6 Things to Know About the French Art of Fine Dining at Alliance Française's New Exhibition
French cuisine is often considered to be the pinnacle of fine dining, and situated in Singapore, residents have no lack of options for exquisite French fare. From La Dame De Pic at Raffles Singapore to the latest opening of Clos Pasoh at the Bukit Pasoh cluster, our choices are aplenty.
This month, the Alliance Française de Singapour aims to delve deeper into the world of French art de vivre to showcase just how elegant the French dining table can be and its role in culinary diplomacy. To the French, a gastronomic meal goes beyond the dishes served. Instead, it plays an integral part of their cultural heritage; an exemplification of kinship and emphasis on the pleasures one experiences from taste and well-crafted wine pairings.
To bring this to life, the institution partners with exclusive French dinnerware and fine crystal companies Christofle, Baccarat and Bernardaud to furnish three dining tables, as well as the Gourmet Fund at the Municipal Library of Dijon to showcase a range of historical menus linking France and the larger Southeast Asian region. Aside from the physical exhibition, guests can also participate in a variety of workshops and film screenings that paint a better picture of French dining and culture.
Here is what to expect at the event taking place this month.
1/6 Exquisite tableware
Step into the Alliance Française gallery and you'll be greeted with an opulent display of French tableware from Baccarat, Christofle and Bernardaud, each showcasing an array of unique creations from their collections.
The former presents their collection of Harcourt glasses—created in 1841 for the King of France, it is the oldest in its archives and thought iconic for its design, resting on a hexagonal base and six-cut crystal facets capturing the beauty of light. Alongside the beautiful stemware, Bernardaud, the reputed French porcelain manufacturer, presents three of its iconic collections: the timeless Constance dinner collection, with each piece outlined in gold and inspired by designs from the Empire period; the Aux Oiseaux collection, inspired by the cabinet of curiosities from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as its Je te mangerais dans la main collection, a six-piece dinner set done in collaboration with artists Prune Nourry and Jr Handcrafted to mark the brand's 150th anniversary.
Lastly, Christofle brings its contemporary six-piece silver set to the table to complement the other brands. Its compact ovoid-shaped collection was designed for impromptu dinners and casual brunches whilst retaining a flair of sophistication as hosts entertain.
2/6 Menus of state dinners and journeys between France and Southeast Asia
The walls of the exhibition space are adorned with original menus of state dinners hosted at the Élysée Palace in Paris—the official residence of the President of the French Republic—with diplomats and government representatives from Southeast Asia. There were a couple that caught our eye, including the menus that were once enjoyed by King Rama XI of Thailand, Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar, and the late Lee Kuan Yew when he visited in October 2001. Some are so well documented that they even come with a list of musical tracks that were played during these state dinners for gallery goers to fully visualise they looked and felt like.
Stroll across the gallery and you'd find a line-up of menus from the Messageries Maritimes as well, a French merchant shipping company that once sailed from France to various regions of Southeast Asia. In-flight menus of trips to and fro Southeast Asia are also on showcase on the adjacent walls.
3/6 Hands-on workshops
To further immerse guests in the world of French art de vivre, they can also sign up for workshops on wine tasting with ex-Raffles Hotel wine director Stéphanie Rigour, or a champagne tasting workshop with world-renowned wine business, Pernod Ricard.
Catherine Baron, founder of Le Savoir-Vivre: Academy of Etiquette and Modern Manners, will also helm a session on the etiquette of fine dining and the French art of setting the table for those who wish to elevate their experience in French gastronomy.
4/6 Gather with friends
Nothing beats gathering a group of friends (of no more than eight!) over some great cheese and conversation. Guests who sign up can expect to received 1kg of cheese and bread to be delivered to their doorsteps, with an introductory zoom session on French cheeses by Hong Kong-based cheese master, Antoine Zaruba on April 16.
5/6 Learn about gastrodiplomacy
If you're curious about the links between food and diplomacy, join the likes of Guillaume Gomez, French author and chef of the Elysée Palace from 1997 to 2021, and Laurent Stefanini, author and ambassador of France to Monaco, on a panel discussion of what goes on behind the scenes of receptions held at the presidential palace.
As a French ambassador, Stefanini will also share his two cents about the ongoing importance of gastronomy in forging ties between countries.
6/6 Films to catch
Besides the exhibition and workshops, there is a line-up of gastronomy-themed documentaries for guests to immerse themselves in the world of French cuisine.
Held over the course of April at the Alliance Française theatre, fans of acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse will be able to catch his documentary while oenophiles will be thrilled to watch the screening of The Soul of Wine, among many others.
À Table! The French Art of Fine Dining is held from now till May 3, at the Alliance Française de Singapour