Camille’s passion in fields & kitchens
There is no sincerer love than the love of food,” said George Bernard Shaw. In Victoria, no sincerer love is expressed as passionately than at Camille’s.
Camille’s has been a staple in the fine-dining scene for over 20 years. Chef and owner David Mincey and his partner Paige Robinson have birthed the local-food movement through their passion. David is also the co-founder and past president of the world-renowned Island Chef’s Collaborative.
This kind of sincere love remains devoted, sensuous and curious. Hence the open love letter of thanks on Camille’s menu to all the farmers and their respective fields. Hence the devotion of French rolls steaming and moist from the oven and hence the immense pleasure lacing each dish thereafter with anything but flighty infatuation.
All moments in the chocolate chandeliered front dining room were paused, intimate and intentional. The rain hitting Bastion Square cobblestone only added to the evening music with hushed voices from the second dining room (perfect for larger parties) revealing an orchestrated intention to sit you in the right place in exactly the right moment.
In terms of curiosity, a good love should always carry an air of mystery and the wine list is no exception. (I will let you discover in your own time). Despite the lures of Chile and Bourdeaux, our table was feeling monogamous, resolving to stick to a favourite climate for BC wine: Naramata. The 2007 Pinot Noir from Kettle Valley did not disappoint with a curvy architecture and surprisingly sweet bashful undertones.
These undertones proved versatile and accommodating throughout the evening’s fare. We started with four earthy and romantic starters. The Fig and Stilton Tart ($10) with pickled root vegetables, endive salad, pork jowl bacon and walnut vinaigrette was warm, strong and affectionate from pastry to sweet rich fruit and cream.
The Kildonanan Farm Chicken Leg Confit ($12) with Styrian pumpkin spaetzle, arugula salad, and kumquat marmalade ($12) was cut to laced perfection. The spaetzle, a stunning Austrian pasta, was warmly infused with Styrian pumpkin oil evoking a smooth, nutty flavour that supported the chicken confit eloquently.
I opted for the Pacific Octopus Salad ($11) with tempura fried rice roll, birds eye chili vinaigrette and ponzu sauce (Gung Hai Fat Choy). I continued on my Chinese-inspired selection into the mains with the Mahogany Glazed Breast of Duck ($30) softly pillowed with dried fruit and wheat berry pilaf, five spice root vegetable and pork spring roll, brussel sprout slaw and duck foie gras sausage, all made in-house. (For the record, I have ordered the foie gras sausage to be fed to me daily in the after life.)
Other mains included the Game Bird Duo ($27) and the Metchosin Lamb Trio ($33). The Game Bird Duo was pure poetry: Okanagan pheasant breast roulade, chestnut and chorizo bread pudding, sage jus, confit of Cornish hen leg, pickled Savoy cabbage and Stilton vinaigrette. Amongst all these wonders, the inagrette paired with the pheasant breast was the perfect marriage.
The Metchosin Lamb Trio included a wand of crispy lamb shank, coriander red wine jus, lamb loin, feta linguini, grainy mustard cream reduction, goat’s cheese, eggplant and lamb Kofkas, Nicoise olives and crispy chickpeas. The flavour of the lamb shank pulled the coriander red wine jus into a rich, private and flirtatious conversation.
Of course we reserved affection for dessert (all $8). An orange and fennel cheesecake seemed to be the right accessory to my previous selections. My companions feathered chocolate mousse and cognacs on their tongues while discussing the eclectic art and secret hallway vault.
Camille’s phone number is a must on the speed dial. If you book fast, you could still catch a Valentine’s date for a five-course gala dinner ($75/person or $115 with wine pairings for each course). Two sittings are at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on both Sunday and Saturday night.
The website is also key to keeping up with Camille’s beautiful little date schedule, including a Pinot Noir tasting event with Bob Ferguson from Kettle Valley on Feb. 24, and regular markets selling farmer’s supported by the Island Chef’s Collaborative (June through September).
Such passion and devotion solidified through the fostering of strong community relationships can only result in more cutting-edge practices to come. M