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! France Singapore Festival, which celebrates the best of French and Singaporean creativity. Presented by the Embassy of France in Singapore, a special edition will run from 22 October to 22 November and incorporate both on-site and virtual experiences for the first time. With close to 50 authentic French experiences to be had in the line-up, there’s really no better way to celebrate the French culture here.
Retrace the footsteps of former French premier Georges Clemenceau during his visits to Singapore in 1920 in an exhibition Clemenceau in Singapore at the National Museum of Singapore in partnership with Paris’s Musée Clemenceau; watch the performance of The Veil of Happiness, a classic play written by Clemenceau; and indulge in a selection of food workshops and bespoke menus that highlight French cuisine and cooking techniques. Meanwhile, the long-running French Film Festival will return from 6 to 22 November and is presenting its biggest line-up yet of 28 feature films, including those which have not yet debuted in France.
To fully soak in the joie de vivre, here are several other hot spots to kick off your mini French adventure on top of the vOilah! France Singapore Festival.
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.
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 flambée, scoot 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.
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 grandfather. Here, 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.
4. Indulge in Michelin-starred modern French cuisine at Odette
No list about French culture in Singapore can be complete without including this three-Michelin–starred 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.
6. Catch a film at Alliance Française
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.
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 hand–poured in Paris.
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 District. Founded in the 19th century by French missionaries, the building is constructed in the Neo-Gothic style – with a towering steeple and beautiful wrought iron fixtures. Within 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.
This story was first published on 15 August 2020.