A friend organised dinner at Camellia Restaurant, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Manuka. I’ve heard and read good things about this place and was eager to try it out on a Friday night. The menu is relatively short with one page of entrees, one page of mains and a third of a page of dessert. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a variety of delicious sounding items.

I decided on the ‘string hoppers’ ($26.90) as my main, having no idea what it would be like. The menu states these are fine rice flour strings squeezed through a sieve, curled to a cane mat and steamed. Interesting! Diners have a choice of chicken/fish/beef/vegetarian curry (I chose the fish) with accompaniments. My face lit up with delight when this dish came out on one huge platter.

Camellia manuka

A spare bowl sits under the bamboo steamer of string hoppers. This was a little messy to eat as there were no spoons provided, so I had to tip the string hoppers into the spare bowl using a fork, then tip some of the curries into it leaving a sauce trail dripping down the bowl. The string hoppers are a skinny alternative version of rice which came in two colours – white and purply-brown (hiding underneath), but there was no difference in taste.

Camellia manuka hoppers

The fish curry was delicious – beautiful soft fish that had soaked up the creamy mild curry. A bowl of lentil curry, similar to the Indian dahl/daal, was provided as an accompaniment. The curry was packed with flavour and a variety of spices. It was a little salty but I loved it. I’m the type of person that can happily eat dahl and rice, and nothing else. The second accompaniment was a coconut sambal – usually made up of a mix of ground coconut, peppers and dried fish. This was lovely sprinkled on top, providing some crunch and flavour. A boiled egg cut in half sits next to the sambal which I thought added some extra goodness to the meal. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, with its many textures and flavours, and will be ordering it again.

Camellia manuka string hoppers

My friends at the table were also pleased with their dishes below.

Camellia restaurant biryani
Biriyani with tender lamb, two way cooked egg (which was missing until it was asked for), mint coconut sambol, pappadum and yoghurt cucumber salad ($27.70)


Camellia restaurant salmon
Pan grilled salmon, wild lime chilli ginger glaze, savoury rice and buttered greens ($27.90)


Camellia restaurant katagesma
Katagesma – crisp chicken with red ripe tomato, purple onion and capsicum in exotic devilled sauce with savoury rice and tropic salad ($25.90)

For dessert, I ordered steamed coconut wandu ($9.90) – a steamed treacle cake with coconut ice cream. If you like coconut cake or slices, you’ll like this warm dessert. It’s very sweet with lots of coconut and syrupy treacle that is beautifully paired with the coconut ice cream. I couldn’t finish this as I was too full from devouring my main.

Camellia restaurant steamed coconut

The dark truffle cake ($9.90 with berry compote looked pretty good too (apologies for the blurriness but it’s the only shot I’ve got).

Camellia restaurant truffle cake

The restaurant is located next to the Capitol Theatre on Franklin Street. Inside lies simple elegant decor with white tablecloths and comfy black faux leather chairs. A selection of wine, beer and other beverages are available from the small bar at the front. As it is next door to the cinemas, you can smell popcorn from the restaurant’s bathrooms enticing you to see a movie afterwards.

Camellia restaurant Manuka

Dishes are slightly on the expensive side for an Asian restaurant but not unreasonable. I would happily go back and pay $26.90 for my meal again. Service is good – we were checked upon regularly for any assistance with the menu or drinks. One small hiccup was that our waitress forgot to advise whether a dessert was gluten-free after checking with the kitchen stafff, and only remembered when the desserts arrived for everyone but my gluten-intolerant friend. What gave this place extra credit was that the chef came out to speak with everyone at the end of the night, table by table, gaining feedback on the food and having a general chat. That doesn’t happen often in Canberra and made us feel rather special.

I highly recommend checking this place out. I will definitely be returning for more.

Foodgasm 8/10

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