Photo: Vee Chin, Art direction: Shan
At 5,000 sq ft, So France Le Bistro-epicerie at the brand-new Duo Galleria in Bugis is a French emporium of sorts that houses a gourmet store, bistro and wine cellar. About 60 per cent of the 50 brands and more than 500 products come from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, whose capital, Bordeaux, is known for its vast vineyards and rich farmland. The region is also blessed with a 720km Atlantic Ocean coastline, dotted with oyster and fish farms.
The "So" in the bistro's name has a double meaning. It's from the French "sud-ouest" (south-west, because Nouvelle-Aquitaine is in the south-west of France), and the English word "so" (to emphasise how much it represents a French way of life).
In addition to browsing the shelves lined with fast food and wines, you can participate in wine tasting sessions, pastry/cooking masterclasses, and oyster shucking workshops.
Invivo Group - France's top agricultural cooperative group - and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Food Agency are the two organisations behind this first-in-the-world concept, which champions 100 per cent French artisanal produce and the sustainability of French farming.
Here, you can find thinly sliced, slightly salty Bayonne ham - which comes from a Basque pig called pie noir, born and bred in the region. The meat is cured by soaking it in sea salt before it's air-dried for 10 to 14 months. As the ham matures, it develops its aromas and acquires a welcome smoothness.
Cheese aficionados can enjoy lesser-known varieties such as the smooth, nutty and fruity Ossau-Iraty (pronounced oh-so ear-ah-tee), made from sheep's milk. It's great on cheeseboards, in salads, and with red wines. The semi-firm aged cheese is produced in the Northern Basque Country, and in Bearn, which is south-western France.
Fresh batches of oysters, plucked straight from the sea, are flown in every two weeks from Marennes-Oleron (from $16.50 for three) and Arcachon (from $18 for three pieces). The firm, plump and briny flesh is so fresh and supple that you can savour the essence of the sea in it. Both types are available for dine in and takeaway.
And as Bordeaux is home to some of the world's most prestigious wines, So France has an extensive wine and spirits list with more than 100 varieties. For the first time, more than 20 varieties are available in 100ml tubes - enough for a glass. The tubes (from $11) are available to take away and enjoy at your leisure. These fun-sized bottles with screw caps hold high-quality wine such as Chateau Coutet 2013 ($19) and Chateau Beychevelle 2014 ($72).
If you prefer to dine in, book a table at the bistro, which offers hearty, affordable French meals. It's helmed by head chef Frederic Coiffe, who comes from the south-west of France himself. A signature dish is the succulent honey- and sesame-marinated grilled duck breast ($19 for half a duck). Other highlights are oven-baked escargots laced with garlic parsley butter ($18), and rum and vanilla caneles from Bordeaux ($12).
#01-51/56 Duo Galleria, 7 Fraser Street.
This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Her World.