Saturday, 15 August 2020

How to take a French vacation without leaving Singapore

Although the city-state is gradually opening up following the two-month circuit breaker exercise, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to partake in international travel anytime soon. Thankfully, Singapore is a globalised and truly international country, and you don’t have to look too far to immerse yourself in another culture.

In this series, we spotlight a few local establishments – from bakeries and restaurants to design stores and other retail outlets – where you can experience the best of destinations such as ScandinaviaJapanParis and the deep south of the United States, without ever taking off from Changi.

Paris Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower and river Seine at sunrise in Paris. Photo credit:

With over 14,000 French citizens living in Singapore, French culture is accessible through the burgeoning number of speciality cafés and boutiques dedicated to all things français. There is also the annual VoiLah festival, which celebrates the best of French and Singaporean creativity. While we wait for the next edition of the festival, here are several hot spots to kick off your mini French adventure.  

Indulge in the finest cheeses at La Petite Boutique

1. Pick up groceries at La Petite Boutique

Nestled within Serangoon Gardens, an upmarket residential neighbourhood that has come to be known as a “little slice of France” because of the nearby French School of Singapore, this speciality grocer carries all manner of French products – from cheese and wine to meat and cold cuts. Whether you’re craving a creamy gorgonzola or an indulgent serving of duck rillettes, owner Morgane Foucaud is sure to have something for you.  

Merci Marcel, located at Palais Renaissance along Orchard Road

2. Wine, dine and shop at Merci Marcel

It’s easy to while away an entire afternoon at the flagship outlet of this multi-concept lifestyle brand: Admire large murals inspired by iconic French artist Henri Matisse while tucking into contemporary French fare by consulting chef Nicolas Nguyen Van Hai. After your bellies have been sated by standout dishes such as marinated crab tartine and vegetarian tarte flambéescoot over to the adjacent boutique to browse the chic selection of lifestyle goods. From handcrafted Moroccan ceramics and handmade wall décor from Israel to beautiful notebooks from French publishing house Maison Fondee, there’s something for everyone. 

Monkfish with Bouillabaisse sauce at Brasserie Gavroche

3. Tuck into traditional French fare at Brasserie Gavroche

Situated along trendy Tras Street, this bistro serves up hearty French fare made using traditional recipes from the owner’s chef grandfatherHere, you can enjoy classics such as the French onion soup, the rich and buttery baked pork terrine with duck liver and the impossibly tender duck confit. Wash it all down with a full-bodied Bordeaux or a crisp Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 

Sudachi-cured Saba at Odette

4. Indulge in Michelin-starred modern French cuisine at Odette

No list about French culture in Singapore can be complete without including this three-Michelinstarred restaurant, which is also Asia’s number one restaurant. Helmed by chef-owner Julien Royer, the fine-dining establishment is situated within the stunning National Gallery and serves exquisite French cuisine using the best seasonal ingredients and artisanal produce. According to Royer, much of his inspiration is derived from his grandmother (who lent her name to the restaurant)whose cooking philosophy was to create extraordinary dishes from the purest ingredients.    

5. Sip on bespoke cocktails at The Lounge Bar

Calling themselves Singapore’s only French craft cocktail bar, this ritzy drinking spot is located in the trendy Duxton neighbourhood. The intimate 23-seater bar is dressed up to resemble a dapper gentleman’s living room – muted lighting, elegant woodwork and cosy chesterfield sofas – and is conducive for those hushed post-dinner conversations. Try one of their signature cocktails – the Agastache is made with infused BarSol pisco and Pierde Almas mezcal; while the Thilleuil is an herbaceous concoction comprising umeshu, jasmine green tea and Suze Gentiane liqueur. 

French cinema at the Alliance Francais

6. Catch a film at Ciné Club, Alliance Francaise 

One of the best ways to partake in another culture is through film. Singapore’s Alliance Française, located in the Newton neighbourhood, runs a series of programmes for people interested in French culture – from language courses to weekly film screenings. They also have separate screenings just for young children. Find out more about their latest film schedule here 

7. Stock up on books at The French Bookshop

Tucked away in the hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, this cosy bookshop fulfils every Franco- and biliophile’s dream, with shelves upon shelves of French fiction, both brand new and second-hand. They also stock a decent selection of artwork, vintage pieces and elegant stationery. Save a cuddle or two for the two friendly cats that lurk around the store.  

My French Concession sells soaps, candles and other home fragrances made in France

8. Revel in fragrances at My French Concession

While not a brick-and-mortar store, this online shop stocks a wide variety of candles and soaps developed in France so you can enjoy scents inspired by the royal gardens of Versailles or the old-world glamour of a Parisian palace. According to the owner Solveig de Fontgalland, all their signature scents are designed by a French perfumer, with the candles handpoured in Paris.  

Church of Saints Peter & Paul
Church of Saints Peter & Paul opened in 1870. Photo credit:

9. Admire the architecture at Church of Saints Peter and Paul

We may not have the Sacré-Coeur basilica or the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but Singapore also has a historic Catholic church in the heart of the Civic DistrictFounded in the 19th century by French missionaries, the building is constructed in the Neo-Gothic style – with a towering steeple and beautiful wrought iron fixturesWithin the square belfry are three bronze bells bought and installed by Reverend Father Pierre Paris, a priest from the Society of the Foreign Missions of Paris who headed the Chinese Mission and attended to the Tamil-speaking Catholics in Singapore in the 1850s. The bells were cast in Mans, France, with the rims engraved with images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Inside the church, you will find five stained glass windows also made in France and installed around 1870.   

SEE ALSO: How to take a Scandinavian vacation without leaving Singapore

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