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The Restaurant

The Refectory’s relaxed and quiet pace presents an evening of elegant dining. At the heart of the dining experience are the culinary creations directed by Chef Richard Blondin, a native of Lyon, France, who studied under chefs Pierre Orsi and Paul Bocuse.

The exceptional contemporary American cuisine and classic French cuisine is complemented by a world-class wine cellar encompassing over 700 selections. An experienced and knowledgeable staff and the personal touch of owner Kamal Boulos, complete the gracious yet unpretentious service that enhances a memorable evening.

The Refectory is also the only central Ohio restaurant to be Animal Welfare Approved, supporting family farmers and caring for the environment. We work directly with our local farmers to bring our guests the finest in fresh produce, cheeses, eggs, meats and seafoods.

Our commitment to excellence in presenting each guest with the finest cuisine and service possible makes The Refectory the perfect setting for an important business dinner, a special celebration, or simply to treat yourself to an elegant dining experience.

A Historic Landmark

The Refectory has a long and distinguished history. The building was first used as a church built in the mid 1800s, and later assumed its role as Columbus’ premier French restaurant in the 1980s.

The Refectory, to some a landmark of dining greats in this city: to others, a link to yesterday where, beneath its old majestic ceiling, the spirit of its past and the presence for which it was set apart can still be felt.


In 1842, about twenty-five worshippers who had been meeting in a building that was formerly a distillery began meeting in a barn located at the corner of Kenny and Francisco Roads. Then in 1848 the group purchased one half acre of land at Kenny and Bethel.
In 1853, a building about 30 x 45 feet was completed. A member of the congregation offered to donate some timber from his land to be used as siding, but asked that the men be sure not to cut the trees on the east side stream. Unfortunately, the fellows got it wrong and cut those trees.

As a result, the church siding was made mostly of beautiful walnut! That year the church was completed and a Sunday school was started. The building was surrounded by a board fence with two entrances. There were hitching posts located all along the fence where the people hitched their horses.

During the worship at Bethel United Methodist Church, men sat on one side of the church and women on the other. No musical instruments were used as the founders did not approve. After a new generation took over, an organ was purchased.

In 1877, the Hocking Valley Railroad was built. It ran not more than 75 feet from the front door of the church. The noise was devastating, and the minister had to stop talking until the trains had passed. About 200 yards west of the church there were two one-room school houses, one of brick and one of frame.
In 1918, Perry Township put the land and the old school buildings up for auction. The church was very interested in acquiring them since they had plans to move their building to that site. Mr. Will Henderson bid $800.00 on behalf of the church and all the other bidding stopped.

Charles Hibbs, a building contractor, drew up the plans to move the church building to the school ground and join it with the frame school building. The building was jacked up and placed on large timbers. Rollers were placed under the timber, then ropes were attached to the timbers and to two large windlasses anchored to the ground 50-75 feet in front of the building. Then horses were hitched to the ropes; they walked around and around the windlasses, slowly moving the building forward inch by inch. The drums had to be moved several times as the church was pulled across the field.

Meanwhile, a basement was dug and a foundation built. The gravel used was donated and hauled in by horse and wagon from what is now Antrim Lake. The church building, in the front, was attached to the school building in the back.

In 1954, the church and the brick school building were joined by an addition with two classrooms and a hall. Later in 1969, this family of worshippers, having grown beyond the capacity of their structure once again, made the decision to relocate the church, and this is where the history of the building seemingly moves into a different sphere.
December of 1971 saw the consecration of the new Bethel United Methodist Church located just west of its old, outgrown home. The old church was sold to a group of individuals starting a restaurant: The Olde Church-House. An interesting clause was written into the deed by the sellers upon the sale—the building could never be used again as a church.

The schoolhouse was used as the restaurant; the causeway to the sanctuary was the kitchen; and the church itself lay bare and deserted for the most part. As the restaurant settled into routine operation, the new owners had grand ideas for the use of this vast open space.

Plans were made and final drawings were approved. Sketches, complete with fabric swatches and carpet samples, of a proposed disco were framed and hung. Yet nothing more materialized. It should cause one to wonder it were not more than simple coincidence that the noise would diminish only one stop from turning the old church sanctuary into a twentieth-century dance hall. The Old Church-House Restaurant, however, was more in line with the reserve stature which characterized its origins. With a setting of stained glass windows, high-beamed ceilings and candlelight, the serenity of the building could still be felt.

Now The Refectory Restaurant (“refectory” being an eating room or dining hall in a convent or monastery) purchased in December of 1980 has again expanded its perimeters. The old and the new have been fused together so intricately only one who has witnessed the metamorphosis, or heard of it, can tell where the old melts into the new.

More than just the setting, the philosophies and sense of purpose of the people working in those buildings seem to characterize, too those surroundings and beginnings. It is the attitude of heart, this desire of honest, hard work that has been the thread woven from the past up through the present.

The building still welcomes its old congregation—for dinner. Most are delighted with the changes. Choir members and Sunday Schoolers of old happily reminisce as they stroll through the hallways once more. One former pastor has celebrated many wedding anniversaries dining in the very room where he once addressed his congregation.

The east wing or original schoolhouse is now the Lounge and Bistro Dining area of The Refectory. The sit-down bar features an extensive selection of whiskys and local spirits. The west wing of the building is now the Dining Room and features the original hand-hewn beams and exposed wooden roof structure. Bricks have been added on the interior to complement the brick schoolhouse.

The unique architecture and majesty of the original construction create a relaxed intimate candle lit ambiance. The Refectory presents an unparalleled dining experience that is well-known to wonderfully complement this elegant setting.



Richard Blondin

Chef

Chef Richard Blondin moved to Ohio from Lyon, France, as a young chef eager to travel and excited to try his hand cooking stateside. More than two decades later, he’s still here.

A lot has changed on the Columbus dining scene over those decades, but The Refectory’s reputation as the city’s finest dining option has not. Blondin’s impeccable French technique, masterful sauces and artistic presentation helped earn the restaurant a coveted trifecta of awards—Best Fine Dining, Best Romantic Restaurant and Best Wine List—in this year’s Best of Columbus reader poll in Columbus Alive (2014).

 


Kamal Boulos

Owner & CEO

Growing up in the Catskills in New York provided opportunities to work in the mega resorts of the day. Working winters washing dishes from ages 14-18, Kamal says this experience was very influential in shaping his personal philosophy. For the next few years, he washed dishes and waited tables in other hotel resorts, such as the fabled Concord Hotel. At age 20, he was hired as the kitchen manager at Rock Horse Ranch Resort, which featured a dining room seating 500. Eventually he was promoted to Maitre D.

In 1976 Kamal moved to Columbus. For the first year, he worked at the Olde Church House Restaurant on and off to help out the owners, while he pursued a career selling securities. In 1977 he accepted a full time position as Assistant General Manager, and continued to work for those owners as General Manager from 1978-1981. In 1991 Kamal purchased the restaurant outright. His philosophy is to elevate the experience of the guest during the time they are at The Refectory. Accomplishing this on a daily basis is what drives him.

Boulos has always believed that wine is an every day beverage of moderation to be enjoyed with food in celebrating life. In 1981, a dream of building a world class wine cellar with 12 bottles of wine in a metal locker culminated ten years later with a 17,000 bottle wine cellar and the only restaurant in Ohio to receive The Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. The Refectory is one of only 95 restaurants world-wide to receive this prestigious award. Guests of The Refectory enjoy the benefit of the great commitment and patience required to cellar wines to reach their peak.

Kamal’s commitment to excellence in cuisine, service, and wines has been acknowledged by both guests and the many awards the restaurant has received.