in the surroundings.
We were fortunate that day to be treated to a lovely pianist who played on the grand piano that was situated at one end of the room.
We also enjoyed the lovely fireplace that was just off to our left.
In the end we left The Empress feeling very satisfied and very happy that we decided to come here for tea, despite our preconceived notions of it being a place just for tourists.
We will definitely be back again….