My aunt and grandmother came to town a couple of weekends ago, and we brought them out to see the newly UNESCO-minted Singapore Botanic Gardens, as well as the National Orchid Garden. I think they truly enjoyed themselves, since my aunt is huge on nature and my grandmother just loves gardening and was really inspired to re-pot her orchids after the visit. I see where my aunt gets it from.
In true Singaporean fashion the sun was unrelenting, and it being Dad’s birthday, he expended a significant amount of his birthday influence to get us all in the shade and to have an early lunch. Which kind of explains how we ended up at the Halia, the restaurant nearest to the Orchid garden, which was also hosting an NParks lunch at the time.
The Halia has a pretty attractive set menu, at $28 for two courses and $32 for three courses, with two options for each course available to choose from. I must say that it’s very good value! The crab salad was deliciously refreshing, without the mayonnaise being too cloying or drowning out the sweetness of the crab and tomatoes, both of which were delightfully crunchy. Accompanying arugula added a nice contrast of bitterness to each mouthful.
The main course of the set lunch, a pan-seared salmon fillet (nobody chose the Halia’s interpretation of bak chor mee, unfortunately), was flaky and flavourful, and the skin impressively crispy without being too oily. The creaminess of the mashed potato and cauliflower puree added a good balance to the richness of the fish.
Dad and I shared the lamb loin and spaghettini, as we couldn’t decide which to choose and wanted to try everything. The lamb was beautifully pink and tender, and had none of that gamey taste usually associated with lamb. Also, I think this is one of the few pea dishes I’ve really liked – they burst in your mouth and not just dissolve into mushy disappointment. The curried rice added a nice base upon which one could savour the dish, but I don’t think Dad cared much for that as he finished all the lamb first. No matter as I was happily eating the spaghettini, interlaced with generous chunks of crab meat, though there were some annoying pieces of cartilage and the sauce had an overbearing taste of…ketchup. Still enjoyed it though!
The Halia is a lovely hideout in the Botanic Gardens, though indoor air-conditioned seating is extremely limited. Visitors seem to love the extensive outdoor seating though; must be the ample fans. I think the set lunch is a great deal, though I left too early to sample the dessert of coconut soup, which my mom enjoyed quite a bit. If I’m not wrong, the lunch changes regularly, which means a trip back of course!
1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden
(enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Tel: +65 8444 1148