Friday, August 7, 2009

High Tea at the Empress and other treats

Food and drink, as mentioned before, are pretty important to me, especially when they are not only pleasurable but provide essential fuel to keep my legs turning. I've enjoyed some very basic and some delectable delights but here are a couple of highlights....

CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
After 6 weeks of camping, eating wholesome food and being humble, I'd looked forward to a fine high tea at the Chateau overlooking Lake Louise. Horrified by the price, I resorted to a more modest but equally delicious pot of vanilla tea with apple strudel (see above) and eeked out the experience for as long as I could keep diluting my tea pot and not get sunburnt by the hot sun through the enormous windows.
THE EMPRESS HOTEL, Victoria, BC, Canada
An early addition to my must-do list was tea at the super-grand Empress Hotel in Victoria. Liz, mum's school friend, insisted on treating me to the experience. I couldn't complain about that! Spare spots were sparse in the enormous, elaborate room dedicated to the enjoyment of tea and treats.
The pleasure of afternoon tea was apparently "invented" by the Duchess of Bedford, of 18th century England, who needed to resolve the sinking feeling she experienced at 5 o'clock each day. She started to nibble on sandwiches and cakes, with a good cup of tea, to tide her over until later in the evening. It took off. The Empress Hotel has been serving afternoon tea for 101 years and since 1939 in custom Royal Doulton china first presented to King George V in 1914. Only available at the Empress, the hotel shop must do a roaring trade in china with its fans.After a palette preparer of juicy sweet strawberries and sweetened whipped cream, we were presented with a huge pot of tea each (tea bags!) and tiers of goodies - sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and super rich sweet treat to top it all off. We took our time, enjoying the atmosphere, super-comfy chairs and the tasteful live piano music from the far corner.
A parting gift, possibly to soften the blow of the bill, we each received a fancy tin of Empress blend tea bags.

REBAR, Victoria
Rebar is reknowned widely (I've seen their cookbook in Australia) for fantastic vegetarian and vegan food (though somehow salmon has slipped into one of their dishes). Liz and I decided to test out their quesadillas for lunch one day, accompanied by juice smoothies as bright as the decor and were suitably impressed. No wonder queues are often out the door at meal times!

I ran out of eating time to try this out, tucked away in Market Square near Chinatown, but they offer a very extensive range of vegetarian (vegan, I think) food. Price of a meal is based on weight - great for light eaters but maybe not long-distance cycle tourers! I think more restaurants should consider this option to encourage people to eat and waste less when dining out.

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