Review: The Halia at Raffles Hotel
The new restaurant brings a much-needed sense of rejuvenation to Raffles Hotel's array of dining concepts
Sorry, fans of Seah Street Deli -- the restaurant has packed up its famed beef burgers and abandoned its black-and-white tiled space at Raffles Hotel, a move probably inevitable following its fall-from-grace slide towards less than stellar quality food and inflated prices. But while you might be feeling the pangs of nostalgia reminiscing the high school years of scrimping and saving for one of their signature burgers, don't let that deter you from paying a visit to new tenants Halia, who, by the looks of it just two weeks into operation, will fit in just nicely in its new home.
What is it: Halia @ Raffles Hotel is the brand's fourth addition to its portfolio of restaurants (Halia at Botanic Gardens celebrated their eleventh birthday earlier this year, while Halia Hanoi and Villa Halia opened in 2008), but unlike its sister outlets, the Raffles Hotel outpost, ironically, is a more casual redux showcasing contemporary European cuisine with Asian influences, grouped into "big plates" and "small plates" on the menu. It's a move designed to "encourage communal and 'free-form' dining", a concept that have worked well in other hip restaurants like The Disgruntled Chef and Amuse Bar & Global Tapas.
Must-try: And so there are no formal rules as to which you should order first -- the "small plates" aren't appetisers nor are the "big plates" main courses. "Your dining experience can consist of a big plate to share before a small plate, or several small plates to last the meal," explains head chef Ciaran Amstrong, previously the Sous Chef at Halia at Botanic Gardens.
Highlights on the "small plates" menu include the (L to R): Oriental Pulled Duck, Foie Gras Salad, and Celeriac "Lasagna".
This is thus, your cue to order several of the "small plates" (though there's absolutely nothing small about these full meal-sized babies) like the sturdy but health-conscious Celeriac "Lasagna" (S$12) which layers celeriac sheets with a vegetarian combination of mushrooms, thyme, baby spinach, lemon and Madeira cream, a luxurious Foie Gras Salad (S$23) with the extra crunch of candied ginger pecan and croutons, and an artfully-plated Confit Salmon (S$16), prepared sous-vide for a lovely tenderness. A standout however, is the refreshing Oriental Pulled Duck (S$18), a true representation of Halia's East-meets-West ideology with a slow-roasted duck marinated with a myriad of spices, and tossed with soba noodles.
Fusion too, and a signature at Halia is the Halia Chili Crab Spaghettini (S$32) that comes generously smothered with a piquant egg-based gravy with hefty chunks of crabmeat, and is all Singaporean at heart. This "big plates" item lies in the same menu as other more substantial meat items like a hearty and subtly-fragranced Javanese Spice Maori Lakes Rack of Lamb (S$33) marinated in chef's secret Javanese spice mix, as well as the Sous Vide Baharat Chicken Leg (S$28), spice-rubbed and served with butternut squash puree and coriander red pepper salsa.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding, topped off with delicious butterscotch sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt, is one of the best items on the menu at Halia.
With the variety of plates on offer, it's hard to even think of dessert afterwards. But if you absolutely have to, the Sticky Toffee Pudding (S$10), a sweet and fluffy dream of a dessert topped off with a most delicious butterscotch sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt, is fantastic and worth every single calorific bite.
Also look out for: A three-course Express Lunch Set menu (S$25) that changes bi-weekly, as well as a pre-theatre dinner set menu (S$28 for two-course, S$33 for three-course; available 5:30 - 7pm) for the time-strapped show-attendees.
Verdict: Halia's simple but earnestly-executed menu won't be changing any games but it brings with it a much-needed sense of rejuvenation to Raffles Hotel's selection of dining concepts. There will be much to look forward to as the restaurant eases into its new shoes.
Halia @ Raffles Hotel, #01-22/23, 1 Beach Road, Raffles Hotel, +65 9639 1148, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thehalia.com