Craft House Client, Preacher's Son, Featured In Architectural Digest
These once-abandoned houses of worship from New Orleans to Singapore are reincarnated as stylish restaurants—and the food is heavenly
Empty churches around the world are finding new life as restaurants. Abandoned religious buildings, originally designed to evoke awe and spiritual devotion, can quickly fall into a sad state of disrepair. But now some restaurateurs, architects, and designers have discovered that common elements like vaulted ceilings, open floor plans, wood-paneled walls, and even stained glass windows can create impressive dining rooms. Here, AD rounds up eight restaurants occupying former churches. Some of them were built in the 20th century, while others are more than 300 years old. Despite specific unifying features, these restaurants all look entirely different.
At the Chapel, Bruton, England
Restaurateur Catherine Butler and her architect husband, Ahmed Sidki, spent six years transforming this semi-derelict 17th-century chapel into an airy restaurant, bakery, wine shop, and inn. Sidki incorporated natural materials and reclaimed stone into the design and also used stockpiled 300-year-old
Tucked away on a peaceful street in Little Burgundy, you'll find this cozy restaurant inside the old Presbytery of the neo-Gothic St. Joseph's Church, which dates back to 1861. Sit down to one of chef John Winter Russell's four-course, vegetable-forward meals at one of the jade-color leather banquettes lining the brick walls. But you won't find any vaulted ceilings inside this intimate dining room, where overhead fixtures shine soft light onto tables that hide cutlery drawers at every place setting.
Grace, Portland, Maine
Dine inside one of the few surviving buildings designed by Portland architect Charles Alexander. This former Methodist church, built in 1856 in the Gothic Revival style, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The pulpit finds new life as a host stand, the coal chutes are now part of the wine cellar, and pews are used for seating.
Saphyre Restaurant, Belfast
The opulent interior of this restaurant inside an old Presbyterian church on busy Lisburn Road is the perfect match for chef Patrick Rowan's upscale cuisine. The dining room, awash in jewel tones, oozes old-fashioned formality with white tablecloths, plush dining chairs, and, of course, stained glass windows.
The Jane, Antwerp, Belgium
Head to the Berchem neighborhood to find this old military hospital chapel turned Michelin-starred restaurant. Here, food is apparently the new religion. The open kitchen now stands in place of the altar, and Dutch furniture and design firm Piet Boon has created a glamorous yet edgy vibe with mosaic floors, a giant neon skull, and a spectacular chandelier.
The White Rabbit, Singapore
Since 2008, this sleek restaurant has occupied an impeccably restored Victorian-style chapel within a former British Army camp. Design firm Takenouchi Webb found inspiration in traditional British public school dining halls and church buildings, and today the sunlit dining room features Romanesque arched stained glass windows and restored tile floors.
Vessel, New Orleans
Plenty of natural light still shines through the stained glass windows lining the walls of this former Lutheran church in Mid-City. The structure, which was built in 1914 and desanctified in 1977, housed a restaurant for decades. In 2016, it was entirely renovated and reopened as a bright Mediterranean eatery complete with a 35-foot wood bar.
The Preacher’s Son, Bentonville, Arkansas
Austin-based design studio FÖDA pulled inspiration from John Ruskin’s essay “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” to reimagine a Gothic Revival church built in 1904. A grid of 288 five-inch gold bells now rings inside the tower, while the expansive bar occupies the apse.