In Lisbon, a Theater-Restaurant Revives the Former Stables of an 18th-Century Palace

What does one do with an abandoned stable building that’s part of an 18th-century palace in Lisbon? Turn it into a restaurant and live theater experience, naturally. At Palacio do Grilo, diners are served in an environment where everyone is an actor or performer, within a space designed by French architect Julien Labrousse, who happens to own and manage two theaters in Paris.

To set the scene for this all-day, every-day artistic production, the historic building was left largely untouched. Exposed ceiling trusses, crumbling plasterwork, and ornate doorways all add to the mystery and allure of the space, in which audience members interact with the costumed staff-slash-entertainers. With his penchant for drama, Labrousse tailor-made the scenography and furniture for the project, primarily using eucalyptus. The pale wood is shaped here into pieces like diamond-backed chairs, some of which extend absurdly high and resemble skinny thrones. Banquet-scale dining tables are supported by faceted legs that peek through the tops, while low chairs feature geometric arms. All are part of “a design that plays on simple forms and a contemporary fairy tale that contributes to the atmosphere.”

Sculpture and decorative artifacts are also incorporated, displayed on oak boards that form stepped staging, and atop a sculptural bar made of solid eucalyptus. Others are hung on the walls inside large frames by artist Olivier Urman, who directed the performance work, and a further selection curated by Elsa Kikoine can be found when wandering through rooms of the palace.

Whether or not you enjoy listening to prose or watching interpretive dance while sipping your gazpacho, the fantastical furniture within the 350-year-old setting offers reason enough to visit. “Its singular and slightly eccentric approach offers a unique cultural experience,” said the team. We don’t doubt it.