Growing up just an hour North of BC’s capital city, Victoria, I can safely say I’ve been there more times than I can count. Whether it was for back to school shopping (Duncan’s selection was always lackluster), going to softball games, or touristing about, I thought I knew the city pretty well. The funny thing that I’ve learned from my travels is that its often the people who’ve lived in a city their whole lives, that still haven’t done the “top activities” that other tourists have. My most recent trip to Victoria truly showed I am not exempt from this phenomenon.
Cue: travel agent Linda (aka my mother). When my boyfriend, mom, and myself had to go to Victoria for some errands and appointments, she suggested we go for lunch at the historic Victoria Parliament building. When I think of “must do” eating experiences in Victoria, I always think of having afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. This, I never even considered. How did she hear about it? Through my grandma. While it is somewhere down a long TripAdvisor list, I’d never heard of being able to eat at the “Parliamentary Dining Room” before. It almost seems like a best kept secret passed down through family members (or at least for me it was).
Nevertheless, we are not the kind of people to turn down a new experience, so the morning of we made our reservation. When trying out this restaurant, there’s a few things you should know about before your saunter on in there:
- The restaurant hours depend on if parliament is in session or not. Aka you can’t eat there when they are!
- You have to turn in a piece of ID and go through parliament security to get to this restaurant. It doesn’t take up much time, but is good to know nevertheless.
- Book ahead of time: it speeds up the security process if they know you have a reservation. Plus, who wants to go through security and get clearance only to find out they’re fully booked that day? Talk about annoying on both ends.
Since my mom had been before, we had no surprises about anything in the points above. Like the keeners we are, we showed up super early, and took advantage of it by doing our own little tour of the parliament building itself (which is free). I’m a major history geek, so everything about this experience was cool!
After getting a security officer to escort us down to where the restaurant was, we got special “restaurant goer” name tags, and wound through the (kind of creepy) basement hallways until we found the incredibly charming restaurant. The best part about eating here: its CHEAP. The bill only came to $42 for three people with drinks included, and the service and food was genuinely good. That’s less than what you’d pay for one person for mini sandwiches and tea at the Empress (which I’ve done too).
I split a Ravioli dish and a salad with my mom. A pretty decent size considering the photo above is just a half portion!
This is an experience that far too few people take advantage of, but is totally worth it! I mean, who else can say they’ve dined at the parliament, and it didn’t break the bank? Whether you are a local, or a tourist planning your future trip to beautiful Victoria, you really have nothing to lose by trying out this delicious and historic adventure.