Thanks to the good folks at HGW, the girlfriend and I managed to give Absolute Haven a try. I was expecting something refreshing, cheerful and something close to “fireworks-on-the-palate” after so many positive reviews.
The menu of the day was a revamped one, so in a way we were all guinea pigs sent into an experiment. Which is actually more fun actually, as there would not be any references. Best of all, we get to dine at a fraction of the usual price. (Yes, I am plugging for the next HGW outing, check this forum thread)
Anyway, on with the food review and photos.
Soup – Cream of Rocket
We started off with cream of rocket which was quite nicely done. The soup was not overly smooth so that bits of its potato base (my assumption) could be felt. It is a nice thoughtful touch to have added that dimension in the texture. For me, perhaps lacking was a tinge of the rocket’s bitterness to authenticate the dish itself. Maybe a bit of minced or chopped rocket might have added a little character to the soup?
Starter – I tried Panchetta Ham & Smoked Salmon Roll
I like the combination of the smoky panchetta ham and salmon with the greens wrapped in them. The textures of the meat and leafy greens stood out for themselves with every bite and distinctive flavours complimented each other really well. The smoky meats provided the punch while the greens cleared the palate for the next piece. My only grouse is the saltiness from the ham, but I am sure it can be easily neutralised with more of the salad greens.
Starter – The Girlfriend tried Duck Breast Salad with Berry Sauce
I liked the sweet and tangy taste, but foresee it may be too overpowering as one progresses to consume more of this salad. This is perhaps catered to those with a sweet tooth.
Main Course – I tried the Pan-seared Seabass with Poached Egg, Miso Braised Daikon and Olive Pilaf Rice, served with Lemon Cream Sauce
High scores on the presentation, but average in taste. The fish wasn’t exactly fresh and was over-cooked with edges totally burnt and bitter. Rest of the fish was tough and dry by my standards. Taste-wise, the fish was very plain with the minuscule amount of lemon cream sauce. Overall, it felt like the dish was conjured by a randomised process where you pick cards for every accompanying item and a poor excuse for a fusion dish. Every item did nothing to each other or for each other in terms of taste.
Main Course – The Girlfriend tried the Oven-Roasted Yorkshire Pork Rack with Herb Potato, Vegetables Ratatouille, Fresh Mesclum Salad, served with Coffee Chocolate Sauce
The pork rack was nicely done with a tinge of pink in the centre and tender to the bite. The marinate was done just right to allow the freshness of the pork to be tasted. However, the coffee chocolate sauce with meat combination reminded me too much about the coffee ribs available from the tze char stalls. The girlfriend mentioned that the pork could have been better used, i.e. prepared in better ways.
The ratatouille seemed out of place because of its “heavy” flavour was more of a clash with the pork and it just felt additionally pretentious thanks to the movie. The use of fresh cut fruits like lychees, longans, dragonfruits, pears would have provided a refreshing edge and balance to the dish.
Dessert – I tried Victorian Creme Brulee
I liken this to the Hong Kong steamed egg pudding, but mushier. Well done for that important crusty top layer of caramelised sugar. Unfortunately it tasted pretty plain for a place where I expected more of. No exciting layers of surprised or infused floral scents. Or perhaps that was what the “Victorian” stood for – old, traditional and outdated.
Dessert – The Girlfriend tried Passionfruit Panna Cotta
Here at Absolute Haven, Panna Cotta has a texture of curdled cheese and plenty of zesty punch from passionfruit, orange peel and berries. I can’t be sure if I like this dessert as it didn’t taste bad, but neither did it taste fantastic.
Overall, the food just didn’t wow me as I had expected more thoughtful, cleverer, refreshing combinations in ingredients.
The staff was friendly but rather slow with service and response and lacking in initiative. However the worst part has to be their failure to prioritise. The girlfriend and I had to run off for another appointment, so we asked for the food to be served slightly faster. Our expectation was only to be served with the first batch of the dish we ordered, but they weren’t even able to do that. Worst, for a group of over 20 people, they failed badly at coordinating for the food to be served together, making patrons without their food stare blankly at those who do. Some had even finished their food before their partner’s had arrived. That is totally unacceptable.