really good food at this second branch of the halia-of-botanics at the wonderfully colonial raffles hotel. this place was impressive – and while it wasn’t cheap, I dare say it was rather well worth it. I’ve always wanted to go to halia at its eponymous area in the botanic gardens – it’s long been a stalwart member of the brunch-providing institutions – and I’m so glad they now have a lovely (and very convenient space).
friendly service, a quiet corner of the hotel, and retro furnishings (very appropriately so, and hence not too hipster) – and good food plus reasonable prices: I think this beats many of my recent gastroventures clear out the water.
it is a rather large menu with many delicious-sounding things on it. descriptive without being overly flowery, we had expectations only for a decent meal and they well delivered. I must sound terribly impressed because I was – I didn’t expect nearly this level of expertise. fine dining without poncy starched-up nonsense.
the chef’s soup of the day was a great start – a lightly truffled bowl of cauliflower puree. smooth and rich like a velouté, this was soothing and truly awoke the appetite – which is a very loose and probably inaccurate translation of a chinese proverb. very filling as well in its generous serving, so be warned.
our middle courses carried the momentum of the great start: we were very pleasantly surprised by the beautifully arranged plates of cured kingfish and sous vide chicken leg.
the kingfish was really gorgeous. and while it may look sparse, the portion was just right – the flavors were intense but complementary; with the pickled radish lifting the fish – it was a fantastic balance. any more and we would have been overwhelemed.
I had expected the chicken to come as a rather rudimentary piece of dark meat and some mashed squash alongside – but look at that! tender and rich (without being overtly fatty), it might be one of the best executions of poultry I’ve had in a while. the skin was well-seasoned, the butternut squash a sweet counternote to the savoury dish – and really a feast for the eyes.
I sound in deep gastronomic love with this place, and I might just be – their desserts were also more than decent. that makes it a winner from starter to finish – something that happens too infrequently.
I must get sticky toffee pudding when it’s on the menu – and we also got a serve of their ginger nougat parfait. the sticky toffee was good – warm, with a slight drizzle of caramel sauce and topped with creamy vanilla-bean ice cream. I fancy that the p.s. cafe and marmalade pantry chains do a rather slightly better version of this dessert – but this was plenty tasty. could have had a bit more cake though (but I’m likely biased).
the parfait was very interesting. the ginger came through very pleasantly, but it wasn’t a very cold dessert – almost like a room-temperatureish semifreddo, actually. but tasty, and the stick of puff pastry and grilled pineapple very good.
it really is a lovely space – it might feel a little cramped if entertaining a full house, but otherwise quiet and very cosy on a sunday lunch. service was well-paced and unobtrusive, and really – so many things on the menu that I want to return to. one of the best meals I’ve had recently, from start to finish. wholly and unconditionally recommended.
Halia at Raffles
Unit #01-22/23 Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Rd
tel +65 9639 1148
$$$: two soups + one small plate + one big + two desserts = one-zero-zero (very reasonable)