Restaurant in a garden and a garden in a restaurant. What an apt description for The Halia (meaning "ginger" in Malay) which has well-embodied this dining concept since its opening in 2001 in the lush Ginger Garden of Singapore Botanic Gardens.
One of my favorite restaurants around, I was keen to check out their updated menu following the recent premises renovation.
If you're visiting Halia for the first time, enter from Tyersall Avenue entrance which is just a short 5 minutes walk to the restaurant, and the single storey building will soon come into sight. I must say it still look as charming after all these years.
One can be assured of beautiful surroundings when dining at Halia. Enhancements has been made, such as an elevated deck for the alfresco area which lets diners to better enjoy the view. The heightened ceiling allows natural breezes to flow through.
Check out those pendant lamps inspired by the intricate wave of a bird's nest!
I also noticed that the setting is now much more relaxed and casual compared to previous. Gone are those formal white tablecloths, and furniture is replaced by specially-designed ones by a Thai designer. Details that celebrate Halia's Asian heritage are rather prominent with Peranakan-style pattern floor tiles, and servers wear uniforms made from batik fabric.
The current all-day dining menu reflects this direction well, with new as well as re-imaged fusion dishes that incorporate Asian elements into modern cuisine.
Most of us have reservations about fusion offerings, which if handled too forcefully, will simply spiral downwards into a state of confusion. Thankfully, what I've tasted during the lunch session was all of well-thought goodness that pull together the best of different cultures with subtlety.
For instance, the Lime & Ginger Yellowfin Tuna Kinilaw ($18) is re-interpreted from the classic raw seafood dish from Philippines, yet somehow brings Latin America's ceviche to mind. The flavor marriage of coconut, avocado, tomato, seaweed and chilli oil, with crispy wonton skin for added crunch work harmoniously well.
Lemongrass & Ginger Tiger Prawn Salad ($19) in ginger flower dressing was another appetite-whetting starter before we moved on to main of Wild Alaskan Black Cod ($56).
A tad pricey for my wallet, but each luscious mouthfeel of the premium cod's velvety texture soon took my mind off that. The ginger flower sambal, and pickled ginger jus perked up the fish's delicate taste by much.
Not forgetting the regular patrons, time-tested classics such as Halia's Singapore-style Chilli Crab Spaghettini ($26) and Paperbag Oven-baked Halibut Fillet ($40) are retained on the menu.
Lamb is not a dish which I would usually order as the risk of it being overly gamey in flavor is more often than not, high. So you can imagine my reservations when my dining companion ordered the Spice Islands Marinated Lamb Loin ($44).
I can choose not to try it, but the pieces of thickly-sliced lamb over a bed of curried wild rice garnished with charred chillies, pickled ginger and coconut that blossomed alluringly like a tropical garden made it difficult to resist.
Flavors turned out to be exceeding gorgeous! The lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare with moist tenderness and subtlety perfumed with Indonesian spices. Adding a lovely crunch to the dish is the wild rice that burst with curried, coconutty aromatics at each chomp. What a flawless pairing.
It turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal! (Moral of the story: never try, never know).
Desserts are definitely not an afterthought at Halia. My personal favorite which I must have every time I visit Halia is Ginger & Spice, All Thing Nice ($10) of frozen ginger nougat parfait, spiced pineapple sauce with ginger crumble, and Halia Infusion ($10), the chilled house specialty drink of sun-dried ginger and wild mountain honey. All other items sound so enticing too that we were undecided about it for quite some time. #firstworldproblems
I would rather live than die for the Die Die Must Have Chocolate ($12) because..... die already how to eat huh? lol!
The Other Harbour ($12) of mango mousse delighted its light texture, and toppings of fresh mango, pomelo and yogurt sherbet provided an invigorating touch. Equally refreshing was the Orh Nee ($12), a medley of housemade yam parfait, pumpkin puree, candied gingko nuts and lotus seeds, which is inspired by the traditional Teochew dessert.
For Weekday Set Lunch, it is available from Monday to Friday (except public holiday) from 12pm to 2pm. 2-course is at $28, while a 3-course meal goes for $32, with choice of dishes that are not on the regular menu, such as the yummy Pork Fillet & Bacon Carbonara with Poached Egg you see in the picture above.
With such delectable food and desserts, Halia is undoubtedly the delicious reason to visit Singapore Botanic Garden. If you don't already know, the local park attraction is a newly-minted UNESCO World Heritage site, the first and only tropical botanic garden to ever receive the honor.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Address: 1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden, Singapore 259569 (enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Contact: +65 8444 1148
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 12pm-9.30pm / Fri & PH Eve 12pm-10pm / Sat 10am-10pm / Sun & PH 10am-9.30pm / Brunch 10am-5pm (Weekends & PH)
Address: 1 Beach Road, #01-22/23, Singapore 189673
Contact: +65 9639 1148
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm & 6pm-9.30pm / Sat 12pm-10pm / Sun & PH 11am-9.30pm / Brunch 11am-5.30pm (Weekends & PH) / Afternoon Tea 3pm-5pm (Weekends & PH)
Prices stated are subjected to 10% service charge and 7% GST.