Elijah Ferrian marvels at the beautiful indoor space at this newcomer in Ben Nghe, and gets a pleasant surprise when sampling the menu. Photos by Vinh Dao.
The Convent opened on February 10th, and is offering a diverse menu that is both interesting, and comforting.
Joel Manton, chef and co-owner, native of Sydney, Australia, had been living in Hanoi for about five years, and after opening and cooking for restaurants in the north, he and his wife decided to do something of their own down in Saigon.
“We just wanted to open a fun, creative space,” Manton says. “Some areas for dining, some areas for chilling. We’re not aiming to be, this or that, specifically vegetarian, or anything, but we are interested in having a diverse selection of food that appeals to everyone. If I had to define it, I would call it bistro.”
Regardless of definition, the menu is a breath of fresh air. They host an all-day breakfast menu featuring eggs, bacon, black pudding, and potato hash that can be ordered a la carte, or guests can take their pick on some Convent’s creative spins on familiar dishes.
Fried egg with hummus, tabbouleh, and tomato chutney on a Convent bun (VND80,000), brioche french toast with cream and honey (VND85,000), or a classic Eggs Benedict (VND110,000).
It was pleasant to see the selection on offer from their lunch and dinner menu: chicken liver parfait with carrot, celery, pickled onions, and toasted bread (VND80,000). A delicate shaved fennel salad with carrot and orange, topped with crunchy lotus seeds (VND70,000).
A fair helping of light, veggie-heavy plates are a welcome counterbalance to the typical “Western menu”.
Convent pan-fried gnocchi tossed with edamame, asparagus, resting on a beautiful, bright pumpkin sauce with pine nuts, beetroot leaf and rocket (VND175,000) is a good example of vegetarian food made with some creativity. The lotus seed falafel on a Convent “pumpkin bun” (they bake all of their own breads) topped with hummus, pickled veggies and tabbouleh (small VND70,000, large VND90,000) was a definite favourite, as well.
Main courses like pan roasted snapper with fondant potato, caramelized fennel, carrot and orange sauce (VND180,000), and an interesting “black pudding burger” topped with bacon and mustard (small VND80,000, large VND130,000), don’t disappoint. The menu is always evolving, so there’s going to be something new to discover each time you visit.
Currently the team is playing around with their lunch and dinner menus, but are thinking that they might provide an “evening menu” upstairs in their gorgeous dining area, with its high ceilings, exposed brick, delicate lighting, and indoor plants (which seems to be quite too rare for interior design in such a gorgeous land for our chlorophyll-filled friends).
Convent wields a quaint outdoor seating area that offers a great view of 30-4 park, and they have a slew of classic cocktails and great juice and tea-based drinks that are sure to stave off the heat and stress of a busy day in Saigon.