As I walked into the Camellia outlet based in Peace Plaza located on Avenue De La Paix, Nyarugenge-Kigali,I thought to myself, “Here is a good looking tea/coffee house”. That was the full extent of my happiness.
A mixture of booths (which are a mainstay in café’s), stand-alone tables and sitting space on the balcony, this place appealed to me. Behind the counter was an array of modern coffee and tea equipment, the chef was busy turning out meal after meal in plain view. We call this show cooking.
The main dining area featured multiple electrical sockets as well. Convenient, I must add, for the patron who wishes to work with their devices while having a drink or meal.
I chose to sit outside and enjoy the cool evening air. Bad choice for no one noticed my presence. Did I forget to mention that I had to show myself to a table?
After a few minutes of inaction, I decided it would best serve my purpose of visiting this place if I went and requested for a menu. After being handed a menu I walked back to my seat and read through.
I must say the prices in this place are a bit steep but considering their location, I figured they needed to charge these prices in order to meet overheads.
I was told that the juices and smoothies are amongst the best in Kigali. I was not going to argue with many opinions so I opted for a simple cappuccino and a burger with fries.
Unbeknownst to me, this was a night of bad choices. As I waited for my order to come through, I glanced around the café and noticed this was a slow night.
Perhaps for a true reflection of the service standards, I should have visited at lunch time. The few patrons that night meant I should get faster and more dedicated service. Nothing was further from the truth. It took at least fifteen minutes before my coffee appeared. I let that slide because the coffee was good.
Another ten minutes later, my burger appears and the waiter wishes me a good meal. Politeness is not in short supply here and makes up for the tardiness.
I wish I had ordered for something else. One bite of this burger and juices and sauces of all sorts were spilling on to my plate. The lower bun was soggy and the beef patty was all over the place. The burger bun in its entirety was not very firm and flaked a lot.
At one point I had more beef patty than I had burger bun. The veggies and putty were drowning in a mixture of beef juices and mayonnaise.
This was like an episode of ‘Tom and Jerry’, the putty being the ever elusive Jerry. I’ve always believed in eating a burger with your hands. I simply put it back down and resorted to a knife and fork approach.
This worked (Tom on occasion did manage to catch Jerry) and I proceeded to complete my meal. I was that hungry.
I felt let down by this beautiful place. I felt that a meal as simple as a burger should have and could have been better. The fries on the side were good, no problems there.
I waited an eternity for my table to be cleared and another eternity for the waiter to bring my bill. Just as I did with the menu, I walked to the counter and requested my bill. In order to save time, I paid right there.
I felt like I was being too judgmental considering the many positive opinions I had heard about Camellia. Perhaps another choice on the extensive menu might have proven to be good. This burger simply did not work on the night. On top of all this, the service was absent at most times. Were they tired after a whole day’s work? A little more effort is required in this area.
Camellia is easily accessible to those who ply their trade in the central business district. A little demanding on the pocket but with a wide range of menu items, good tea and coffee, I still think it is worth another visit.
About the author
Mr. Michael Musinguzi Bageine has a decade of experience as a chef and hotel/restaurant manager having worked with illustrious establishments such as Imperial Royale Hotel, Protea Hotel (Entebbe), Steak out Bar and Restaurant, Volar club and Restaurant (Ngong Race Course, Nairobi) amongst others.
He is also the owner of 1311 Consultants, A restaurant, Hotel and Kitchen management consultancy based in Kampala and Kigali.
He can also be found in several restaurants around the region as a guest chef.