TASTE OF ADVENTURE: Sonia and Mark Hunt are opening up the Abbey of the Roses to more visitors with the Convent Cafe.
TASTE OF ADVENTURE: Sonia and Mark Hunt are opening up the Abbey of the Roses to more visitors with the Convent Cafe. Sophie Lester

Convent Cafe opens doors in Warwick

A LOVE for a challenge is what has driven business owners Sonia Hunt and Mark Cains to open Warwick's newest cafe.

The Abbey of the Roses, already a popular venue for weddings and high teas, has refreshed its dining space to open the Convent Cafe.

Ms Hunt said the cafe was launched during Jumpers and Jazz but the couple hoped it would become a year-round treat for locals and tourists alike.

"We get a lot of tourists calling up and wanting to know if they can see the Abbey,” she said.

"Guests can come and eat at the cafe and take self-guided tours of the Abbey.

"We wanted to give tourists something to do as there aren't a lot of things geared towards them of a Monday, so we've decided to open for the four days.”

With Jumpers and Jazz now over, Ms Hunt said she was looking to attract more people to the cafe.

"We didn't market hugely during Jumpers and Jazz so we're hoping to get more people interested now,” she said.

"It's a fairly basic cafe, we have tea and coffee and some favourites like Devonshire teas and homemade turkey and vegetarian pies which Mark has been busy making.

"He even puts a cross on top for the Convent Cafe.”

Built and owned by the Sisters of Mercy for close to a century, the Victorian Gothic sandstone structure is now more 125 years old.

Ms Hunt said seven winters had passed since she and her husband took over the then-dilapidated Abbey.

"We were drawn to Warwick because of the Abbey,” she said.

"It was in pretty poor shape and Mark just saw it as a huge challenge and he's loved every second of getting the Abbey to where it is today.

"The most rewarding thing is when visitors come here, having seen it online or in a brochure, and they arrive and are amazed there is somewhere like this to stay in Australia in a small town like Warwick.

"After the amount of work we've put into it and doing up the grounds - it makes it all worthwhile.”

After growing the bed and breakfast side of the business, Ms Hunt said the cafe was the next step in building up a customer-base.

"The first couple of years were spent working on the accommodation and we've slowly introduced other things,” she said.

"The murder mysteries and Christmas in July are hugely popular, as well as being a popular venue for weddings and anniversaries.

"From the feedback we've had from locals so far, a lot of people are glad we've opened up the Abbey in this way so more people in town can access it.

"We have a few events coming up in spring but hope this will give people somewhere a bit different to come and have a catch up.''

Ms Hunt said diners could enjoy a spot of tea inside the dining hall or out on the verandah with views of the gardens.

"We can also do high teas for groups that pre-book with us on any of the days that we are open,” she said.

The Convent Cafe is open from 8.30am-3pm on Friday and Monday and from 10am-2pm on Saturday and Sundays. For more, go to abbeyoftheroses.com or phone 46619777.



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