Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Empress Hotel

Afternoon Tea - The Empress Hotel on UrbanspoonAfternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel is talked about like a sort of institution, a place that you "must" go if you are in Victoria. Sadly, marketers inevitably get their tentacles on anything that is a "must", and put the squeeze on anyone who "must" experience it.

Afternoon Tea here mainly distinguishes itself from other afternoon tea services by being in a heritage dining room in a heritage hotel, though its exotic tea blends might be (or just sound) more exotic than others available -- for example, the intriguing Quangzhou Milk Oolong Tea: "A most unique character best described as 'premium oolong with sweet milk and
light orchid notes peeking out from camellia depths'. The milky flavour of this tea is a result in a sudden and rare shift in temperature during harvest. This silky and smooth tea is produced in relatively small quantities from December to March. An amazingly profound tea indeed."

Other than that, it is not particularly special, though there is clearly attention to finer details that can slide, such as cucumber sandwiches that are actually tasty and bread that isn't dry. The selection feels conservative, and if you are vegan or celiac, try not to just walk in and catch them off guard.

Empress Tea ($49.95)

Fresh Cut Strawberries with Empress Cream
Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Dill Cream Cheese
Roasted Bone-In Ham with Tarragon Dijonnaise
Free Range Egg Salad Croissant
Cucumber & Ginger Mascarpone on Butter Brioche
Moroccan Spiced Coronation Chicken on Marble Rye
Freshly Baked Raisin Scone with Strawberry Jam & Empress Cream
Grande Marnier White Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Tea Cup with Matcha Cream
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
Salted Caramel Coffee Delice
Lemon Curd Tartlet

Tea is served in simple steel pots that hold a remarkable amount of tea and keep it hot. Nothing fancy to look at but certainly practical. The placement at the table may require that it be passed to you, but typically your server will look in on you and keep your cup topped up. Depending on how quickly your table drinks, this may feel intrusive.

At $49.95, afternoon tea at The Empress Hotel is a steep proposition; it is a further +$15 to try one of their more interesting teas. If paying for heritage ambiance and to literally dine as the royals did, then you will not blink at the price. If a tasty and interesting afternoon tea is your sole aim, then look elsewhere.
Nostalgic seniors (age 60+) may opt for a Senior's Tea (January 6 to February 28) at $29.95.

In May to September, evening tea is available from 7pm to 9pm.
The small blue boxes of their "Empress Blend" looks a reasonable size, but contain a mere ten (10) packets of tea.

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