WATCH: Huge multi-million dollar Empress Hotel renovation gives iconic Victoria hotel a much-needed face-lift. Tess van Straaten takes us behind the scenes.
We’re getting our first look at the massive multi-million dollar renovation at the Empress Hotel.
The huge undertaking is giving the world-famous Victoria hotel a much-needed face-lift.
“It’ll be so grand and so beautiful!” says new Fairmont Empress general manager Indu Brar. “It’s an opportunity to bring this hotel back to what it was 100 years ago — this era of glamour, so we’re celebrating our past but really being focused of our future.”
Crews are hard at work trying to finish phase one of the massive $30 to $50 million renovation at the iconic hotel.
There’s a new bar called The Q Bar, for Queen Victoria, which is across from the totally re-vamped dinning room.
The old tea lobby, now called the lobby lounge, is brighter and lighter.
Afternoon tea will still be served but the space will also be used for cocktails and canapes in the evening.
“It’s a storied past, there’s so much history here and we want to celebrate that history but we really wanted to make it current and relevant to how people like to dine and eat out today,” Brar says.
New Empress roof-top garden provides fresh fixings
There’s even a new roof-top garden for hotel chefs to cultivate.
“Everyone wants their food to be local and everyone wants to know where their foods comes from so for us to be able to grow some of our vegetables, some of our own fruits and certainly the bulk of herbs makes it the freshest, makes it the best,” says Fairmont Empress chef Morgan Wilson.
Line-ups for last week of beloved Bengal Lounge
But as the Empress’ new owners Nat and Flora Bosa mix old and new during this labour of love to restore the hotel to its former glory, it’s the last week for the beloved Bengal Lounge.
The Bengal will close this weekend and it’s been fully booked for weeks as people come for one last meal.
“This is the third time I’m coming for my last meal here,” says Parvez Kumal. “It’s wonderful and nothing compares to it.
Victoria’s Isobel Manning has been coming to the Bengal for 53 years and she says she’s sad to see it go.
“It’s been a favourite for many, many years and just before it closes I wanted to be here and say goodbye,” says Manning.
But Empress management says the Bengal name — and tiger — will stay as the space is re-purposed.
“What we’re doing is changing it into prominent social space,” Brar says. “You can say you got married in the Bengal or have your retirement party here.”
Construction on phase one will be finished in May with phase two of the renovation starting in the Fall.