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Jul 13, 2010 10:09 AM

Lunch AND Afternoon Tea in Victoria?!

We are TX hounds coming to Vancouver/Victoria in early August and, though I know it's cliche, we're planning to do afternoon tea at the Empress during our visit. I've made reservations for 3 p.m., but if we're doing that, can we have lunch, too?! I've read to plan for that to be the main meal of the day, but I can't help but think that won't do it for us. Plus, we'd love to try an incredible restaurant in Victoria and still get to have the goods in the afternoon...

If that doesn't sound too crazy, can you give us some recs on a great lunch spot (cafe, bistro) in the downtown area? Not sure if we'll have our car or not, but thinking not...

Thanks in advance!

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    12 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      If you are doing high tea at the Empress, you need a nice base to work from at about 11:30 am :-). I suggest you walk over to Red Fish Blue Fish and have a tacone or other tasty morsel from the sea. Going before the lunch rush will help with the lineup.

      RFBF is not a cafe or bistro -- seating is on the dock near the float planes with a view of the harbour. It is very BC and not too expensive, which may help with the sticker shock you will doubtless feel at the Empress. But, most importantly, it is mighty tasty and local.

      Red Fish Blue Fish
      1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

      1. Thanks, grayelf! I had kind of decided on RFBF by the time I made it back to my own post, so this just solidifies that decision! And, of course, it's good to know that the idea of lunch and tea is not completely insane. I'm already preparing for the sticker shock at the Empress, but I've been to Victoria twice before (once about 15 years ago and not again until about 8 years ago), and I've never done it, so thought I should just once. :) I appreciate your feedback a great deal. I might continue to peruse ideas, but this seems like a no-brainer!

        1. re: DKS1

          You're very welcome -- hope you enjoy. One more bit of advice, if I may -- do go ahead and peruse other options in case you get rained out. RFBF is all about the nice weather, with no seats under cover of any kind.

          1. re: grayelf

            DKS1, this is just my humble opinion so please make your own plans and I know you will have a great day no matter what as Victoria is amazing: my friends and I have always ended up disappointed with our tea at the Empress. I don't know if it is our expectations have been too high or where the fault lies... My suggestion would be definitely to experience the Empress for a cocktail and a snack. The ambience and scenery is fun. Then while you are in Vancouver do tea at the Secret Garden Tea Company ( This really is THE place to have the true tea experience where you will feel pampered and have the accoutrements (sugar cubes with flower petals, clotted cream...) that you would expect from a tea.
            Regardless, have great fun!

            1. re: cloudshoveller

              IMHO I always say you should have the Empress tea at least once. If possible call to confirm your reservation - and make sure you're sitting in the tea lobby. In the summer when it's busier, they used to seat people in the ballroom - but half the experience is sitting in the huge lobby. I've taken my mom there a couple of times and always feel very well taken care of - the food is really nice (and a good amount). Is it worth the price? - well, that's debatable. You're paying for the food, the setting and the experience.

              1. re: cassie

                Cassie - I appreciate your opinion, too! I honestly can't decide... Either way, we will definitely spend time at the Empress - just don't know to what extent yet. I appreciate your feedback though!

              2. re: cloudshoveller

                Thank you for your opinion cloudshoveller... That's honestly what my gut was telling me, but we still figured, hey, why not?! We've already heard from another local friend to skip the formal tea and just drop in for a cocktail and snack as you suggested. Will need to make a decision soon... I have been horrible about planning this trip so far, and we've only got about a week and a half left before we arrive! Thanks again.

                1. re: DKS1

                  We had a lot of fun in the Bengal Room several summers ago sipping cocktails and snacking on the complimentary pistachios. Is it still there?

                  1. re: grayelf

                    The Bengal Lounge is an institution. It is not going anywhere (so long as the Empress survives).

                    1. re: anewton

                      Nice. This might be an alternative for the OP to get that Rule Britannia moment, without the price tag and time of high tea. The ersatz English thing is deffo a part of Victoria...

                      1. re: grayelf

                        The new area the Empress has opened is the "Veranda" (out front of the tea lobby). I think they serve snacks & drinks daily - or you can book for the "big" nights (symphony splash, etc). No reservations. Great views..

                        1. re: cassie

                          Thanks everyone! We will look forward to being there, no matter how we do it! Appreciate all of your feedback...