Brunch is one of those meals some people scoff at (sorry for the pun). They think it’s somewhere between snobby and yuppyish. But really it’s just somewhere between breakfast and lunch.
The best bit about brunch is you get to eat as much as you would for lunch when it’s still almost early enough to be breakfast and no one says a word about it. It’s also acceptable to have a drink at brunch as well. Brilliant!
Ever since I’ve considered myself grown-up enough to go for brunch (all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut Tuesdays not included), I’ve had the pleasure of consuming some delicious food. But I think I’ve officially had the best brunch yet.
It’s a big call, isn’t it? I mean all those brunches out there – what makes this one so special? Allow me to explain.
This place, the Old Convent just outside Orange, New South Wales, is only open Sundays. As the name suggests, it used to be a convent full of nuns. The nuns have all gone, but the old building remains.
It’s a beautiful little secluded spot out in the hills and grape vines of the NSW countryside. As you arrive in the little car park round the back of the main building, you’re greeted by the smells of cooking.
Inside, the cafe is light and airy. The doors and walls are all bi-fold windowed louvres and open to allow the fresh country air in. The kitchen is open-plan so you can see what the chef’s up to and how much longer your tummy has to wait for satisfaction!
The kitchen and waitstaff, run by a permanent skeleton crew of about four, turn out a fixed menu three-course brunch degustation. The menu changes every week, but even though our waiter explained what we were having, we all waited – breath baited and bellies yearning – for each dish.
After a very nicely made coffee, our first course came out. A bowl of toasted granola muesli made with local honey, local yoghurt and local berries. The yoghurt was creamy but still cut through the sweetness of the honey. The juicy berries popped between our teeth and the crunch to the toasted granola was perfect.
Next was a plate of corn fritter, which was crisp on the outside and delicious and spongy in the middle. It came with a generous dollop of locally made goat’s curd on top with a roasted tomato and rocket salad side. It was an intelligent middle dish for the fixed menu.
Finally for the savory dishes, we were served a poached egg from a local farm with crisp, lean bacon and a crunchy slab of homemade hash brown. I love hash browns and this was just how I like them. The egg could have been a bit runnier, but it was a minor detail in a beautiful bigger picture.
Lastly the sweets were placed in front of us. Dense homemade chocolate brownies and shiny citrusy lemon tarts stared up at us, commanding us to eat them like Alice.
We were with our friends Peter and Rickie, so we politely divided them up. If we had been on our own, both of us would have gone away with fists full of lemon and brownie.
As it was, we cut each into sharable sizes and enjoyed their exquisite flavours and textures together. The brownies were sweet, caramelly and perfect. And the lemon tarts had a perfectly balanced sharpness in a superb crisp short pastry shell. It was an excellent end to the meal.
We sat and chatted throughout the easy meal – somehow not having to choose from a menu removes the pressure of potential food envy, and lets you relax and just enjoy the company and the food.
As you may have worked out the food is all locally sourced – their mission statement is all about supporting local businesses and growers. The staff and owners of the Old Convent – all locals – are incredibly accommodating. They allow BYO alcohol if you want to make your brunch into a special occasion.
A couple of other tables had popped a bottle of champagne to have with their meal.
To get to the Old Convent, head over the rail track on Escort Way to Parkes and Forbes (coming from Orange or Sydney). Turn right on Amaroo Road then right again on Convent Road.
It’s strongly recommended that you book – details on the website: oldconvent.com.au, and make sure you either have cash or a cheque book as there are no card facilities there.
There is also accommodation at the Old Convent, but we only stayed for brunch. The cottage looks lovely and is big enough for up to four people.
Maybe next time, ay?
Café open Sundays from 9am – 4.30pm for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
The Old Convent
P: 02 6365 2420
What’s the best brunch you’ve ever had? Tell us about it in the comments.