J: The Fairmont Empress (formerly The Empress) to me is the big time. I’ve both dined here and ate breakfast. I’ve even had the pleasure of staying here for two days. To me, nothing beats The Fairmont Empress when it comes to quality and service. And until I find something better, consider me biased.
The leader of the island’s hoteliers has seen it’s fair share of famous names and one of those is one of my favourites, Bing Crosby. This is going back to a time when Bob Hope would come here to golf, Don Wilson (of The Jack Benny Program) would come here to fish and the Duke himself, John Wayne, didn’t consider it un-American to order some candy treats from Rogers’ Chocolates on Government Street. But Ed, myself and our photographer Yvonne Fried were not here to stay the night, we were here for a photo shoot within the Empress’ walls and to have a spur of the moment bite in The Bengal Lounge.
E: Can you imagine us, Two Hungry Blokes, as models? Okay, wipe that thought from your minds. James and I have plans, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article, to expand our site to cover more than just food. We will be covering the arts and local culture, so what better than to use the classiest hotel in Victoria for images. Mind you, I think we should have posed with the tigers before entering The Bengal Lounge. I’d like to see James stick his head into a tiger’s mouth. On this day, both our tummies were roaring for food.
J: I’ll admit I had a craving for a steak and mushroom pie ($25) and I had hoped they would serve a good steak and kidney pie, alas no such luck. But somewhere in our scanning of the menu, Ed and my minds were magically changed when we learned Yvonne was going for the Indian buffet at $32 per person. And yes, our server Todd said it was more value for our money. I’m guessing our readers already know the words “value” and “money” was enough to convince this Scot. I ordered a drink called a Raspberry Refresh ($7) before making my way to the buffet.
E: Between James’ cocktail and my tea, I absent-mindedly took a sip of his drink and it had a lot of zest. The aptly named drink would’ve disappeared if James didn’t point out my mistake. Mind you, the server should have placed it on the side of the table where it should have belonged than next to me. When presented with any kind of food or drink, this Eddie will drink and eat anything.
At the buffet, we practically tasted all the dishes presented before us. One of us even went back for thirds!
J: No, it was Ed who went back for thirds. I was stuffed after two plates and a dessert. There was a very nice spread involving main courses, soups and desserts. I made a decision to avoid the soups. I was not there to embarrass myself with spoonfuls of soup dribbling down my front. But I tried the rest of the buffet with great zeal.
E: James did not know what he was missing, because he forgot the curry at the end of the table. It was very delicious, and not all that spicy until I mixed in the Punjabi mix and pickled onions from the opposite end. I could have gone back for more, but alas, this model-in the making was trying to lose weight for the photo outing we had this day.
J: The atmosphere was pleasant and from where we were seated I could see the more inviting high back leather chairs by the window with a small table placed in front. But I made the best of where I was seated, soft jazz in the vein of Frank Sinatra was playing and that mellowed me. But the Indian curry buffet didn’t quite have the same effect. I was loving some of the items from the buffet like the naan bread and the chana chut, but apart from the winning dessert of the chai tea crème brule, everything else tasted average or slightly below it.
E: Mind you, like Lister from Red Dwarf, I was all over the Papadams. Its hard not to make those wrong. Store bought or freshly made, I would not have noticed as they helped make the other curries tasty. The chicken was good, and I liked the heated flavour on ’em. Although dry instead of moist, maybe something could have been done to ensure they were cooked to the right consistency. At least the veggies were crispy and a delight to wash down. I didn’t think much of the cucumber salad as it was too tangy. Too much vinaigrette was used., and the type of ratatouille offered here was more of a sauce than the traditional french style dish that I got acquainted with in the PIXAR movie.
J: The cucumber salad definitely had too much vinaigrette. You could smell it a few feet from the table. When it came to salad, fortunately I grabbed a salad plate from the buffet and not from our table. The one that was left for me was dirty. I guess even The Bengal Lounge has their share of mistakes. But I’m still happy to eat here even though the buffet felt overpriced after tasting its wares. For $20 less I could eat my fill at May Gold Village with food that hits the mark with more accuracy. My money was paying for the atmosphere and the service (which was almost superb). I will return to the Bengal but this time it’ll be in a leather high back chair near the window with a steak and mushroom pie.
3 Blokes out of 5