The Bengal Lounge Celebrates 60 Years
VICTORIA, BC Friday, February 07, 2014
The tiger can’t talk and the servers won’t, but if they could – oh, the stories they would tell! Even the bartender Lennie, who has been shaking and stirring martinis in the Bengal Lounge since 1974, just smiles when asked for some “good stuff”, so the Fairmont Empress is asking the public to share their photographs and memories which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or #Bengal60.
To celebrate their 60 years, the Bengal Lounge is offering dinner for two at the curry buffet with a glass of sparkling wine for $60 during February and March. Reservations can be made for Sunday through Thursday evening by calling 250-389-2727, or through email@example.com. Live musical entertainment is featured every Thursday through Sunday evening throughout the year.
On Thursday, February 27 from 7:00 pm to midnight, the Bengal Lounge will host a black tie anniversary party to toast the momentous milestone with live entertainment, modern twists on hors d’oeuvres and cocktails from past menus and special giveaways. Tickets are $75 and include canapés and a signature Bengal Diamond cocktail. Reservations can be made through firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250-389-2727.
A Bengal Diamond Cocktail has been created in honour of the special year. Inspired from the “Empress Special” cocktail listed on the 1958 lounge menu, The Diamond Cocktail uses Victoria Gin as a base with Dubonnet, Grand Marnier and Angostura Bitters with a celebratory dusting of gold flakes for a classic cocktail taste and a modern twist.
Tiger Tales & Timelines:
The Bengal Lounge originated as the Reading and Writing Room and occupied the entire first floor of the South wing which was added in 1912. One of The Empress dowagers took the designation of this room quite seriously, selecting books she thought suitable for guests and distributing them every morning at 10 o’clock from the secured glass-fronted bookcases.
In 1954, The Fairmont Empress became the first in Victoria – and one of only three establishments in British Columbia - to receive a liquor license. In compliance with the strict new liquor laws, the room needed to be upgraded and was carefully designed to comply with the regulations that prohibited “necking booths”. Following a $85,000 renovation, the room was renamed the Coronet Lounge with décor that featured striking dark blue carpet, namesake coronets, Tudor roses and wreaths, with views that looked to the hotel gardens from 12-foot windows. With the atmosphere established, the room opened and The Empress Special became the drink of choice - a combination of rye, pineapple juice and grenadine in a sugared cocktail glass.
In 1970, the room received another facelift during “Operation Teacup”. With a nod to acknowledging the hotel being named after Queen Victoria, Empress of Victoria, an Indian theme was adopted with a menu that featured curries and saw waiters outfitted in Nehru jackets and caps. A Bengal tiger skin was hung above the large working fireplace, the mosaic hearth was surrounded in distinctive marble which was typical of late Victorian colonial architecture, and the room was renamed the Bengal Lounge. Cocktails included the Bombay Stinger, The Bengal Tiger, The Tropical Itch, and The Bengal Bar Special – a potent combination of rye, curacao, pernod and Dubonnet. It was an instant success and became the place to catch sight of John Wayne who visited every time he sailed his converted minesweeper, the Wild Goose, into the harbor. One local realtor was conducting so much business out of the lounge that he had a personal phone line installed, and it became the place to lobby politicians who could be found at their favourite watering hole.
In 1989, a second phase of renovations dubbed The Royal Restoration took place and the room added a 32-colour silkscreen mural to the entranceway, rattan furniture and punka ceiling fans reminiscent of the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which is now part of the Fairmont family.
In 1998, a $500,000 renovation removed the centre bar to open the room and the furniture and floors were restored to provide colonial character. A decade later, elegant leather furnishings and leopard accents were added for the regal look that is in the Bengal Lounge today.
About Fairmont Hotels: About Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is a celebrated collection of more than 65 luxury properties around the globe, including Shanghai's Fairmont Peace Hotel, The Plaza in New York, and Makkah Clock Royal Tower in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The luxury brand's distinctive hotels offer a sense of heritage and sophistication, warm, engaging service and culturally rich experiences. Fairmont balances the company's economic, environmental and social priorities and provides the framework for responsible hotel operations through the Sustainability Partnership program. For more information or reservations, please call 1-800-441-1414 or visit Fairmont.com.
Media Contact: Nancie Hall - Regional Director, PR
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Pacific Northwest Region
T: 604 695 5434 ; C: 604 561 2710
Angela Rafuse-Tahir, Director of Sales & Marketing
The Fairmont Empress