May stands out in Hong Kong’s cultural and culinary calendar, with a celebration of all things Gallic, a traditional dash for buns, and delicious award-winning cuisine
The Happy Valley racecourse, a venue for Le French May
The month is increasingly known by visitors and locals alike as Le French May. Now in its 23rd year, this unique window on France brings together more than 120 events in one of the largest cultural events in Asia, showcasing art in all its forms, from contemporary painting to classical music, and hip-hop ballet to cinema.
Fancy a local adaptation of The Barber of Seville? Or how about an exhibition on legendary architect Le Corbusier? The venues are as varied as the programme; performances take place across the city in unusual and unexpected locations, such as shopping malls, the Happy Valley racecourse or against the stunning backdrop of Victoria Harbour.
Arguably the most famous French cultural export around the world is its cuisine, and Pierre at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong offers a special, month-long ‘Le French GourMay’ menu, perfectly in tune with the innovative and creative wave that overtakes the city.
Shoulder of Quercy lamb stuffed with dry fruit at Pierre
The two-Michelin starred restaurant overlooks the city from the 25th floor and celebrates the outstanding French cuisine of Pierre Gagnaire. Always original, always artistic, Gagnaire’s style is rooted in the French cooking tradition that results in dishes that are as exquisitely presented as they are complex and seductive. Le French GourMay specials include a beautifully plated foie-gras soup with cubes of Madiran wine and a stunning shoulder of Quercy lamb stuffed with dry fruit.
Heading away from Hong Kong Island, May also brings one of the most remarkable festivals anywhere in Asia, in the form of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival – an event that has to be seen to be believed. Running from 22 to 26 May, it celebrates folklore and tradition on picturesque Cheung Chau Island, just a 40-minute ferry ride from Central Hong Kong.
Bun towers at the Cheung Chau Bun Festival
The festival’s most famous event is the Bun Grabbing Contest. Seriously. At midnight on the festival’s final day, 12 participants climb an 18-metre-high bamboo tower… covered in buns. They have just three minutes to grab as many as they can. The festival dates back to the 18th century, when a plague struck the island; it was only overcome when locals brought in the god Pak Tai to drive off ‘evil spirits’. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to see the extraordinary spectacle – and take home a few buns in the process.
Cassoulet, a dish at Café Causette’s pop-up bistro
A considerably more relaxed and sedentary way to get your hands on freshly-baked goods comes at Café Causette, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s popular all-day dining venue. There are lively show-kitchens and you can tour the world on a plate, trying Asian favourites such as nasi goreng and Hainan chicken rice, or international dishes including the Mandarin Burger and pizzas. In May, however, all things French take centre stage again, as the Café becomes a pop-up bistro from the Midi-Pyrénées, offering a prix fixe menu, a fruits de mer buffet and French classics cassoulet (a meat and white bean casserole) and aligot (melted cheese with mash potato).