Halia @ Raffles Hotel – A Weekend Brunch Menu Feature

7 07 2013

Halia, which means ginger in Malay, is no new kid on the block. It’s flagship outlet in the Singapore Botanical Gardens has been around since 2001 and has been a popular choice for diners out for dates and other special occasions. While it has been on my to-go list for the longest time, its location proved to be the main deterrence (since I stay in the east). That’s why I’m glad they decided to open a much more accessible sister outlet in Raffles Hotel late last year.

Located at the iconic Raffles Hotel, it’s not unjustified to presume that meals here would be priced at a premium so it comes as a surprise that this isn’t so. Case in point, 3-course set lunches are priced at a reasonable $25++ while their pre-theatre 3-course set dinners are priced at $33++.

I like the interior of the restaurant, which I found rather spacious. Alternatively, there’s outdoor seating as well. While the ambience, price point and food quality (which we will cover shortly) are attractive enough, it seems that Halia @ Raffles Hotel is still a relatively hidden gem as there wasn’t much of a crowd apart from a small private gathering gathered to witness a couple executing their ROM on the Saturday noon when I was there.

On this occasion, I was here to sample their weekend brunch and all-day dining menu. Like most brunch places in Singapore, weekend brunch is no longer constrained to mornings, resulting in the brunch menu being made available from 11am to 5.30pm. I will touch on the Brunch Menu items first.

Brunch Menu Items

For those wanting to live it up a bit, what’s better than some freshly shucked Irish Oysters ($5.50/piece) with Lemon & Mignonette, paired with white wine. As a university senior, I’m not at that level yet, so it would seem overly pretentious if I did that now. Guess I will just have to make do with the $1 happy hour oysters at Tanuki @ Orchard Central for now.

The Pancake ($12++) is a classic brunch item but the ones here come with very thinly sliced bacon, which provides a hint of savoriness that contrasts well with the sweet Maple Butter, Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Puree. I would recommend this.

The Assorted Bread & Pastries ($12++) consist of a Baguette, Sourdough, Scone, Croissant, Danish, Clotted Cream & Jam. I have only tried the scone and it was a little drier and denser to what I’m used to, quite meh actually. On a side note, the people I know who are fanatics of bread always seem to be female. Not sure if there’s a real correlation or it’s sheer coincidence.

Another item that I wouldn’t bother ordering again would be the Heirloom Tomato ($20++) with Red Pepper Gazpacho, Croutons, Jamon Iberico & Balsamic, which comes across as a rather unaffordable salad dish, given the relative pricing of the other items on Halia’s menu. I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to tell the difference between a heirloom vs a common commercial tomato anyway.

One of my favourite brunch menu items would be the Mushroom Capellini ($22++) with Fresh Winter Truffle & Herb Oil. The cream sauce while thick, isn’t too cloying and the mushrooms are just simply delish.

The Grilled Breakfast with choice of Eggs done Poached, Fried, Scambled or Omelette style ($23++) comes with an Italian Pork Sausage (much too salty), Sweetened Bacon, Portobello Mushroom, Vine Tomato and Toasted Sourdough. Kudos to the execution of the eggs, which were perfectly poached and scrambled. One of the best eggs I have had in a while.

I didn’t quite agree with the White Bean Chorizo Leek Stew ($16++) with Egg Sunny Side up, Smoked Chipotle Sauce, Tomato & Fine Herbs. Personally, the stew was too thick and starchy.

All-day Dining Menu

It might not look like much but the Celeriac Lasagna ($12++) with Mushroom, Thyme, Baby Spinach, Lemon & Madeira Cream was the crowd favourite, me included. This says much given that I’m more of a meat lover. It probably had something to do with the mushrooms and the cream sauce, which worked marvelously well together, perhaps even slightly reminiscent of the Mushroom Capellini earlier on. This is a confirm must-order on my subsequent visits.

Fries ($8++) pretty much taste the same everywhere but I did enjoy the Truffle Aioli that came together with the oens here. The orange-coloured Piquant Mayo dip fared just averagely.

One of Halia’s signatures is the Halia Chili Crab ($25++) with Spaghettini, Spring Onion & Egg. It definitely packed a punch with the spices and was executed well overall but my only gripe is that it shows little differentiation from a generic crab pasta one easily finds in a number of Italian joints.

I could feel the Middle Eastern influences in the Sous Vide Baharat Chicken Leg ($28+) with Butternut Squash & Roast, Ginger, Coriander & Red Pepper Salsa. The lightly spiced thigh meat had a smokey flavour and was uber tender. The wonders of sous vide at work again…

Despite being a vegetarian dish, I found the Mushroom, Lentil & Walnut Bake ($24++), Fennel Seed Cream, Sundried Tomato, Mesclun rather intriguing and very flavourful. The walnut and lentil bake looked somewhat like a tempeh but had a much smoother and finer texture.

Overall, a very decent meal at a very decent price. No doubt I will be back shortly.

This meal was sponsored by Halia. Special thanks to Halia and Foodnews for the invitation.

Halia

1 Beach Road, #01-22/23, Raffles Hote

Tel: +65 9639 1148





Swensen’s – A Weekend Breakfast Alternative

8 09 2012

I haven’t been back to Swensen’s since my Junior College days more than half a decade ago. I guess just like with all the cafe cartels, seoul gardens and sakae sushis that we students used to frequent, these joints no longer seem as cool as compared to chilling out at those hipster standalone cafes that serve gourmet coffees. However believe it or not, on my recent trip to Swensen’s, I actually found the new breakfast menu promising enough to warrant future return visits, especially when the breakfast sets are priced so reasonably. Their breakfast menu is only available during weekends and public holidays between 8am to 11am for all outlets except the outlet at Changi Airport Terminal 2, where the breakfast menu is available everyday from 3am to 11am to cater to travelers.

One of my favourite breakfast sets is the All American Buttermilk Pancakes ($9.90++), which comprises of pancakes served with a side of maple syrup, honey butter cream, chicken sausages, hash brown and sauteed mushrooms. Every aspect was done competently and the pancakes were thick but light. Mushrooms were delicious as well as I suspect it was sauteed in butter. In addition, all breakfast sets come with a cup of coffee and tea to wash down the hearty fare.

You can opt to do away with the peripherals and just get the Simply Pancakes ($6.90++).

The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich ($9.90++) is essentially a ham and egg sandwich. What I love most about this sandwich is that a sweet airy Japanese Bread is used, whose texture is in between that of bread and spongecake. The set also comes with a side of BBQ Baked Beans, similar to what you can get at Astons. My only gripe was that the egg was slightly bland and dry.

The same Japanese bread is also used to make the Classic French Toast with Honey Butter Cream ($10.90++), so the toast turns out really fluffy as well.

As with most of the breakfast sets here, you can opt to have the Simply French Toast ($7.50++) without the accompanying hash brown, sausages and sauteed mushroom.

What I find spectacular from the Swensen’s Sunrise Omelette ($10.90++) is not the omelette per se but the Ciabatta rolls. They are included in some of the breakfast sets and they are awesome! Not only were they served crisp and piping hot, but honey butter is also pumped into them for a sweet finish. Instead of having the eggs in an omelette style, you can also opt to have your eggs scrambled or sunny side up. My advice is to go for the scrambled.

Good Morning Sunnies ($11.90++)

Ciabatta Rolls pumped with Honey Butter

For those on a heavy protein diet, there’s also the Hearty Steak & Eggs ($14.90++). You get what you pay for so don’t go expecting top quality beef but I would say its good enough for a casual meal. Plus you get yummy caramelized onions…

No western breakfast place is complete without the ubiquitous Eggs Ben and the ones here are served with Smoked Salmon ($12.90++). While a little too sour for my liking, the density of the Hollandaise was about right and my eggs weren’t overpoached.

There’s also the Eggy Delight ($6.90++) for the kids, where you get sunny side ups, grilled chicken sausages and potato smiles. All the kids breakfast sets come with a glass of fruit juice too!

Apart from the western breakfast sets, there’s also 2 sets that cater to local palates; the Fish & Century Egg Congee ($9.90++) and Prawn Bee Hoon Soup ($11.90++). The congee wasn’t available so I only had the Bee Hoon Soup which I found very forgettable as the bee hoon hadn’t infused the flavours from the soup and hence tasted bland. Anyhow, the chicken soup base wasn’t fantastic to start with.

Overall, I would say that Swensen’s really exceeded my expectations this time. The food is in general above average for cafe breakfast standards, prices are really competitive and the seating capacity is ample to avoid the long weekend queues. If only the breakfast menu hours are extended past 11am on lazy weekends…

Special thanks to Swensen’s for hosting this tasting!





Cafe Epicurious (Rail Mall) – Baked Eggs to die for

2 04 2012

*This meal was sponsored by Cafe Epicurious.

Cafe Epicurious was one of the first blog posts I made on this blog almost 2 years ago. When I look back at that post, two things strike me. First is that my food photography skills and photo editing skills have indeed come a long way, from being a total noob to the rookie I am now. Second is that I used to be so much more creative in my writing. I guess right now, the luxury of time is just not on my side, while back then I was still waiting to enroll into SMU. Anyhow, I wonder what the two year later me would say when I looks back at this post?

I was invited down to Cafe Epicurious at Rail Mall for a tasting session. Given that it totally sucks to do a tasting alone (I hate wasting food and worry about the awkward silences that might ensue between the host and myself), Xinli from The4Moose and myself coordinated to go down together on a not so lovely Saturday where I had 2 concurrent project meetings to attend. I find myself blessed to have understanding group mates, who are very supportive of my foodie adventures even at the expense of their GPAs (I like to think of myself as an indispensable group member whose work actually has a bearing on the final project grade 😀 ). I’m a very last minute worker so I hope they know I will pull through at the end.

Unlike the Epicurious outlet at Robertson Quay whose clientele is made up predominantly of expats, local young adults and students make up the core clientele for this outlet during brunch. I find it a lot more peaceful at this outlet, where I can take my time with my meal and do some readings without anyone breathing down my neck. The Robertson Quay outlet is just a little too noisy, hot and crowded for my liking.

We started off the tasting with the Pancakes ($8++). Topped with some lightly caramelized bananas and strawberries, it is one of the better pancakes around. It was really light and fluffy, so finishing all 3 wouldn’t have been a problem for me if not for the onslaught of the other brunch items that the 2 of us were sharing. For drinks, Xinli had a Cappuccino ($6++) while I requested for a Honey Lemon Drink (not in the menu) since I was down with a sore throat.

My favourite dish at Epicurious so far is their Baked Eggs with Toast Soldiers ($14++). I recall that they used to serve it either with a choice of bacon, mushroom or prawns, but now diners get the standard two eggs with bacon, mushroom, tomato & cream, covered with cheese and baked until gooey, to be eaten with a side of Brioche. If you are worried that this dish is too cheesy for one to stomach, you can opt for the Half and Half ($16++) which, allows you to mix and match 2 brunch items at half servings, from the choice of Baked Eggs, Eggs Benedict and Green Eggs & Ham.

For our Half and Half ($16++), we got the Eggs Benedict and Green Eggs & Ham, which is eggs scrambled with basil pesto, prosciutto and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Parmiagiano-Reggiano is the italian name for what is commonly known as Parmesan cheese and just like how sparkling wine can only be classified as Champagne if it is produced in the region of Champagne, France, Parmesan Cheese can only be produced in certain regions of Italy. I didn’t quite fancy the eggs ben today as the egg was severely overpoached and the Hollandaise came a little too tart for my liking, though the consistency of the sauce was just right. As for the Green Eggs & Ham, I would say that the eggs are scrambled well, retaining a slightly runny and creamy texture but what didn’t go for me was the combination of basil pesto. What impresses me however, is the Sauteed Potatoes on the side, which comes slightly crisp but not over-fried and lightly salted. The Eggs Ben and Green Eggs & Ham are available in full servings at $14++ as well.

The Ratatouille Omelette ($14++) is simple but tasty. It is a two-egg omelette filled with a herb, tomato, eggplant & zucchini stew, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, very much like an omelette filled with pasta sauce. I couldn’t detect the parmesan though. Funny story back in 2007 when Ratatouille the movie was first screened, I thought it had something to do with the rat’s name. That was back when I was an uninitiated foodie. My dad isn’t a fan of western food you see, so as a child I had little exposure to much french or italian cuisine. So I’m making up for lost time now.

The Epicurious Burger ($18++) is listed as IS Magazines’s top 10 burgers in Singapore. After the first bite, I thought to myself, “Is there really that few burger joins in Singapore?”. I have no qualms about the fries, in fact I find it amazing and I definitely award brownie points for the lime aioli which tasted heavily of lemongrass with a suggested thai influence but what I felt could have been improved was the beef patty, which tasted artificially salty and not very juicy nor tender. As for bacon, what’s not to like?

This is also what I’d like to call the burger method of critiquing, you first start with a good point (the fries) so that you don’t seem to be scolding a person directly, then proceed to the body of your message (the patty) where you criticize the object but never the person, and end off on a good note (the bacon). Management Communications 101 😀

There were a couple of misses but the whole experience was surely positive, and I’d still rate Epicurious as a brunch place worth visiting.

Special thanks to Cafe Epicurious for the hosting this tasting session. I enjoyed the brunch much!

Cafe Epicurious

392 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Tel: +65 6894 5926








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