A slick design with several distinct dining areas, a menu nailing the new wave of Australian cafe culture, and an Instagram page that’s as considered as the interiors. In many ways Percy Plunkett feels like The Grounds of Alexandria, which of course it isn’t – although it does share one thing with the famous inner-west cafe: even two years after it opened, nothing else in Penrith is of the same style and scale as Percy Plunkett.
The cafe has been quietly impressing anyone who visits since it launched in 2018. The owners are both Penrith locals (Phillip Hallani, whose family runs a milk bar down the road, and Jake Farragher, owner of health-food cafe chain Nutrition Station), and the beautiful heritage building they landed is the former federation-style home of Mr Plunkett, a locally famous former resident. “The granddaughter of Percy Plunkett came in here once; she was in this room and she started crying. It was mind blowing when that happened. Really surreal. Now they come in as a big family every few months,” says Hallani.
You can see the history in the smart and elegant fit-out – the brick facade, ornate carpentry and old timber verandah – but the rest is typical of designer Matt Woods: marble tabletops, sculptural lighting, a soft colour palette and lots of timber. “Matt didn’t want us to touch the brickwork. Everything he asked us to do we did – he’s unbelievable. The only thing we changed: he asked us to put a big chandelier in the function room, and we were like ‘Hell no,’” says Hallani.
It’s quite the contrast to Hallani’s milk-bar origins. “[My family] had it for 25 years. Chips wrapped in newsprint, $5 burgers. That business gave me everything,” he says. Well, almost everything. Hallani also did a couple of work-experience stints for big-name cafes (including one at The Grounds) prior to opening, in order to learn the ropes. “That was my university.”
The Percy Plunkett menu has a bit of everything: accessible breakfasts (smashed avo with feta and za’atar on sourdough), something healthy (a bowl with sweet-potato falafel and salad), burgers (an egg and bacon number, and a cornflake-crumbed chicken burger), and a couple of dishes taking influence from overseas (brisket Reuben; pappardelle with prawns and chilli).
There’s also an extravagant open pita with braised lamb shoulder and tahini (jackfruit comes as an ethical alternative), and a fried rice spiced with kimchi and turned into a salad of sorts, with avo and slaw. All of it is very prettily plated (check out the deep-dish pancakes) and costs between $16 and $25. Coffee comes from the relatively new Vittoria-owned Australian roaster, Mothersky, one of only a few roasters to include Australian-grown beans in its blend.
Talking to Farragher and Hallani, you realise this is just the start for the duo – they’re energised and full of ambition. They have plans to do something next door, ideas for other spots in Penrith, a wine bar, street-food pop-ups and more. “I’m obsessed with hospitality,” says Hallani. “I’m obsessed with experience and entertainment. Food and coffee have to be good, but what we do is entertainment.”
146 Station Street, Penrith
(02) 4721 8947