In search of a taste of the Orient? No need to travel east, the south will do just fine, says Phil Sampson...
With its intricate pagoda design and massive entranceway guarded by a pair of stone lions, Kam’s Palace certainly lives up to its name. What Kevin McCloud would make of it is anybody’s guess, but this all-you-can-eat confection of Chinese architecture has to be a grand design by any measure.
The inside is just as impressive as the out, with intricately patterned dark rosewood pillars and decorative tracery arches dividing the super-size restaurant area into bite-sized chunks. It needs them too for, as manager Tom explained to me, the main restaurant provides no fewer than 200 covers.
Then, he added, there’s the upstairs function room which caters for a further 70. Oh, and did someone say “takeaway”? Well, of course, they do those too – in seemingly unlimited numbers. Add to this little lot the 120 or so dishes on the menu and the number of meal combinations takes on lottery-odds proportions. But perhaps the most mind-boggling stat of all is that to manage all of this takes just 12 kitchen staff and eight servers.
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My visit to Kam’s Palace coincided with the annual two days of boating misery known as hull polishing. Most years I am joined for this by a couple of friends, who in return for copious amounts of food and wine help out with this thankless task. But coronavirus put a halt to all that, so this time I was eating alone, which left me exposed to having to select from the menu rather than go for my usual coward’s way out – the set meal.
Manager Tom came to my rescue by recommending the Ho Fun. This dish of stir-fried mixed meat or seafood served with white rice noodles is a meal in itself, but in the great mix-and-match tradition of Chinese dining I felt compelled to add a portion of chilli king prawns and a side of egg fried rice.
Still suffering the chill of a day spent up a scaffold tower with only a polishing bonnet for company, I decided to warm up first with a bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup. This was accompanied by prawn crackers, on the house. The result was a mini-banquet for one, more than I could ever consume in one go. There was only one thing for it – a doggy bag.
Taking everything into consideration, Kam’s Palace does a fine job. While not exactly fine dining, the food is good, plentiful and served quickly. How they do it with such a large menu and relatively few staff, I’ll never know.
But what I do know is that at the end of the first day of boat polishing, there’s nothing better than a hearty Chinese to lift the spirits and prepare you for the second day of hard labour to come!
Getting there by boat
For those prepared to walk for 20-30 minutes, Kam’s Palace is within striking distance of the marinas of Lower Swanwick. These are accessed via the upper reaches of the Hamble, where all the usual warnings of fast-running tides and unpleasant currents apply – it’s always best to time your Hamble journeys to arrive and leave on the slack. And in summer, beware the armies of paddleboarders in the vicinity of Premier’s Swanwick Marina, many of whom are blissfully unaware of the rules of the boating road.
Cost: £80-£85 based on a three-course (starter, intermediate and main) set meal for two with a bottle of house wine
Times: Every day: 1700-2200. Saturday, Sunday and Monday lunchtime: 1200-1500
Verdict: Good value, fast and friendly service, and an extensive choice – what’s not to like about Kam’s Palace?
MBY rating: 3/5 (based on food, ambience and value for money)
Tel: 01489 583328 / kamspalace.co.uk