Taking tea in a historic home in Canada’s most British city, Victoria, British Columbia
The city of Victoria, British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast is known as the most British city in Canada. What can be more British than afternoon tea, with fancy sandwiches, scones and clotted cream? Afternoon tea remains an honoured tradition in the city.
The most iconic spot for afternoon tea is the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel, which has been serving tea since 1908. There are also other great places in the city to take your afternoon tea. Like Pendray Restaurant at the Gatsby Mansion, where my sister and I spent a casual and elegant afternoon.
In 1875, William J. Pendray come to Victoria. He invested money he’d made from the gold rush and started a soap factory. The Queen Anne style Gatsby Mansion was built across from the inner harbour in the 1890s for Pendray and his family. His new home had painted frescoes on the ceilings and windows of stained glass shipped from Italy.
Today Gatsby Mansion is a boutique bed-and-breakfast operated as part of the Huntingdon Manor Hotel. Pendray Restaurant on the main floor offers a traditional Victoria Afternoon Tea.
The tea comes with fresh-baked scones, local fruit jam, devon-style cream, assorted tea sandwiches and signature pastries. A West Coast variation replaces the starter dish of berries with a cup of local crab bisque, and the egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches with sandwiches of baby shrimp and sablefish brandade. Both versions of the tea include cucumber with lemon-dill cream cheese and smoked salmon pinwheel sandwiches.
Our server poured tea into our cups in a circular motion. When I asked about that, she said it was an old tradition. Pouring tea in a clockwise manner welcomes your guest; pouring tea in an anticlockwise manner signals you’d like them to leave. She said she hadn’t yet poured anticlockwise. I was not able to find any information online to validate this tradition, but I did discover that there are a wealth of tea superstitions, including that stirring your tea anticlockwise spells trouble.
Afternoon tea at Gatsby Mansion will cost around $50. Afternoon tea at the Empress is $75 or more. Other places for tea in Victoria, at varying prices, include James Bay Tea Room, Abkhazi Garden, the White Heather Tea Room, the Hotel Grand Pacific, and Venus Sophia.
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