When you're at the upper end of the eatery spectrum, it's the absense of things rather than their presence that identifies quality. The decor is restrained but expensive. The furniture isn't memorable but it's comfortable. The service is so polite that it becomes all but invisible, but at the same time it provides you with everything you want when you want it. Even the other customers bespeak quality - no unruly children, no bimbos appraising their latest shags to their screeching mates, and no couples having a minor domestic about who they prefer on 'Dancing With The Stars'.
The food was as good as one would expect. I had pan-seared whiting on a bed of beetroot noodles with marinated beetroot chunks, with flecks of fried swede and a parcel of savoy cabbage filled with a creamy sauce. Then for dessert, an almond brulee with a crushed amarettini biscuit and a frankly spectacular port and pear icecream.
This is the sort of thing I want when I go out to eat - not simply a flawless execution of good food, but a creative blending of flavours and textures. Fish and beetroot is not a standard combination, and neither is port and pear, and I'm happy to pay for the imagination and expertise needed to bring me such novel dishes.
But sometimes paying for these things is not as straightforward as it appears. Halo is, on the face of it, fractionally cheaper than its high end rivals. Their main courses hover in the mid-30s, while restaurants like Jackson's, Coco's and Star Anise average around the low 40s. As I realised when I got my bill, however, there's a certain amount of sleight-of-hand going on. Here's the breakdown:
Main courses - $ 107
Desserts - $45
Some bread, a couple of bottles of mineral water, a single serve of salad greens, three coffees - around $50
It's a little disingenuous to charge less than your rivals for main courses, then more than recoup the difference on peripherals like bread and coffee. It smacks of penny pinching. I find that it's easier to keep track of the cost of my meal if I'm charged more for the main course then get showered with freebies, as is the case at Jackson's. The former method also makes one feel a little more like an honored guest, rather than a human-shaped wallet to be squeezed at every conceivable opportunity.
If we put that small piece of fiscal finagling aside, however, what we're left with is the fact that Halo is a refined restaurant serving imaginative food in style. That should give you more than enough reason to visit.