Not too long ago, I received the good fortune of attending a close friend’s wedding. She’s one of those genuine individuals who never hesitates in helping others, and always a pleasure to have brunch or coffee with. So when her big day arrived, I knew that she deserved every bit of happiness the world could possibly deliver.
Now that I’ve said my piece about this selfless individual, let’s move on to the food!
Halia at Raffles Hotel
This place is none other than Halia at Raffles Hotel, and as a wedding venue, it is a rare gem indeed. Almost anyone in Singapore knows that during weddings, one should not expect high standards when it comes to dining (especially if it’s a hotel). Halia is one of the venues that begs to differ. While a little cosy with enough seating space for only small weddings, the urban, chic restaurant provides a warm and friendly spot for meals with family and friends.
The establishment was opened in November 2012 and has a flagship outlet at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Since I was here for a wedding, I didn’t go through the a la carte menu but the dishes served are a fusion of European fare with delightful touches of Asian flair.
Before the appetisers were served, each table received a Bread Selection – served in a small basket – accompanied by olive oil and vinegar. I don’t think the bread was freshly baked, but it was well toasted so diners were greeted with that comforting cracking sound when they broke into each piece. The butter served was light and well salted, so a great start to the banquet was established.
Next was the Chef’s Soup, which I think was roasted pumpkin with some cream (sorry. I didn’t ask) and it was delicious. The flavour was bold and the cream helped to cut through the naturally thick texture, creating a comforting and tasty dish. One of my favourite non-meat dishes around.
The following dish was a well prepared Yellow-fin Tuna Loin. It was seared just slightly along the edges, with a rare centre. The accompanying pickled papaya, pickled quail egg, chili and crushed spiced peanuts went very smoothly with the protein feature. What surprised me was the coriander pesto, which I really liked despite my inherent dislike of the culinary herb. The pesto was applied generously yet I didn’t mind it at all. The tuna loin rested on a bed of glass noodle salad which I didn’t really think was needed, since it was a communal style (family style) setting. The multiple other courses awaiting us would have been enough to make up for the lack of carbs. I guess they brought the dish from the ala carte menu in its entirety.
So the next course was another pleasant surprise contender in my non-meat list, the Goat’s Cheese Mousse. This dish turned out to be one of my favourites here. Served on a rustic cutting board and sprinkled with rocket leaves and some other vegetable (see picture) generous dollops of goat’s cheese mouse were alongside heirloom tomatoes, olives, wild honey and dried brioche. The cheese mousse with wild honey was enough to win me over but the dried brioche served as the perfect vehicle. Since I intend to keep all reviews objective, I added some of the leaves that happened to be there and it was not too bad. The bitterness they brought did go well with the creamy smoothness of the mousse, with the heirloom tomatoes and olives providing a familiar “burger” feel when laid on the brioche.
The next couple of appetisers (yes, we’re still in the beginning) in this delectable menu was the 12-hour Braised Lamb Leg Dip and Oriental Pulled Duck. Mixed with barbecue sauce and toasted bread, the braised lamb leg dip provided a satisfying feel with every bite. The tanginess from the barbecue sauce complemented the tenderness of the lamb leg, and the toasted bread added a much needed contrast in texture. The pulled duck was another dish served with noodles (soba noodles to be exact) and again, I felt it wasn’t really necessary for communal dining. The pulled duck was mixed with gherkins, capers, sesame oil and a micro herb salad, which resulted in this patty with duck-flavour but nothing memorable. So balance was there I guess, but it’s not anything noteworthy.
Potato Fries with truffle aioli and piquant mayo was up next, and though I didn’t expect this at a wedding banquet, I have to say that it was another unexpected treat. Golden brown fries – slightly thicker than shoe-string – were served with two satisfying dips. The truffle aioli wasn’t overpowering and the piquant mayo was smooth and rich. There wasn’t any favourite for me, so both sauces were equally enjoyed as long as the dish remained on the table.
Chicken (Breast & Leg) was the first main that this banquet featured and it looked like the standard was still climbing. This dish included generous medallions of perfectly cooked chicken meat resting on a fragrant, light and delicious coconut broth. The infusion with aromatic lemongrass and ginger brought a comforting feel to every bite, making this a great meat dish. There were some mixed vegetables and they weren’t overly cooked to the point of becoming mush – something commonly found in many curry dishes.
Another main was the Halibut En Papillote and easily one of the more delicate dishes served. The Halibut was fresh and silky to the touch, and the light broth (woven with shallot butter and truffle aioli which I couldn’t really detect) added great flavour without overpowering the fish. The shiitake mushrooms and wakame worked well with the Halibut but I didn’t see a need for the sushi rice, which was served separately with some sesame and lightly seasoned, sliced cucumbers. Other than that, it was a gentle combination of gentler ingredients coming together to create a healthy yet satisfying main.
Halia Chili Crab, which seems to be noted as one of their signature dishes, was the final main served in this sumptuous dinner. It’s basically spaghettini served with egg and worked together with crab meat and chili crab sauce. Wasn’t the tickler of palates for me and wouldn’t order this the next time I’m coming here. The pasta was cooked well (firm but not al dente) and the sauce was pleasant but the flavour was hardly reminiscent of our highly iconic dish.
My 2nd favourite course is dessert (after steak main courses) and they served delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding and Ginger Nougat Parfait. Most foodies probably know the pudding is English in origin and it so happened that one of the guests at my table was English. He would have liked it better if the sauce was thicker, but he said the flavour was pretty much spot on. I was okay with the consistency but I wished the sauce had a bolder toffee-flavour. The pudding had a great texture and the taste of dates was just right. The vanilla ice cream accompaniment was smooth enough and a sprinkle of sea salt really brought the flavour of everything out.
The ginger nougat parfait was alright. I can’t say that I’ve had this often so it was mostly the novelty that impressed me. Ingredients included compressed & freeze dried pineapple, crumble and ginger meringue. The combination of flavours added up to exactly what you’d imagine eating lightly ginger-flavoured ice-cream would be like. So unfortunately, the desserts didn’t ignite any flames within.
The ambience is good enough for impressive first dates and I could see this despite it being a little rowdy since it was a banquet. I can’t really comment on the service since it’s not the usual restaurant conditions, but as a banquet, it was a little sub-par.
Should you try it?
If you’re looking for wedding banquets that can impress the guests in a small wedding, then yes. I definitely recommend giving this place a shot.
As a venue for a good meal? I would also say yes, but I would suggest starting with the dishes I recommended (Goat’s Cheese Mousse, Braised Lamb Leg Dip, Potato Fries, Chicken (Breast & Leg) and Halibut En Papillote).
Halia at The Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road,
#01-22/23, Raffles Hotel
Mon – Fri (except Tue): 12:00pm to 2:30pm (Lunch)
Mon – Fri (except Tue): 6:00pm to 9:30pm (Dinner)
Sat: 12:00pm to 10:00pm
Sun & PH: 11:00am to 9:30pm
Tel: +65 9639 1148
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