I have been going to the Camellia in High Wycombe for many years now and have never been disappointed with the food. The most recent occasion was no exception. The look of the restaurant is nothing to write home about – the usual suburban Chinese restaurant decor -and the menu covering the usual Cantonese style dishes is nowhere near as extensive as others around the traps; but the food served up is a cut above most of the others I have visited.
Four of us dropped in for lunch last week – getting in at night sometimes is difficult as it is a very popular spot – and deservedly so – and as we were on holidays, lunch seemed a good idea. It is unlicensed, but an ice bucket and wine glasses were quickly brought to the table while we looked over the menu.
We decided on four mains, passing on starters – and chose Satay Seafood (a perennial favourite of mine); Chilli King Prawns; Ginger Scallops; and Lemon Chicken. With a bucket of steamed rice, we thought this was about what we needed.
The Camellia is well known for its Lemon Chicken – with customers travelling quite long distances to either eat in or have it as a takeaway – and the meal served up to us justified its reputation. The chicken was crispy skinned, tender and moist inside and coated in a most delicious sauce, lemony, sweet, sharp, by degrees and all melding into a splendid dish.
Satay seafood included squid, prawns, fish and scallops in a lovely peanut based sauce, a nice lift from some zingy chilli, and showed a deft hand. All the seafood components were cooked perfectly – firm to the bite, nothing mushy and overcooked here, and the vegetables also showed the skill of the kitchen – crisp, retaining all of their flavour, and combining to an excellent dish of Chinese style satay. I love this and have it time and again.
The Chilli prawns came as a good number of shelled king prawns, and as is always the case here, cooked perfectly – I find that prawns cooked well have almost a squeak as you bite into the flesh, sweet, tender, juicy – and this is what you get at the Camellia. Dried chilli flakes adorn the prawns providing a chilli buzz – and you can order the dish with as much or as little as you like – but nothing overpowers the flavours of the seafood which shines through as it should. This was another well executed dish.
Our final choice, the scallops, was another very good example of the skill the kitchen exhibits in its seafood production. The scallops, again a good number of them, were tender, juicy and delicious, but retaining firmness that all too often is missing with scallops which can easily be overcooked. The ginger sauce was a fantastic accompaniment the molluscs, clinging to the flesh and bringing a clean, refreshing lift to the whole dish.
Everything about the Camellia demonstrates a commitment to fresh ingredients, cooked with flair, a great use of flavour combinations, and results in some excellent food. This may have the look of another suburban Chinese but the quality of the food turned out shows that it is anything but. And if he is in the mood, the owner Steven is likely to burst into song as he goes about his work!