As someone who grew up in Penrith, I can attest to the fact that this part of Sydney often goes unnoticed. Nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Penrith, once a sprawling town, has transformed into a city in its own right, thanks to a surge in restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions.
Urban dwellers are now trading in their compact city apartments for larger homes by the river. It’s safe to say that Penrith has shed its previous status as an afterthought for many. A vibrant community thrives here, and the emergence of this expansive, family-friendly destination is evidence that the city is on a continuous upward trajectory.
Any local who spends their mornings or afternoons on the river walk would have strolled by the construction site opposite the river, eagerly waiting for The Orchard, which has been ‘coming soon’ for four years.
“We signed the lease July 1, 2019,” says Phil Hallani, co-owner of The Orchard and local cafe Percy Plunkett. “I messaged my business partner Jake Farragher as soon as I saw the site, and we jumped on the opportunity, without really thinking it through now that I think about it, but we knew it was the perfect spot for our next venture.”
However, what followed was a journey that took longer than anticipated. The team behind The Orchard realised that they had underestimated the scale of the project. Challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the complexities of dealing with the local council added to the timeline. As Hallani puts it, “There was a lot of going around in circles, but I think once we kind of figured out what we were doing, then the last 18 months just kind of flew by.”
Hallani, who co-owns Percy Plunkett, a popular cafe in Penrith known for its hospitality, good food, and lines of locals waiting for a table on the weekends, is somewhat of a hero for Penrith. He’s put the town on the map and fostered a community of small business owners, comprised of bar, restaurant, and cafe owners, looking to make their stamp here, too.
“I was tired of hearing people say there’s nothing in Penrith,” says Hallani. “We have unbelievable dining options here; they just don’t know about it, so we wanted to make a venue that would become a destination to bring people here, to Penrith. Our home.”
What makes The Orchard truly remarkable is its sheer size. With five acres of space, it’s a unique venue in Sydney. While there may be larger venues like The Farm in Byron Bay, The Orchard’s focus is different. It aims to be a family-oriented destination unlike anything else in Penrith.
The Orchard boasts a diverse range of spaces and venues, including an alfresco garden bar, a daytime cafe that transforms into an evening restaurant serving contemporary Australian cuisine, a timeless Australian takeaway establishment, and even a general store offering coffee, freshly baked goods, and a selection of deli meats.
But that’s not all: It also offers a range of distinctive spaces. There’s a spacious lawn perfect for picnics, which can also serve as a picturesque wedding setting. The orchard can be reserved exclusively for wedding events.
Additionally, a rustic Australian-themed venue with a pitched roof provides an ideal backdrop for weddings, functions, and celebratory gatherings. As a family-focused destination, it has a playground suitable for all ages.
“I’ve always said Percy Plunkett is for the people of Penrith, but The Orchard is for families.
This commitment to showcasing Penrith is part of a broader effort to revitalise the area. With the recent opening of Penrith’s first five-star hotel and the upcoming airport, the goal is to make Penrith a destination worth visiting.
“I genuinely want this to be a destination,” says Hallani. “I want people to say, ‘Let’s go to Penrith,’ and then they can go to the local shops from here. It’s really special.”
“Though none of this would be possible without my business partner Jake and the head office team. It’s a testament to the spirit of cooperation and community that defines The Orchard.”