I am off to the convent.

Now before you start with the alarm bells… I have not had an epiphany and no I am not becoming a nun. As fetching as the nuns habit looks and given the multitude of sins it might hide, I just don’t think I could carry it off.  One must be willing to pledge one’s troth to god, and quite frankly, the only pledging I  am willing to make is that I pledge to remain an atheist, I pledge not to try and ruin other people’s lives with my outmoded ideas (i.e.- religion) and I pledge my soul to hedonism until I fall of this mortal coil and am no longer.

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However, Bursaria – a Melbourne based event and catering company, run a lovely space at the Abbotsford Convent – home to slow food, an arts and culture precinct, restaurants, health and wellbeing  and other noble pursuits. The convent was in danger of becoming apartments and the Abbotsford Convent Foundation have fought jolly hard to stop that happening and preserved the space that has been the home of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for many years.

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Lunch was to be a simple, 2 course affair, showcasing the talents of Studley Park Wines, located just 500m from the convent.  I was blindly unaware the wine was being made just 4km from the Melbourne GPO and made as well as it is.  The rose served pre luncheon and through out lunch, was terrific. They also served a cabernet (a tad too on the juvenile/acidic side of the scale for my taste) and a bright young chardonnay. I was very pleasantly surprised.

There were speeches from Allan Snaith, the man, who with his wife Lizette, are the people behind Warialda Belted Galloway Beef  and a fine job they are doing producing incredible steers for slaughter, and the owner of Studley Park Wines, Andrew Clarke who gave us some history of the wines he produces.  The area on which he grows the vines (before the wines are masterfully crafted by Llew Knight of Granite Hills), has been an agricultural site in the Kew region for over 100 years, and is a flood plain on the shore of the Yarra River. We also heard from Maggie McGuire, CEO of the Abbotsford Convent and Alison Peake of Slow Food Melbourne.

We gathered on a beautiful sunny Melbourne lunchtime in the courtyard of Rosina Room – it once housed older women penitents who had been placed with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd by the courts. Its appropriate that a horde of hedonists arrived to sully it up on a Sunday. A glass of the aforementioned rose and some canapes became the order of the day.

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The room was beautifully put together for our arrival, and we were seated at tables overflowing with herbs, a selection of house baked breads and other interesting pots of things.  A sizeable chunk of waiting gave us plenty of time to mingle and mosey with those others on the table and catch up on some goss with buddies – regaling tales of what has been a busy start to the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

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Mr and Mrs Snaith’s Warialda Belted Galloway slow braise arrived with some semolina polenta and some greens.  Simple Sunday fare clearly the order of the day.

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A  vanilla and rose panna cotta followed, with some pomegranate syrup, pistachio and biscotti – as rich as one would hope for and a pleasant dessert.. I waddled out of this event I think!

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A quick wander around the gardens at the Abbotsford Convent is a must on any sunny Melbourne day and that’s exactly what a fellow luncher and myself chose to do – basically the long route back to the car, revealing beautiful buildings and stunning gardens.  One can only be pleased that the apartments idea simply never eventuated.  The Bursaria team were able hosts and popped together the perfect nosh for Sunday lunch, showcasing some local producers and introducing a new audience to the wonders of the convent – more to the point, how they can be interacted with on an almost daily basis.

Now, time for a lie down before I get up again to eat!

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