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by smmmarti guide
November 6, 2002
It was with this plea in 1971 that the grand Empress hotel was spared proposed demolition and underwent a $4 million-dollar restoration instead. As another example of the power of local preservation efforts, Operation Teacup, a grass roots effort to save the esteemed but dowdy hotel was successful and has subsequently made the hotel a favorite for honeymooners and photographers alike with its elegant position overlooking the harbor.
But perhaps the ultimate advantage of the salvation of the Empress is found in the Tea Room. Here, on a daily basis more people take time for tea than they do in any hotel in London, England. Teatime, reportedly originated by the Duchess of Bedford to avoid "sinking spells" between breakfast and dinner, is a much anticipated light meal and divine opportunity to relax and visit with friends in the late afternoon. At the Empress this tradition has been elevated to an art
form and is so very popular for all the same reasons it has endured for over two centuries.
A number of equally important components combine to convince 900 daily visitors that $42.95 is not too much to pay for tea and a light snack. (The cost of tea for two is included in special packages with a two-night stay.) The most important of these elements is the striking ambiance. Step into the lobby tea room with its beautiful polished wood, tapestries--one of note having been bequeathed by the King of Siam--overstuffed furnishings, potted palms, and ceiling fans and you are transported to a more tranquil era. Take a seat at your tea table set delicately with Royal Dolton China, gleaming silver and starched linens and even before the specially blended Empress tea is steaming a definite move toward relaxation will have occurred.
If you are lucky to have Yohannas as your waiter, with the mega-watt smile and charm that precedes him by twenty paces, you will be enchanted even further as he presents you with flawless strawberries followed by a tower of scrumptious scones and clotted cream and finger sandwiches made from ideally balanced flavors including; delectable local smoked salmon, distinctive ginger and carrot, traditional egg salad and ultra-refreshing cucumber.
Through the arched windows I watched the traffic ‘round the harbor--not busy on the crisp October day in contrast to my earlier visit
high season when getting a reservation at any of the four daily seatings for tea was nearly impossible. Visit in autumn, and do as I did. Sit as long as you like and enjoy the tradition as it is meant to be; a restorative time with friends and a toast to tea, the epitome of civilized British behavior.
From journal Short, Sweet Cruise of the Pacific Northwest
by Barber E. Lane
Lake Forest, California
November 1, 2002
Our waitress, Paz, greeted us after we were "received" through the stained glass domed sky-light entrance. The tea pavilion is a huge open wooden floored and high ceiled showplace. Because we were one of the first seated for the day and were the first on the list for reservations (made them about three months before we went) we had a prime location, a table for two at the huge front windows overlooking the inner harbor. We were thrilled.
Tea of our choosing was immediately brought properly prepared. The first course consisted of huge fresh blueberries served with a large local gooseberry with its dryed leaves still attached resting atop the whipped cream. Next came a three tiered glass tray of finger sandwiches and desserts. Champagne was an additional item we indulged ourselves in.
The tea lasted for about 1 1/2 hours and was a wonderfully relaxing experience. We were glad we'd selected the 12:30 seating because this tea is quite filing and it became our lunch for the day. Upon leaving you are given a souvenoir box of tea bags to take home.
While this tea at the Empress is very pricey and I have had better fresher sandwiches, it none-the-less was a wonderful experience. I probably wouldn't do it again, but I'm sure glad I did it this once.
From journal Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere - Charming Victoria
Brooklyn, New York
November 29, 2001
It is almost impossible to look at the very, very, British Empress Hotel and not think about tradtional afternoon tea. And the four courses served in The Tea Salon offer everything imagination calls for. It is also rather expensive at about $30 US per person and extremely popular.
I arrived around 11:00 on an August day during the tourist season and was relegated to the last seating in the windowless back room. The back room is very nice and has a splendid chandelier, but feels second class compared to the graceful front room where chintz covered furiture faces two story high windows with harbor views. Tea is served at 12:30, 2:00, and 3:30, make reservations, if you can.
The tiger skins and lacework-cut wooden folding screens in The Bengal Room suggest Britian's period of rule over India. The staff is very sweet. My water glass never got a chance to empty and I got lots of advice on what to see and do while in Victoria. The room has windows on three sides; it is possible to see the action in the harbor and the hotel's graceful rose gardens, if you sit in the right seat. The buffet selection of three curries with appropriate side dishes is pleasant, but the mild spices are much more British than Indian. The cost for lunch is about $10 US. Dinner is more expensive.
The best deal at the Empress Hotel is the big lunch buffet served in the downstairs dining room for about $10 US. The selection is dizzying. Dozens of tureenes are arranged on a circular, stepped tables. Bring a group of friends and plan to spend the afternoon.
The Empress Hotel is at the center of Victoria. The main entrance faces the harbor. There is also a back entrance through the rose garden and shopping arcade.
From journal Victoria City of Simple Pleasures