Victoria and Vancouver Island Feature


Afternoon Tea in Victoria

Maybe it's the city's British heritage, but afternoon tea—a snack of tea, cakes, and sandwiches taken mid-afternoon, not to be confused with "high tea," a hot meal eaten at dinnertime—lives on in Victoria. The most authentic places are near the Inner Harbour and in the very British Oak Bay district, often described as being "behind the tweed curtain."

Fairmont Empress Hotel. Victoria's most elaborate and most expensive afternoon tea is served, as it has been since 1908, in the ornate lobby of the Fairmont Empress Hotel. The tea is the hotel's own blend, and the cakes, scones, and crustless sandwiches are prepared by some of Victoria's finest pastry chefs. As you face the bill of C$60 per person in high season, remember that tea here is more than a snack; it was, historically, a way to keep civilization alive in this farthest outpost of the empire. Seatings start daily at noon. The price drops to C$48 per person October to April. 721 Government St., Downtown, Victoria, BC, V8W 1W5. 250/389–2727.

Blethering Place. Dripping with British memorabilia, Blethering Place serves a tea of scones, Devonshire cream, fruit, sandwiches, cakes, and tarts between 11 am and 7:30 pm. English breakfasts and roast dinners are also available. 2250 Oak Bay Ave., Oak Bay, Victoria, BC, V8R 1G5. 250/598–1413 or 888/598–1413.

Mela's Tearoom. At tiny Mela's Tearoom, an extension of Winchester Galleries, an art dealer just east of the Inner Harbour, custom-blended teas, fruit salad, scones with jam and cream, and yummy chocolate ganache cake are served Tuesday–Saturday, noon–5, year-round. Organic coffee and European baked goods are available at the Viennese-style Café Mela, next door at 784 Humboldt Street. 792 Humboldt St., Downtown, Victoria, BC, V8W 4A2. 250/382–8528.

Pacific Restaurant. For a Pacific Rim twist on the tea tradition, try this window-lined restaurant in the Hotel Grand Pacific. You can choose from an assortment of Asian-style teas, like the nutty Japanese Hoji-Cha or the delicate Imperial White Mandarin, while you nibble on spot-prawn brochettes, bannock with clotted cream and lemon curd, green tea–cured salmon, and mini chocolate pots de crème. Tea is served 2 to 4:30 daily, for C$38 per person. Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St., Downtown, Victoria, BC, V8V 1X3. 250/380–4458.

White Heather Tea Room. Everything, including the jam, is homemade for the Scottish-style teas served in the White Heather Tea Room, a lovely place with big windows. Tuesday to Saturday, lunch and afternoon tea are served 11:15 to 5. 1885 Oak Bay Ave., Oak Bay, Victoria, BC, V8R 1C6. 250/595–8020.

Several of Victoria's gardens and historic homes make atmospheric settings for tea.

Abkhazi Garden. Although they don't serve a full traditional afternoon tea, the sun-drenched living room of the Abkhazi Garden is lovely for lunch and mid-afternoon pastries. They also serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. 1964 Fairfield Rd., Fairfield, Victoria, BC, V8S 1H4. 250/598–8096. Mar.–Oct., weekdays 11:30–3:30, weekends 8–11 am and noon–3:30.

Butchart Gardens. The dining room at the Butchart Gardens serves traditional English afternoon tea daily noon to 3 year-round (except for the first three weeks in November) for $29 per person. 800 Benvenuto Ave., Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J8. 250/652–8222.

Point Ellice House. Wicker armchairs under an awning on the lawn of the Victorian Point Ellice House are a lovely setting for afternoon tea with home-baked goodies. Harbour Ferries from the Inner Harbour deliver you directly to the garden. From early May to early September, tea is served daily 11 to 2:30. The C$25 cost includes admission to the house. 2616 Pleasant St., Downtown, Victoria, BC, V8T 4V3. 250/380–6506.

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