Luxury Hotels: Located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, Victoria is a small city of condo buildings, quaint storefronts and eateries that play host to both tourists and business travelers alike. Although the summer months are peak season for the area, winter is mild and pleasant. An impressive façade along the Victoria waterfront, the Fairmont Empress is a landmark hotel on Vancouver Island.
Built in 1908, the Empress is steeped in history. Visited by numerous notable individuals, the hotel's guest list has included Hollywood celebrities, royalty and heads of state. In fact, one of the most appealing areas of the hotel, Bengal Room, is named for the King of Siam who many years ago presented the Empress with the tiger skin that is today mounted above the fireplace. The room, like the rest of the hotel, is adorned with deep mahogany, hand-carved wood and Victorian colonial décor.
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There is much to be said about the outer appearance of the Empress. Beautiful vines cover the hotel's brick exterior; the grounds are elegant, boasting both the age and timelessness of the property.
By far, my most pleasant experience while visiting the Empress, was dining in the Empress Room. Both breakfast and dinner were excellent. Dinner began with an amouse bouche of roast duck, followed by an entrée of Roasted Canon of Lamb with a Sunset Bay Honey Mustard Glaze, Merlot Jus and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The lamb was superb, and while the menu description did not include the vegetable accompaniment, I can hardly neglect to mention the quality of the produce on my plate. The Empress operates on the 100-mile rule. For anyone who may be unfamiliar with this golden rule, it dictates that a restaurant restricts what it serves to ingredients produced within a 100-mile radius, ensuring only the freshest cuisine is prepared. Whenever they can, the chefs utilize organic and sustainable sources.
The service was impeccable. Our servers at both meals, Earl Scott and Ryan McNabb, truly went above and beyond to ensure a superior dining experience. Executive Chef Takashi Ito's team was also exemplary. I was introduced to two passionate young chefs preparing our meal. With great excitement, Jordan Gravelle and Brooke Winters discussed the ingredients and the soul they poured into every dish. The pride in their work was apparent. Upon discovering my love for cheese, goaty in particular, I was ably informed of the local products and presented with a dessert plate that included a wonderful Montreal goat cheese.
Known around the world as one of the few places in which to experience a true and traditional High Tea, the Empress actually sends a small amount of the local water to be sampled with their custom tea, to ensure the best quality and taste. The culinary team creates a variety of sandwiches and pastries to accompany the tea service, an event that has played host to Queen Elizabeth, John Travolta, Bob Hope and Harrison Ford.
Fairmont Empress, Victoria, Canada
Accommodations at the Fairmont Empress boast the same Victorian style as the common areas of the hotel. The Vice Regal suite is adorned with granite bathrooms, especially comfortable beds, marble flooring and a beautiful view of Victoria Harbor. Often playing host to meetings and conventions, this suite in particular is of ample size and includes a conference table that shares the view.
Willow Stream Spa at the Empress exudes a serene and healing atmosphere. Treatment beds are plush with down duvets, the atmosphere is calming and the added touch of a fireplace completes the experience. Rich mineral waters are available to relax in and a variety of specialized treatments are on the menu including Jet Lag Massage, Reflexology and Stress Relief.
Also worth noting is the enormous amount of different charitable organizations the Fairmont Empress is a part of. In addition to supporting its local community through the 100-mile rule, the property supports multiple cancer foundations, the United Way, Alzheimer's Society, Mustard Seed and many more. As if you needed another reason to choose this hotel the next time you are visiting Victoria.
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This property is one that should be savored and experienced, not rushed. Overall, I have to say my experience at the Fairmont Empress was most decidedly worthy of the JustLuxe stamp of approval.
For JustLuxe Courtney Driver