Cocktails, Canapes & Croquet make for a ‘wicket’ day at Fairmont Empress

Where better than the iconic Fairmont Empress in Victoria to host a leisurely garden party and croquet tournament.

On August 26, 2018, don your best summer garden party, cricket-friendly attire and join MC Joe Perkins of CTV Vancouver Island as the Fairmont Empress brings the beloved pastime to the front lawns of the restored grand hotel.  Just as the hotel has gone under a $60+million rebirth to bring new life to the hotel’s rooms and interior spaces, the social scene is returning to the hub of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  Like the social affairs of the colonial era, the verdant front lawns of Fairmont Empress, have been transformed to roll out a civilized Croquet tournament. The lush flower gardens Victoria is famous for, bloom around comfortable lounge seating, as the participants and guests enjoy culinary treats and craft cocktails from the Fairmont Empress team of chefs and bartenders, creating an ‘only in Victoria’ afternoon.

No experience is required to participate in the tournament, croquet attire consists of grass friendly footwear (flats, sandals, or wedges, no heels on the lawn), a sun hat to shield your eyes, and your smartest summer outfit to  impress and intimidate the competition. Prizes are awarded for best dressed croquet team.  If you don’t want to play, spectator tickets are available also.

Register, on Eventbrite, as a team (two people), or as a single to be paired with a teammate at the event:
$89 per person plus tax & gratuity after August 1, 2018 at 5pm (must be 19+ to attend)

Included in ticket price:

  • Pimm’s Welcome cocktail
  • Passed canapes, finger tea sandwiches, sweet bites.
  • Access to social lawns including lounging, games, food and cash bar
  • Minimum of two rounds of croquet play on the front lawns of The Empress


Getaway for Christmas at The Empress

Many of the Christmas traditions we know and love were established in Victorian England, and that Christmas charm lives on in the city of Victoria.  Central to Victoria’s Yuletide spirit is the famed Fairmont Empress.  The grand Castle on the Coast is making spirits bright with Christmas at the Empress, the first festive season following its grand $60 Million restoration; events and festivities throughout the hotel.

Friends and relations send salutations over Festive Tea at the Empress, pouring until January 2, 2018. Traditional afternoon tea with famous seasonal offerings and classic desserts is made extra special for Festive Champagne Afternoon Tea including a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne. On December 16, 17, 23 and 24, live carolers singing Christmas favourites in the Lobby Lounge add even more Christmas spirit to the festivities.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, until December 23rd, take the chill off and enjoy the Inner Harbour views from the Fairmont Empress’ Winter Veranda. Find a selection of hot beverages and holiday bites while making s’mores around a fire.  If adult libations are more your speed, step into Q Bar for the Season of Joy Drinks, the Empress mixologists are pouring warm and cold modern interpretations of classic festive cocktails throughout the Holidays.

On New Year’s Eve, Q at the Empress and the Crystal Ballroom have a celebration fit for a Queen. In Q, find a five-course set menu, followed by a grand dessert buffet in Lobby Lounge. In the iconic Crystal Ballroom, a modern, Chef-attended festive buffet with live music and cash bar starts the celebrations. After dinner, ring in the New Year with live music at the most elegant New Year’s Eve party in Canada’s most romantic city with a live performance by local jazz and pop singer, Amanda Woods.

 In the morning, start the New Year off right, at Fairmont Empress Resolution Brunch on January 1, 2018 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm in the Lower Lobby. The best brunch in town, filled with everything sweet and savoury to kick off the New Year and wrap up Christmas at the Empress for another season.

 For complete list of Christmas at the Empress and New Year’s Eve events, visit the Fairmont Empress holiday brochure online.

What’s old is new at Fairmont Empress Hotel

Empress_2013-05-06 21.02.18The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel is a staple of any visit to Victoria, BC, whether it’s taking a photo in front of the famed facade, having afternoon tea, visiting the spa or staying overnight in the century old grande dame.
The stately property recently changed ownership and the new owners have set about to renew and restore the property.  Some of the plans have been controversial, and generated major media coverage but it only shows the place that the Fairmont Empress holds in the hearts of Victorians.

Last winter, half of the rooms of the hotel were closed, and work was carried out to renovate and update the oldest portion of the National Historic Site. Through years of renovations, the 1908 wing of the hotel had become a hodge-podge of room shapes and styles over the years, the renovation stripped the property back to the bones.  Replacement of plumbing, electrical as well as cosmetic upgrades were undertaken and the results opened to the public in late spring.  While The Empress always maintained its grandeur and a sense of class, the new look wing brings those qualities into the 21st century.

I recently stayed in one of the updated rooms and was thrilled to see some of the changes. It’s surprising what a difference a change of colour palate can do to modernize the property.  The elegant new grey tones carry from the  common areas to the new rooms as well. The comfortable new furnishings and accessories felt modern but classic. The expected Fairmont amenities were still present, like coffee pod maker, fridge, flatscreen tvs, and Le Labo toiletries. Thought was obviously put into the design to make the rooms useful for the business traveller and today’s connected travellers.  The desks have been upgraded to include convenient power outlets and USB jacks.  An added bonus is found in the build in outlets beside the headboard, meaning one no longer has to shift the bedside table to get access to an outlet.

The biggest change in the rooms came to the bathrooms, in this wing, the bathrooms were often oddly shaped, after-throughts.  The new bathrooms is a luxurious, spa-like oasis, brightly lit with glossy subway tiles and marble with glass shower surround.  No longer an add-on, they bathroom is a memorable centrepiece of the room.

The renovated rooms make your stay at The Fairmont Empress feel even more like a home away from home. Hopefully you’ll get to see for yourself on your next visit.
I look forward to seeing more of the renovations throughout the property. Half of the rooms have been completed, the other half will be renovated over the Winter of 2016-17.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is located at 721 Government Street, on Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour.


Friday Farewell – Bengal Lounge at Fairmont Empress

Bengal_2016-04-22, 12 46 40Not a usual Friday Find, because the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress Hotel has been around since the 60’s but rather a farewell since it will be closing its doors tomorrow, April 30th.

The iconic space began as a reading and writing room before becoming the Coronet Lounge, Victoria’s first cocktail bar in the 1950s.  It’s been serving cocktails over half a century, becoming the Bengal Lounge in the late 60s.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is named for Queen Victoria’s rumoured favourite title, Empress of India, and the Bengal Lounge is decorated in a Victorian-era colonial Indian style to echo this title. Dark wood fixtures and fitting, tiger-skin hanging over the fireplace, punkah ceiling fans, sipping on a 1908 martini  and the famed Curry Buffet are all part of the colonial style charm that makes a visit to the Bengal Lounge a visit back in time.Bengal_2016-04-22, 12 43 29

While the Bengal Lounge will be closing as a restaurant / lounge it has been announced that the 3000 square foot space will be retained as a banquet rental space.  A perfect setting for a meeting, event or even wedding. Watch for the newly renovated restaurant and lounge, replacing the Empress Room, to open in the Fairmont Empress later in May.


The Veranda at Fairmont Empress opens for Summer

Photo 2015-05-22, 13 20 07Under the historic “The Empress” sign a the front of the majestic Fairmont Empress sits The Veranda is a relaxing and casual location for cocktails or a meal with a view.

Now open for another summer season, The Veranda, is one of the best locations for people watching, overlooking Victoria’s bustling Inner Harbour Causeway; yachts, tour buses, horse-drawn carriages and hundreds of visitors make their way past.Photo 2015-05-23, 12 21 33

While you’re sipping on your signature Empress 1908 cocktail or Veranda Iced Tea visit with your friends or watch the scenery.  Late afternoon sun sets the tables ablaze or if it’s cool, soft blankets are available to wrap across your lap.

Executive Chef Morgan Wilson and his team have created a light and local menu that has something for everyone; fresh West Coast Oysters & seafood, salads using local Mason Street Greens (from just a few blocks away), savoury fish & chips, sandwiches and new this summer thin-crust pizzas. In a couple of recent visits, I’ve had the Chicken BLT and one of the pizzas. Both were excellent, adding the local greens with the light and savoury dressing made a perfect pairing for the BLT and the pizza went down great with the Veranda Iced Tea.

The Veranda is open from 1130am until dusk, or too chilly.  Reservations are not required.

On Ice at The Fairmont Empress

On Ice at Fairmont EmpressVictoria is known for its Christmas celebrations, the whole of downtown lights up for the season and The Fairmont Empress is always the heart of the festivities. This year, the iconic hotel is adding a new festive feature with the addition of a skating rink on the hotel’s front lawn overlooking Victoria Harbour.

From November 20, 2014 until mid-January 2015, the approximately 60’ x 90’ covered rink will offer public skating 5pm to 9pm on weekdays and 12pm to 9pm on weekends.

The new hotel owners, Nat and Flora Bosa, are presenting the rink as an early Christmas gift to the residents and visitors to Victoria as part of the hotel renovation plan that is being developed.  “The holidays are always a special time for our team at The Fairmont Empress and our new skating rink will add to the magic,” explains Don Fennerty, general manager of the hotel.  “We hope that everyone will make it part of their tradition and drop by for a skate.”

The Fairmont Empress encourages Skate ‘n Date nights and Family Skate afternoon as some of the ways to enjoy the tradition of winter skating. The hotel also plans special seasonal festivities include Sunday Skates with Santa, and Christmas Eve Skating with the Elves, hot cocoa and cider. For groups there are Office Skates, Holiday Parties on Ice, and Break + Skate meeting options.

The cost to skate is $10 per person, $5 for children aged 10 and under, and skate rentals are available at $5 per pair. For more information on special group prices and private parties, call The Fairmont Empress at +1.250.995.3668 or visit The Fairmont Empress online .

Winemaker’s Dinner at The Fairmont Empress

FairmontEmpress_2013-10-13, 7 15 22This Friday, July 11th, The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria will welcome renowned artist Robert Bateman and Summerhill Pyramid Winery for a 5-course winemaker’s dinner.

Benefitting the Robert Bateman Centre’s education program the dinner will offer guests the first opportunity to sample Summerhill’s new organic 2010 vintage “Grasslands” red wines. The collection of three 100% organic reds crafted by winemaker Eric von Krosigk, features a high-resolution reproduction of an original Robert Bateman painting on the label. 
The five-course menu from Executive Chef Morgan Wilson will be led by Summerhill CEO Ezra Cipes and Proprietor Stephen Cipes.  The artist will be speaking during the dinner and will be available to sign bottles purchased at the event.
After the dinner the “Grasslands” collection will be available for purchase direct from Summerhill Pyramid Winery. 

A Winemaker’s Dinner with Robert Bateman takes place at the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria on July 11, 2014 from 6:30pm to 9pm.  Reservations are available for $150 per person (including a $75 donation to the Robert Bateman Centre’s education program).

For Reservations or more information, contact the Hotel at 250.389.2727
If coming from out of town, ask about the special room night for dinner guests. For visitors from Vancouver take advantage of The Fairmont President’s Club discount for Helijet passengers.