I just pulled into the garage, my phone was going off like mad as I was driving home. Hmmmm 6 missed calls, who could want me so badly? Did they see me stuff my face with a slice of cheese pizza the size of my face at every traffic light? How embarrassing. No, it was just friends who wanted to go out for impromptu dinner, ‘where?’ I asked, apparently that’s where I come in.
My mind flickered and went blank, not long ago I was on the road travelling between Sydney, Port Macquarie and the Gold Coast. Where in Canberra did I want to go? ‘Is Sri Lankan ok with everyone?’, after a few loud ‘yes” in the background I quickly made a booking to the newly opened Camellia restaurant in Manuka for 30 minutes later. Back out on the road I go, minus one slice of pizza.
We were each individually welcomed by the host, he shook all of our hands and led us to our table. Very friendly staff, I thought to myself.
We were a bit confused with the menu, I noticed half way down the page that the dishes changed from Sri Lankan to a modern Australian featuring chicken, risotto, lamb, beef etc. It is almost like finding steak and chips at the back of a Chinese menu in country towns. I encouraged everyone to choose from the more Asian inspired side of the menu.
Fish pan roll thin crepes with aromatic herb and peppered fish potato filling, crumbed and deep fried. Served with tomato chutney, pickle vegetable salad ($14.90 comes with two pieces). These are like a very crispy croquette. The fish filling wasn’t too over powering so it would be fine for those who don’t like foods with a strong ‘fishy’ taste. The pickled salad was interesting and the table was really divided on the verdict on the vinegary taste of the vegetables; the Chinese have something similar with cabbage and carrots so I didn’t mind it.
Vegetable pan roll thin crepes with curried vegetable potato filling, crumbed and deep fried. Served with tomato chutney, pickle vegetable salad ($13.90 comes with two pieces). They both looked the same so I’m glad he knew which one was fish and which one was vegetarian.
Prawns prawn onion confit, sweet pineapple curry and warm roti bread ($16.90). I was surprised to find how sweet the ‘sweet pineapple curry’ really was. The prawns were nice in the curry sauce and went really well with the crispy warm roti.
Kottu roti roti bread strips, onion, leek, carrot and exotic spices and egg sauteed and mixed with curry gravy. Served with your choice of fish/chicken/beef or vegetable curry and accompaniments ($24.90). We all collectively agreed that this tasted like a char kway teow with tomatoes and the bread strips had the consistency felt like rice noodles. I asked why there was shredded cheese on the plate and he said that isn’t typical Sri Lankan but people often requested it so they have it on there.
String hoppers fine rice flour strings squeezed through a sieve, curled to a cane mat and steamed. Your choice of fish/chicken/beef, assortment of vegetable curries and accompaniments (we chose chicken curry $26.90). I was expecting a different kind of hoppers without reading the menu properly. These come in a serve of 7 and tasted like vermicelli in little patties. They ‘mop’ up the curries really well.
Curries with rice. Your choice of traditional fish/chicken or beef mild curry with assortment of vegetable curries, authentic Sri Lankan accompaniments and steamed Basmati rice (we chose beef curry and chicken curry $25.90). These dishes look like they are made for individuals but they were easy to share and that way we got to try everything. We stuck with beef and chicken curries due to dietary requirements but that way there was enough to try some of each. The chicken curry had more of a bite but both had very tender meat. The yellow lentils were really soft and tender with great hints of chilli.
Watalappam steamed jaggery pudding ($9.90). The host explained that this was a very traditional Sri Lankan dessert consisting of coconut, honey, cashew nuts mixed with egg and then steamed. It has a very ‘steamed egg’ consistency with a very mild sweet flavour but I couldn’t pick a dominating taste overall.
Dark truffle cake served with berry compote ($9.90). This was the table’s favourite dessert, a not overly sweet cake (I thought it would be diabetes in a cake), it has the texture of rich chocolate mousse on top of a cake base. The berry compote tasted medicinal but others enjoyed it very much with their ice-cream.
Steamed coconut wandu steamed treacle cake with vanilla ice-cream ($9.90). The Asian version of a moist sticky date pudding without the butterscotch sauce. There was a very faint ‘fridge stale’ after taste though but not everyone noticed it.
A great ‘different’ type of Asian meal. The curries were flavoursome, there were unique menu options and the staff were attentive. I would recommend people try this restaurant for something a little different.
Venue: Camellia Restaurant
Address: Shop 8, Capitol Theatre centre, Franklin St, Manuka 2603
Phone: (02) 6295 2756
Entertainment book: Yes, bring your card along.
Lunch 11:30am to 2:00pm (Monday – Saturday)
Dinner 5:30pm onwards