After 10 distinguished years at the Botanic Gardens, Halia is all ready after a refreshed look, menu and culinary team led by Chef de Cuisine Reynaldo Arriola. Come this festive season, Halia is laying out its Signature Christmas Creations for all its guests. And on Christmas day itself, the restaurant is all set with a Christmas Mega Day Brunch Affair with over 40 items on the menu to tickle the tastebuds of all, while basking in the glorious weather amongst the crafted greenery.
Last Thursday, I visited Halia for a sneak peak into its Christmas Brunch spread and its Festive Season dinner menu of appetizers, mains and desserts all available and crafted to be paired with wine.
The whole restaurant was nicely dressed up in the spirit of the occasion. With cute reindeer, Christmas tree and presents all lining about the spread.
It was unique to dine in the Theatrette Kitchen which features the chefs busily preparing some of your creations.
Warm toasty bread was served up first. Excellent accompaniment with the dip of Olive Oil and a Balsamic vinegar sweet, tangy and impactful.
As a drink to start off the entire meal, the Ginger Jive ($12) of Ice blended fresh ginger, fruit punch, orange & honey was served up. Slightly fruity sweet and clearly refreshing, it was a very nice palate cleanser to prep for the courses to come.
Revealing some of the spread to be available in Halia’s Christmas Brunch Menu, 3 starters were served up. First, the Beef Carpaccio with Rocket, Lemon, Parmesan and Truffle Oil. Thinly sliced pieces of beef with a light dressing of truffle oil and tangy juices and zest of lemon, the dish was decent to begin with. Slices of parmesan were definitely more a decoration.
Then there is the White Prawn on Butter Lettuce, Cucumber, Tomato and Piquant Mayonnaise. A very nice Prawn Salad, but personally I prefer something wholesome.
Though the best starter of all would have to go to the Ocean Trout en Croute with Tarragon Cream Sauce. Savoury sparkles of fish with excellent bite encased in a crisp pastry shell of buttery fragrance make this pie stand out very well. How I wished I could have more than one portion!
Moving on to this year’s Christmas Chef’s Specials, the appetizers were started off with Honey Baked Kurobuta Ham, Shaved Fresh Chestnut, Caramelised Fig and White Balsamic Dressing Infused with Star Anise ($32). The kurobuta ham carried a deep savoury musky scent and it was thoroughly enjoyable to go through the textures. Caramelized figs sweetened and lifted the heaviness while the white balsamic dressing provided a decent tang to the dish.
Paired with : 2008 Brown Brothers Limited Release Riesling, Victoria Australia 120ml
The Crystal Bay King Prawn Cocktail, Beetroot Mango Salad and Calypso Sauce ($32) provided crunchy and juicy prawns which were plated sparsely with a simple salad accompanied with beetroot and mango cubes. It somehow was lacklustre in its visual imagery provided by the dish title.
Paired with : 2010 St Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand 120ml
The first main of Roast Turkey Supreme, Apricot and Raisin Turkey Roulade, Potato Puree, Buttered Brussels Sprouts ($68) was a tad dry. It was served with a dab of Red Currant jus which could have been more generously served even without request.
Turkey by itself is a very dry and boring meat, so the accompanying sauce is almost an imperative side to have. The meat was very well compact together, giving a very heavy filing feel to the dish. Just a note that the Red Currant jus tasted familiarly of marmite, a yummy composition in all.
Paired with : 2008 Brown Brothers Milawa Vineyard Tempranillo, Victoria Australia 120ml
The next main of Grilled Blue Eye Cod Fish with Miso, Pan Fried Spinach Polenta ($78) provided more visual appeal than scoring excellently for my tastebuds. I would have preferred my cod a little more oily instead of the drier slightly flaky texture of this portion. Also the miso was a tad charred and while it gave the smoky aromatic flavour, the natural sweetness which I imagine would have been caramelised naturally was slightly overpowered as well. The Spinach Polenta was excellent though.
Paired With : 2009 Brown Brothers Limited Release Vermentino, Victoria Australia 120ml
After the mains, I headed back to the spread of desserts available from the Christmas Brunch Menu. The Creme Caramel caught my attention from the beginning as the sugar crystal glistened with sparkles of light.
Delving into the portion, the cream with its custard like texture was smooth and light with the caramel lending a subtle hint of sweetness and an accompanying smoky flavour. Not excessively sweet till the point of heaviness, just a light touch to end with.
Mixed Berry Tarts are a good batch of mixed berry tarts . Popping a piece or two without guilt seem so easy.
For the spread of desserts, I would have to say my thumbs up goes to the Pecan Pie with its delicious blend of thick sweetness paired with the earthen nutty flavours from the pecan nuts itself.
The Strawberry Oreo Cheese Cake was a beautiful sight to behold though the balance of oreo crumbs to sweet cheese cake was a little off. Glazed strawberries at the top made the entire cake irresistible to not grab a piece.
Pumpkin Pie was also available for a touch of the classics.
Coming back to the Chef’s Specials menu, the dessert which I believe you should try is the Christmas Souffle with White Chocolate, Cinnamon and nutmeg, salted caramel ice cream and red currant compote. ($22) It takes 24 minutes to bake the souffle so order in advance if you don’t want to wait too long. Very light and fluffy with a balance in the sweetness and creaminess from the white chocoalte. Salted Caramel ice cream, while slightly stronger in the side of salinity, together with the tart red currant compote were excellent in levelling out the decadent flavours from the souffle.
The other dessert of Mille Feuille of Pistachio and Cream, Eggnog Ice Cream and Stewed Cherries ($22) was definitely a treat to begin with because of the varied textures to break through. There is the crispy pastry shells, followed by the smooth runny cream. And then there is the crystal eggnog ice cream to break into, only to end with the soft and gelatinous cherries. The sweet light nutty pistachio flavours were also an excellent touch in the overall flavours of the dish. And for a full Christmas enjoyment, the eggnog ice cream has that zing of alcohol so dearly loved.
Both desserts are paired with 2006 Brown Brothers Patricia Late Harvest Noble Riesling, Victoria Australia 50ml
Christmas Cocktails of Candy Cane and Mistletoe
Christmas cocktails are also available. There is Sparkles ($20) – Absolut Vodka, Galliano, Drambuie & Ginger Beer; Candy Cane ($20) – Southern Comfort, Lychee Liqueur, Cranberry Juice & Whipped Cream; Mistletoe ($20) – Absolut Vodka, Midori, Peach Snapp & Ginger Beer; and lastly the Heavenly Halia ($17) – Fresh ginger, Pineapple, Peach Liqueur, Blue Curacao & Sprite.
Watching Chef de Cuisine Reynaldo in action.
The dining ambience at Halia is certainly memorable, especially with its locality amongst the lush foliage. The dinner was tried without the recommended wine pairing which could have made a difference in how the entire course is experienced altogether. And while the sneak preview into the Christmas Brunch Buffet is just but a sampler, the spread available on Christmas day itself is quite extensive with live stations to match. Though if you are looking for a romantic place to spend a dinner date this festive season, Halia might be a beautiful choice especially as the sun sets into a bask of cozy darkness. Just remember to head to the restaurant via Tyersall Avenue lest you entertain a long and equally romantic walk from the Visitor Centre entrance.
Thank you Foodnews for the invitation.
1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden
(enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Contact : 6476 6711
Website : www.halia.com.sg