There’s a new kid on the block shaking things up and breathing a much needed breathe of fresh air into the Raffles Hotel arcade. Except that new kid ain’t so new, because it’s a definite familiar face on the local dining scene – Halia.

The feel here is urban casual, with contemporary European cuisine sitting alongside Asian inspired dishes at more pocket friendly prices than you may have experienced at Halia at the Botanical Gardens.

Shunning the old school format of appetizers and mains, instead you’ll see small and big plates on the menu, so you can choose whether to simply order a number of small, or tuck into one main.

And so let’s start on the smalls. We got off to a subtle start with the Confit Salmon ($16), melt in your mouth salmon served with cauliflower done two ways. I was not a big fan of the roasted version, however the cauliflower puree, which was flavoured with vanilla beans, was a lovely touch. A nice easy start on the palate.

I was taken by surprise at just how much I liked the Celeriac “Lasagna” ($12). This had a fabulous mushroom aroma to it and the taste which ensued definitely lived up to that. The use of sliced celeriac to replace the sheets of pasta normally present in lasagna gives the dish an interesting texture play which introduced a slight bite within its creaminess. It’s nice to see a decent, and more imaginative vegetarian option being offered up on a menu for a change. Brownie points there.

The Foie Gras Salad ($23), packs a serious flavour punch with its interesting fusion of flavours including apricot chutney, candied ginger pecans and blueberry. This salad has a lot going on, and perhaps the flavours might be a tad intense for some, so this is a plate which I’d recommend better for sharing.

Last on the smalls we had the Oriental Pulled Duck ($18)- marinated overnight, this allows for the Asian flavours to really soak in and be enjoyed over your soba noodles.

A quick pit stop on the sides before we scoot over to the biggies. The Fries ($8) here definitely deserve a mention, and in my book this is mainly but not exclusively because of the truffle aioli which is just sooo delicious! I would have been very happy munching a whole plate of the fries by myself!

On the big plates, we started with the Sous Vide Baharat Chicken ($28). The method of cooking Sous Vide (in a vacuum-sealed pouch) leaves the chicken tender in texture while the middle-eastern Baharat spice mix, gives the chicken a subtly aromatic flavour, although I would have preferred it to have been amped up a little bit as the flavours were a little underwhelming for my liking.

We all love chilli crab, but you know…well, it can be a pain in the proverbial to eat sometimes can’t it? Cue the Halia Chilli Crab ($25), served spaghetti style with the crab already conveniently deconstructed for you. No mess. Tasty. Great stuff.

Finally, the absolute favourite – and I mean all round the table favourite – dish. You might not think much when you see the Seafood Gratin ($26) on the menu but there is something about this dish that, if you are sharing, will make you wish you weren’t! This is the ultimate comfort food – akin to a cross between macaroni cheese and fisherman’s pie, with a generous portion of seafood and absolutely deeeeeeelicious!

And finally, to dessert.

The Ginger Nougat Parfait ($10) is a stalwart over at Halia Botanical Gardens and it’s easy to see why – it’s a nice, light and zingy, fragrant dessert to round off a meal and clear your palate with. And very easy to eat too.

Now I am a BIG strawberry lover, so the idea of the Chilled Strawberry Soup ($12) pleased me greatly. As did the taste! Not to mention the fact that it is topped off with sparkling wine at your table. Slurp up the soup and savour the taste, alternating with the lime sorbet to keep things even on your palate.

But the clear winner on the desserts was the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10). I was only dreaming of sticky toffee pudding the other day when this little baby came along. And boy was I glad! Suprisingly light as compared with other renditions, and finished off with butterscotch sauce – it’s just so delicious and more-ish.

A couple of tips….if you’re able to slip away early from work, do check out the pre-theatre set (5.30pm – 7pm) at this Halia because it is surprisingly good. This isn’t one of those set menus where you get passed off the least favourite/cheapest dishes. On the contrary, it’s actually made up of their signature dishes and seriously good value at $28++ for two course or $33++. Equally worth sniffing out is their set lunch ($25++) and brunch menu.

And if you’re coming for dinner, be sure to check out the alfresco bar for a cheeky before/after meal tipple which serves up artisanal beverages sourced from across the world,  and also features a fully functioning Hendricks bath tub no less.

Well, if that’s not reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is!

On this occasion, the meal was compliments of Halia Raffles Hotel