London’s Newest Chinese Food Hot Spot is in a 300-Year-Old Church

Ecclesiastical cool meets retro 1960s teahouse at the second outpost of Hong Kong's beloved Duddell’s.

The first-floor dining room

Even if you had no idea what type of cuisine was on offer, the décor of most Chinese restaurants—loud swaths of crimson and gold, ornate calligraphic Hanzi, and perhaps the odd tasseled lantern—would instantly give you a clue. Not the case at new Cantonese locale, Duddell’s London, an outpost of the Ilse Crawford–designed, Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong, where nary a splash of red can be seen.

Instead, architects Michaelis Boyd opted for a more soothing palette for the London iteration, housed in the historic Queen Anne–style St. Thomas Church in London Bridge. Sea-green tiles clad the cocktail bar and open dim sum kitchen, while sky-blue banquettes sit elegantly against dark oak. Overhead, dramatic brass light fittings offer a contemporary interpretation of traditional church illumination.

“We wanted to work with the strong spatial elements of the church,” Michaelis Boyd cofounder Alex Michaelis says. “We used vibrant colors in the bar and kitchen as a focal point when you arrive. The lights have materiality reminiscent of ecclesiastical elements and are set at a height that allows you to see the space, but also brings the volume down to a lower level, much like church lighting often does.”

London's St. Thomas Church is now home to Duddell's.

While the church’s original timber altar remains, the mood is far from pious. Colorful geometric tiles, pink terrazzo, rattan chairs, and ample natural light liven up the space, which is intended to be a contemporary twist on the retro 1960s Hong Kong tea restaurant.

In the spirit of its Hong Kong eponym, Duddell’s London, which is helmed by chef Daren Liew, is designed as a cultural as well as culinary destination, with a regular rotation of contemporary artwork set to occupy its two levels. The key, Michaelis says, was to create a compelling backdrop for socializing. “Most of all, we wanted to ensure that eating at Duddell’s feels like an adventure.”

The reception.
Soaring windows allow natural light to fill the space.
The cerulean-tiled bar.

(Photos: courtesy Duddell’s London)

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