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The Fairmont Empress (Victoria)

The Fairmont Empress (Victoria)

The Empress has a reputation throughout Canada as a place to have a traditional British Afternoon Tea experience. Its rich history, beautiful architecture, and waterfront location have made it an afternoon tea destination for many years. This was my first time having afternoon tea at The Empress Hotel. Two of our group, Lily and Carmela, had attended tea there before. 

This review is based on a trip we made to Victoria in September 2018. 

The Empress serves afternoon tea in their Lobby Lounge for the price of $80 per person and this does not include any bubbly. During the summer, there was a Royalty theme in celebration of the royal wedding. 

They offer both gluten-free and vegetarian options.

The Vegetarian Afternoon Tea.

You may view their current menu by clicking here. 


There are cocktails and champagne on offer, ranging from $13 to $38. We did not partake of any alcoholic drinks at this occasion. 

The teapots have a warmer underneath to keep the water the right temperature.

The tea menu was a disappointing aspect of this afternoon tea. There were not many options that were included in the $80 price. Most of the tea had an additional fee of $4 to $15.

You may view their tea menu by clicking here. 

However, we did absolutely love the four types of special sugars that were available to add to our teas. We were particularly enthralled with the Maple Sugar, which we promptly bought at the gift shop. 

At the suggestion of our server, we chose to share a pot of tea between a number of people, in order to allow more room on the table. We shared the following teas: 

ORANGE PEKOE 1907 (included) “Bright, brisk and lively tea from Sri Lanka and Kenya.” This is a classic orange pekoe taste, reminding us of its Tetley tea equivalent. 

JOIE DE PROVENCE (included) “An organic herbal rooibos tea which offers a buttery smoothness and fruity ripe berry notes that are balanced with mild lavender.” This tea had a flowery flavour, with hints of fruit. It was mild and pleasant. 

BELLA COOLA ORGANIC (included) “Orange notes and highlights of velvety sweet pineapple.” This is an excellent tea blend. For those who enjoy fruity teas, it is a fantastic choice. I would definitely order the Bella Coola again. 

CREAMY EARL GREY ORGANIC (additional $4): “A heady Earl Grey with a delicious cream flavor.” This was by far our least favourite tea. There was way too much of one particularly bitter flavour and it overpowered everything else.


The scones, clotted cream and jam.

The raisin scones were well executed and were served with clotted cream and a strawberry ginger preserve (though on the menu, it says strawberry lavender). The ginger added a splash of flavour to an otherwise typical scone. 


“Classically presented with dill and crème fraîche.” This savoury was piled high with delicious smoked salmon. It was universally enjoyed. 

“Sweet ginger – lemon mayonnaise. Inspired by a dish served regularly to the Royal Family at Balmoral Castle.” The shrimp had a fresh, delicate taste and the tart shell was a buttery and crisp addition. 

“Local heirloom cucumbers, fennel pollen, dill cream cheese”. This was a classic cucumber sandwich with a mild dill finish. 

“Beet and horseradish chantilly.” This sandwich was almost flavourless. It was neither enjoyable or offensive. 

The savouries on the regular afternoon tea menu.


“Empress signature etenia chocolate.” This chocolate tart was tasty, but we didn’t love the passionfruit cremeaux.

“White Chocolate, fresh berries, apricot glaze.” The white chocolate shell was very high quality chocolate and tasted great. The pistachio cream inside was fine. It was our table’s least favourite sweet. 

“Soft banana cake topped with whipped cream and crispy caramel pears.” This banana cake was a bit too sweet, and the flavour of the whipped cream did not pair well with it. 

“Gluten free almond cake, bergamot, white chocolate.” This was a mild flavoured dessert but quite delicious. The earl grey flavour in this dessert was much better than the earl grey tea we had ordered. 

“Delicate shortbread cookie, sweetened with Empress honey and speckled with bee pollen.” I loved this shortbread! Perhaps it was the Empress honey that made it so exceptional. Regardless, it was my favourite sweet by far, and I ate more than my share. 

The sweets.

Ambiance, Service and General Experience


On a sunny day, the lobby lounge is filled with light. It is, no doubt, a beautiful room. The lounge looks out onto the terrace and the bay. The beautiful garden shrubbery and prime location across from the water, allows for impeccable views. There is also beautiful live piano music. A number of years ago, there was white-glove service and the guests were all dressed to impress. While the views and piano have not changed, a few other things have. Finery is not required and therefore, there is a pretty casual atmosphere. If I were to attend tea at the Empress again, I would request a window table. However, the tables by the windows only seat 4, so keep that in mind. 

The historic Lobby Lounge.


The service was good, though not quite as good as the service at the other Fairmont Hotel teas we’ve attended. More staff would have allowed our server to be more attentive.

General Experience: 

For all of the hype, and the steep price tag, I was hoping for an exceptional experience and, while the location is lovely, this afternoon tea did not live up to my expectations. The food was good, but not amazing, and the service was adequate — not the “royal treatment” that is advertised. If you happen to be in Victoria with time and money to spare, you may as well try it out for yourself, but if you are looking for something with better value, try a different afternoon tea. 

A few more images: