Before I delve into the tantalizingly sweet and savoury tidbits of this month’s subject, let me guide you first with a wee bit of geography and history to lay the groundwork for today’s tasty treat of a food review.
Welcome to Victoria! Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia in Canada. Located on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, it is a mere 1 1/2 hour ferry ride through the Gulf Islands taking you to the mainland and the city of Vancouver where the final days of the 2010 Winter Olympics are winding to a close. Go Canada! Check out the location here. (Click on the photos on this map and you’ll see some of our more famous buildings!)
The Empress Hotel – now the Fairmont Empress – is a world-renowned resort hotel. Often referred to as the ‘Grand Lady’ – a castle in her own right – she rules over our Inner Harbour and is a must see attraction for visitors from all parts of the globe. You can’t come to Victoria and not wander her halls, peruse her galleries, stop for a rest and take an appreciative look and deep breath or two in her incredible rose gardens.
The Empress Hotel is the journey we take today as we eat our way through Victoria. Of the many restaurant options The Empress has to offer, it is the Bengal Lounge that shall capture and satisfy our epicurean nature. As exotic a location as it might sound, the Bengal Lounge exudes the same air of culture and refinement that shaped it’s original creation in honour of Queen Victoria as the Empress of India in her day. Stepping through the open entry into a massive room with vaulted ceilings, expansive windows with impressive garden views, rich brocades, antique furnishings, linen napkins and exquisite service, the Bengal Lounge is an experience to be remembered. (And yes, there is a Bengal Tiger hide mounted in its rare beauty above the fireplace for all to see.)
Though you come to savour the food, the eye is treated to a lush banquet of elegance. It’s like being transported back to the beginning of another century. And in honour of your surroundings, it is wise to dress appropriately. You’ll not be wanting to arrive in cutoffs, doffing a baseball cap or wearing anything less than ‘dress casual’.
Though there is an international a la carte menu, you’ll be wanting to make many a trip up and back to the buffet. Lunch or dinner, there is a selection available for each and every palate – both the discriminatingÂ and those less discerning. We happen to adore curry and what a selection of curry choices there are! Main courses, entrees, appetizers. There are salads and soups and such a wide range of everything delicious! Beautifully presented, help yourself amply to what captures your sense of sight and smell. Your palate will be pleased with the tasty results.
Even your server will appeal to your sense of elegance and aristocracy. That linen napkin will be laid graciously upon your lap. Your wine glass or water goblet will consistently remain full without your noticing – almost as though your server knows your very need before you do – and ensures that need is filled in a heart beat. Used plates are gone like magic to free you up to go back for seconds and thirds.
But do be sure to leave room for dessert. May we suggest the rice pudding? Now, I am a rice pudding connoisseur. From various brands canned to my own homemade to rice puddings prepared for royalty and most just for the average restaurant patron. I have never had rice pudding to rival what they serve at The Bengal Lounge! Yet there are other delectable choices as well!
Give yourself ample time to sample and sup. Don’t intend to come in for a 30 minute chow down before you head to the IMAX theatre for a movie. Plan to be pampered and to linger languorously over your meal with, hopefully, your very best choice of company!
Friday and Saturday nights are especially favoured by tourists and locals as well. There is live jazz music for your enjoyment. And you know the great desserts I mentioned above? Well, on these two particular nights they have what they call a “Centennial Indulgence Dessert Buffet”. Can anyone care to happily say ‘death-by-chocolate’?
Forewarning, though: if you have to ask the price of this scrumptious buffet, you can’t afford it!
Be certain to call ahead for reservations – though none are taken after 5pm. Also, because it is a licensed facility, no one under the age of 19 is permitted in the lounge. Adults only!
Till our next ‘Eating Our Way Through Victoria’ food post the last Saturday of March …
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P.S.: If you live in Victoria or are visiting out fair city until March 7th, 2010, check this out:
P.S. You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.