An absolutely exciting addition to the city of Sheffield, Church (Temple of Fun) opened its doors in Kelham Island this year and last month I finally got to go see it all for myself.
Church has everything in one place, combining a bar, a restaurant, a tattoo parlour, a clothes shop, and an arcade into one. The concept is housed within an old warehouse – the building dates back to 1919 – so it’s already a super cool venue, but what’s been done with the interior is incredible.
Church combines the modernity of video gaming – hence its being known as a “barcade” – with the traditional iconography of South American Christianity, and there truly is something interesting to look at everywhere you turn.
There are lots of tables dotted about the place, but the most coveted spots are those in the centre of the building: the dining booths decorated with stunning mosaics, and the gaming octagons. Something I thought was pretty weird about those, though, is that there are 3 in total, but 1 is closed off (I guess for health and safety as it’s raised from the ground). What’s the point of having it there?
Here’s a closer look at the beautiful mosaics on the walls of the booths, which are inspired by religious iconography.
Everything at the bar is completely vegan, which I think is really important and often goes overlooked. Many mainstream cocktails contain egg, or milk, or cream, or even gelatin, so it can be stressful when you’re out with friends trying to relax and enjoy a drink – whilst avoiding the body parts and secretions of animals. So, yeah, kudos to the vegan bar. I had a couple of cocktails, including this black White Russian. It’s black because they add activated charcoal, and it’s super strange because it feels really counter-intuitive to consume a black liquid. I love these unique touches about Church!
Church also has a pretty cool balcony/terrace area at the side, which I can imagine gets pretty crowded on a Friday/Saturday night. You’re not allowed to smoke on it, which I understand because it would be terrible for cigarette butts to be thrown over the railings (which would inevitably happen, unfortunately).
The deck has interesting views of industrial Sheffield, which makes a change from the hustle and bustle of city centre bars and their surroundings of… other bars.
One of the most breathtaking features of Church is its painted ceiling which falls in line with its religious theming. Beautiful imagery of angels spread across the high ceilings, contrasting with the metal piping and bricky warehouse exteriors.
Even the bathrooms are beautiful, which I think is important. My dad once told me that you can judge the true class and taste of a place by its restrooms. And, Church’s restrooms have these big beautiful stone basins and gold mismatching mirrors along the wall. They’re an extension of Church’s individuality and attention to detail.
Something I didn’t like about the restrooms, however, was the screen on the ceiling. It had this cartoon image of a sunshine which moves, and occasionally bellows “y’alright love?” I guess on a timer. I can appreciate the humour, but it was pretty creepy when in the toilet on my own!! And the screen doesn’t meet the high standard of Church’s style everywhere else. It just seems out of place to me.
Another great feature of Church is where the religious theming even extends to a ‘confession booth’, which actually serves purpose as a photo booth! What’s super nice about this feature is that the photo booth is free, which it doesn’t have to be. Photobooths in Topshop and Urban Outfitters, for example, charge up to £3 per photo strip.
And, yet another nice detail, Church’s confession booth prints 2 copies of the photo strip too, which is pretty considerate since most people will use the booth to take photos with friends. No more arguing over the shots…
Oli Sykes’ clothing range Drop Dead features too with a small selection of the clothing line available to buy. I believe the larger Drop Dead stock warehouse is in the back too.
I probably would have been tempted to buy something, but it was a Jurassic Park themed collection on display, and I’m not really into those movies. Only Jeff Goldblum. So, I didn’t buy anything. There’s a little fitting room for trying on, though, if you are interested. And, of course, there’s a tattoo parlour, but it was closed (Sunday afternoon).
Now, for the main event: Make No Bones. This absolutely incredible vegan restaurant moved premises in order to be part of Church, which I’m pretty pleased about because their old place was absolutely tiny and you were lucky to get a table if you hadn’t booked. The menu remains pretty similar, with some injections of gothic eccentricity…
The menu has a really great selection with loads to choose from. They use the well-known brand of vegan burger B12 Moving Mountains so despite not having had the burger this time, I can vouch for it. It will be fucking good. I saw other people who had ordered the burger and had a sneaky nosy at their plates, and it truly did look amazing.
This time, though, Liam and I decided to go for a selection of starters, rather than 2 mains, because we wanted to have a good sample of the menu – and because we’re not used to being so spoilt for choice. For reference, we ordered 5 dishes and it came to about £25.
The signature dish at Make No Bones is the deep fried avocado, so of course we had to order that. I remember really loving this dish the first time I tried it, but I guess I’m kind of over the novelty as I didn’t enjoy it as much this time. It’s probably more of a personal issue, as I have troubles with high fat meals (physically, not emotionally/mentally). They’re really interesting, though, and you should definitely give them a try.
As for the Cajun shrimp… well. It’s strange how I can eat all the fake meat in the world and not bat an eye, but there’s just something a little strange about fake fish, isn’t there? Anyway, I did enjoy the shrimp but the texture is just #tooreal for me. Liam really enjoyed them, though, and said he would definitely order them again.
My favourite dish at Make No Bones is the seitan sticky ribs, so I had to order these! They’ve had a little makeover since moving to Church, because the brownish-red bbq sauce has now had an injection of activated charcoal: making it black. These ribs are what made me change my mind about seitan. What I’d had before, I wasn’t sure about, but these seitan ribs are fucking amazing and you absolutely MUST try them.
We also went for the chicken! Similar to the ribs, in a way, because they too are made of seitan, but something a little lighter for lack of the thick sticky sauce. They’re really tasty and I would definitely order them again, but they’re nothing special/unusual I guess. I’ve had better fake fried chicken, is what I’m trying to say.
Finally, we chose the Japanese style loaded fries which come with a variation of toppings including salt and pepper tofu. Anybody who has ever tried salt and pepper tofu knows that it’s the real deal. That stuff is good. I’m glad the chips are fries style and not fat homemade style chips, because it keeps in with the junk food theme and they’re more fun to pick at. I’m just not sure the Japanese flavours worked with the potato, is all. Next time I’ll order one of their other loaded-fries varieties.
A satisfied Liam surrounded by several empty plates.
I cannot wait to head back to Church. I want to visit to try out their brunch club one morning on a weekend where they offer a different breakfast special every weekend – ranging from bagels, to fry ups, to pancakes, and more. I hope eventually this will evolve into a standardised menu so you don’t have to have just the one choice, but it’s a nice idea for now. Also, since we visited on a Sunday afternoon, the vibe was understandably pretty chill, so I really can’t wait to go to Church on a Friday or Saturday evening to see what it’s like when there’s more of a party vibe. I wonder what everyone gets up to…