Should you feel a divine call, a baptismal awakening, while you bite into the crisp breading of a fried barramundi at Barnacle Bill, giving in to the pleasure of buttery, tender white flesh dipped in a zingy tartar sauce, don’t be alarmed. It could be that your Barnacle Bill “sea chest,” a box of fried seafood and french fries, is a crumb-coated blessing. Or, it could well be the ambient holiness of your dining establishment, for this branch of the popular South Australian fish-and-chip chain is housed in Port Pirie’s oldest stone church.
The church spires loom over Barnacle Bill’s logo of a portly sailor balancing a tray of fish on one hand and a ship’s wheel on the other. Outside the main entrance, instead of Bible study times on a church sign, a banner advertises the lunch specials.
Barnacle Bill has been operating a chain of franchise seafood outlets in South Australia since 1970. The Port Pirie location was formerly a Congregational church, which opened its doors in 1879. After shutting its doors around 1991, the church lay abandoned, gathering dust for five years, and was about to be razed to the ground when the current owners, Kevin and Kim Spirou, bought the building and converted it into a Barnacle Bill franchise. The Spirous now like to boast that many of their customers once got married at the outlet’s former avatar.
The pulpit is now a deep-frying counter, the pews have been replaced by tables and a salad bar, and one of the side aisles accommodates refrigerators for the restaurant’s beverages. But the faithful still come to this sacred seafood space. There was some initial concern among locals about turning a longstanding religious institution into a restaurant, but the critics soon realized that this was the only way to save the building, which would otherwise have been torn down.
As for the seafood, saying that it’s good is just preaching to the choir.
Know Before You Go
The restaurant is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.