The Dining Room
800 Benvenuto Ave
Brentwood Bay, BC
The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC provides all that a visitor to a floral show garden expects: a riot of color, spectacular blooms, meticulously manicured walkways, stunning sculpture, and enchanting water features. But a few delights are unexpected, like the whimsical Rose Carousel, boat tours that cruise through Brentwood Bay, summer fireworks, winter ice-skating, one of the best gift shops I’ve ever had the pleasure to browse, and a selection of award-winning culinary experiences.
Culinary Experiences at Butchart Gardens
From casual to fine-dining, Chef Travis Hansen and the culinary team at Butchart Gardens offer farm to fork freshness to complement their outstanding floral displays. Served in the Blue Poppy Restaurant, entrees like the signature Cowichan Valley chicken and pappardelle with seared scallops and prawns showcase some of Vancouver Island’s finest locally produced bounty.
A perfect counterpoint to the conservatory atmosphere of the Blue Poppy Restaurant is a gourmet picnic that can be enjoyed on the lawn in front of the Dining Room. Picnickers can choose from wild B.C. salmon, prawns, grilled chicken, or portobellos with an assortment of sides, salads, and desserts.
The Butchart Gardens also serves an afternoon tea in The Dining Room that is worthy of its setting, with spectacular views of either the Private Garden or the Italian Garden. When it comes to traditional afternoon tea, the setting is crucial. It can enhance or it can ruin the experience. I once had afternoon tea at the very chichi Petrossian Bar at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. Situated in the hotel lobby, just steps from the casino floor, I sipped Darjeeling with 2,300 slot machines ringing in my ears. Since then, I never underestimate the importance of setting.
Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea
You can experience Butchart Garden’s version of Afternoon Tea during the Spring and Summer months or High Tea in the Fall and Winter when the weather is cooler.
Curious about the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?
The Afternoon Tea Co in the U.K. explains how both traditions evolved:
The drinking of tea not only became a social event for the upper classes, it altered the time and manner in which they took tea. Afternoon Tea became the bridge between meals because many wouldn’t eat their evening meal until maybe 8pm. As such, Afternoon Tea became a ‘mini meal’ in itself.
This was all well and good for the upper classes, but the working classes ran to a different schedule and a different budget. Tea was still quite expensive at the time and the working classes could not afford to waste it on anything other than necessities. A wearied factory worker wouldn’t arrive home until six in the evening, and when he did, he was famished! Thus, in the industrial areas of the UK (northern England and southern Scotland), the working classes evening meal evolved: high tea.
Historically, high tea was eaten at a table while afternoon tea was taken while seated on a low sofa or chair. Today, the main difference is that high tea includes some warm, savory items like quiche or Welsh rarebit.
What’s on the Menu?
High Tea at Butchart Gardens
- Candied ginger scone with strawberry jam and Devon-style cream
- Traditional warm delicacies:
- Cornish pastry
- Caramelized leek and aged cheddar quiche
- Chicken and mushroom vol-au-vent
- Savory tea sandwiches:
- Locally smoked wild B.C. salmon pinwheel
- Egg salad with watercress
- Grated carrot with fresh ginger cream cheese
- Turkey salad with cranberry sage mayonnaise
- House-made sweets
- Chocolate brandy Napoleon
- Battenberg cake
- Bergamot infused chocolate mousse
- Lemon tart
If tea isn’t your thing, you could try something from their extensive wine list instead. I ordered the wine flight, a selection of wines that pair well with the tea menu. The iced cider was particularly memorable.