Review: The Halia at Raffles Hotel
It’s a whimsical Mad Hatter’s tea party cum reunion dinner where everyone is invited to share food over a central table. With its imaginative flair for East-meets-West fusion, The Halia at Raffles Hotel’s new communal feast sets out to revive what it means to make merry through warm gatherings.
At $270++, it’s indeed a sumptuous 12-course spread of Asian-inspired Western fare. But don’t let the hefty price put you off considering it’s a feast meant for at least 3 to 4 people. If you do the Math and factor in the quality portions, warm service and gorgeous colonial building ambience, it actually seems pretty reasonable.
Unlike its fine dining sister at the Botanic Gardens, The Halia at Raffles Hotel is more uninhibited and effortlessly casual. Served with a pitcher of lemongrass or iced tea, this communal feast will delight your senses in the most playful of ways.
Indeed, the UrbanWire was in for a surprise when a rustic kettle was first whisked out of the kitchen and presented at the table. However, it all became clear when the kettle poured forth a stream of hot, creamy celeriac chef’s soup, which was pleasantly light in taste and consistency.
What’s a tea party without cheese? Cheese lovers will be delighted to sample the delicately presented goats’ cheese mousse, a European-oriented, open-face style platter. Unlike most goat cheeses, this version was velvety smooth without being exceptionally pungent. To balance its slightly sour taste, the cheese was accompanied with heirloom tomatoes, assorted salad and most importantly, crisp golden brown brioche bread slices drizzled with wild honey.
Next up was the oriental pulled duck, which sat on a bed of delicious soba noodles tossed in gherkins, capers, spring onion and sesame oil. While the duck was soft, it was unfortunately too wet for our liking. Still, those who enjoy pulled meat may like how it was sweet instead of savory, which complemented the cold buckwheat noodles.
The house smoked salmon pate was a true attention grabber. Diners were held in suspense at the table as a jar was opened to reveal curling white smoke rising from a bed of fired woodchips and light pink salmon. The presentation with micro herb salad, crostini and cucumber slices was adorable, reminiscent of a tiny terrarium come alive. Most notably, The Halia cleverly avoided serving overly salty salmon by curing it with the slightly sweet Hendrick’s Gin – a perfect combo that delighted the taste buds.
Food, Glorious Food
And yes, there’s more food to come. Our favorite was the chilli crab dip, which struck us immediately with its dynamic color and arresting aroma. If you loved The Halia’s signature chilli crab spaghettini, you will be tempted to go for seconds with this sister version. With generous chunks of crab meat, the sweet garlic bread dip hit home run with us.
Our stomachs still had room for the baked kingfish collar, a generous fillet marinated in miso and ginger, and served with pickled vegetables and basil mayonnaise. We like how it was cooked with orange juice, where the citrus cleverly removed the overwhelming fishiness found in many fillets. This made the fish extremely palatable with a fresh, tangy aftertaste.
What caught our attention was how distinctly Chinese the Wagyu beef ‘zha jiang mian’ appeared, until you realized the traditional hand-pulled noodles had been replaced with julienned vegetables. Despite the novelty factor, the dish paled in comparison to the other courses, where too much pepper overpowered the dark minced beef and left us coughing.
A Hearty Affair
What saved the previous course was the twice-cooked spatchcock of spring chicken. The unassuming, simply splayed young chicken blew us away with its delicious and juicy meat. which was well paired with the paprika spiced coleslaw. The secret is in the chicken’s twice-cooked technique, first done sous-vide for juicy tenderness and then with light roasting for a crispy brown skin. Indeed, this simple course proved to be one of the most memorable dishes with its emphasis on going back to the simple goodness of a hearty meal.
And finally, we’ve reached the finale of the main courses. Served with spring onion mash and pepper sauce, the Mayura station ‘gunpowder’ Wagyu rump (signature series) burst onto the dining table like fireworks. In a fitting reference to the Wild West, the beef is first marinated in charcoal and nitrate salt (ingredients inspired by gunpowder) before being fired on the grill for a sultry, smoky taste.
The beef was perfectly tender and moist, but best eaten alone. The red wine-based sauce provided was more of a distraction to its char-grilled flavor, and should be taken sparingly.
Sweet Dreams Are Made of These
A feast does not cut corners on desserts, and The Halia delivers in this aspect too. The airy, refreshing coconut parfait will delight diners with its nostalgic potong form (traditional ice cream bars on sticks) where you can roll it in light pink ginger flower jam, crunchy pineapple bits and another childhood favorite: chocolate-coated popping candy. It was a well-done experimental dessert with a deliberate focus on good old tastes.
Lastly, the 12-course (we had to remind you again) meal ended with the sticky toffee pudding, a fluffy date-based cake best enjoyed with hot butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream. What made the difference for this common Western dessert was its chunky sea salt toppings, which made this sweet treat delicious without being overly cloying.
To wash down your meal and ease that bloated stomach, the UrbanWire recommends The Halia Infusion, the restaurant’s signature ginger tea ordered a la carte ($10). The strong, spicy herb (best toned down a notch with honey) aided this writer’s digestion.
Every course in the communal feast carried a touch of surprise from the presentation to the mix of flavors. The advice is to pace yourself through this affair, take your time savoring the dishes and indulge in conversations with friends and loved ones. It seemed as though the fine-dining restaurant has purposely engineered each dish to invoke endless curiosity and discussion.
Draped in artistry, culinary expertise and most importantly, an intimate understanding of the tastes that make us tick, The Halia proves what it means to bond over a hearty meal.
Price: $270++ (for 3 to 4 pax)
1 Beach Road, #01-22/23, Raffles Hotel Singapore 189673
Monday to Friday (except Public Holidays): 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm
Saturday: 11am to 11pm
Sunday & Public Holidays: 11am to 10.30pm
(Brunch: 11am to 5.30pm
Afternoon Tea: 3pm to 5pm only on weekends and Public Holidays)
Phone: +65 9639 1148
Photos Courtesy of The Halia at Raffles Hotel