What Would They Know? Sara O’Callaghan of Bursaria Fine Foods

by | Food & Catering Wisdom, Venue Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Catering exclusively for 3 elegant venues, Bursaria Fine Foods offers a wedding experience second to none. With an experienced wedding team to help you plan your day down to finest detail, you can be assured that your day will be one to remember – not only for you, but for your guests as well. But their strength is their food, which is at once elegant, delicious and comforting. Familiar ingredients used in innovative and wonderful ways. Conceived through Sara’s experience and passion for fine food, the Bursaria Fine Foods menus do justice to seasonal local foods always with a twist that makes the most humble of ingredients special. Here, Sara tells us the story of Bursaria Fine Foods and their venues – Abbotsford Convent, The Refectory and The Barn. And be prepared for your mouth to water!

Bursaria Catering

Please tell us about Bursaria Catering.

From a young age I loved food and dreamt of travel. I learned that through hospitality I could experience both. With an appetite for ‘hands on’ learning I was offered a chef apprenticeship in a luxury hotel. This training opened doors to work in high-end restaurants overseas and combining travel and cooking was a dream come true! For over 10 years I challenged myself in various roles giving me a holistic overview of the catering industry, however I knew to succeed I needed to develop my business skills. Working full time, I studied business at night and in 2005 I opened my own business ‘Bursaria Fine Foods’. Hard work, passion and dedication has been the key to my success.

Running a business is a lifestyle choice you make, you are always working and thinking how can I improve, myself, my product, my team.

Bursaria turns twelve in October and I am extremely proud of how my business has grown from its humble beginnings when I worked seven days (a week) in my own café to being a successful award winning Australian Catering Company (with over 75 staff) delivering amazing catering & events.

Bursaria and its staff live and breathe food. As a leader I encourage creativity and fresh approaches to food, creating wonderful seasonal menus that are nutritious and enjoyable to eat. What matters to me is my underlying motivation on providing a sustainable focus on produce, which is visually enhanced through events at our Heritage venues and surrounding gardens.

Bursaria caters onsite at The Abbotsford Convent and The Refectory, Werribee Park. Two unique venues steeped in the arts, culture and rich in history. The combination of products, services, skills and expertise provides a beginning to end experience that wows our guests and makes each experience truly unforgettable.

Image by Chris Middleton Photography

Where are you based?

In 2011 we established our Head Office at The Abbotsford Convent and for over 6 years we have been creating unforgettable culinary experiences and delivering exquisite weddings in the Heritage gardens, Rosina function space and courtyard.

In 2015 Bursaria launched The Refectory, Werribee Park adding another stunning iconic venue to its offering. The Refectory was transformed into a beautiful light filled event space with classic architectural features, spectacular high ceilings, designer lighting and luxury contemporary furnishings.

What is your food philosophy?

We use the freshest seasonal produce to create delicious food for weddings and events and we are passionate about providing wholesome catering with a relaxed style. We’re really not a caterer who’s into unnecessary frills. We’re all about the seasonal produce and letting the food stand for itself and be the hero of the dish.

Our style is authentic and creative and takes guests on a food journey through out the wedding so that guests can gather and interact in a relaxed environment. We believe food is a central part of celebrating with your guests!

Image by Chris Middleton Photography

Where do you cater events?

Having two professional kitchens covering the ‘East & West’ means that we can cater for weddings and events across Victoria. We cater for a variety of Melbourne CBD venues through to unique venues in the Yarra Valley and surrounds.

Are you able to cater in country Victoria as well as city venues?

Yes! See above!

What sorts of event catering are you known for?

We’ve developed a brand that is known for its exceptional service and delicious catering at two amazing historic precincts. Bursaria’s venues are highly sought after and will remain so as we continue to design new packages and menus that meet with current trends. We believe this quality, along with our ability to forecast trends will see us as a leader into the future.

We also offer a range of off-site catering facilitating a broad range of public activity. We recently catered for Suzanne Harwards’ (Prahran RTW Store Launch), hosted a sellout event for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and we’re proud to be the official caterers for Werribee Polo!

What excites you about this industry, and working in it?

Everything! Being a part of two cultural precincts we not only get the chance to host hundreds of weddings a year but we also get to work with an amazing array of talented professionals.

Image by The White Tree

What are you seeing emerging in the food area for weddings?

Our couples are definitely choosing to host a more relaxed style wedding and love our grazing menu served down the centre of the table because of its communal atmosphere, accompanied with a variety of seasonal side dishes. Our grazing menus are designed to be plentiful for guests and family to share. When everything comes together at the event – it’s a colourful affair!

We love to encourage a ‘feast’ all delivered with love and laughter.

How important is it to you, to use local produce in your menus? You mention that we ‘Take you on a food journey on your special day’ – what does this mean in terms of food, place and service?

We care about the environment and love building relationships with local suppliers and farming communities. As a member of ‘Slow Food’ we are passionate about promoting local producers to give Melbourne access to some of the best ethical produce we have to offer.

As part of this year’s Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, we hosted a lunch experience ‘Heritage & Heirlooms on a Plate’ at The Refectory, heralding the local produce from the Werribee Park Community Gardens and Heritage Orchard.

Guests were taken on a journey and enjoyed a roving lunch experience starting with canapés on the front lawn of The Refectory. Then 100 guests moved inside to experience a bespoke menu whilst they listened to Craig Castree, local author and horticulturalist share his passion for the Orchard and gardens history. We then strolled down to the Community Gardens to wander through the gardens and taste an array of roving desserts.

It was a wonderful opportunity for guests to enjoy a bespoke menu featuring hero produce and celebrate the local produce and enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the historical Werribee Park Mansion grounds. And the weather ‘just’ held out!

Image by Chris Middleton Photography

Do you have some favourite dishes you could tell us about for the upcoming autumn/winter season?

We’re just releasing our new Winter Menu and we’re excited about beautiful Autumn mushrooms which feature in our new entrée – Jumbo ravioli filled with mushroom and buffalo ricotta, sautéed Swiss browns, porcini cream and shaved pecorino. The new season baby brussel sprouts are so tasty and are highlighted in both our entrée and grazing main course sides. Our crumbed compressed pork belly croquette, brussels sprouts roasted with garlic, pancetta and lemon is destined to be a favourite! The new season rhubarb is amazing when mixed with rosewater and dehydrated raspberries and is the hero in our Poached rhubarb, rosewater custard and raspberry crumble tartlet with yoghurt sorbet and rhubarb wafer.

Abbotsford Convent

Please describe the Abbotsford Convent.

The Abbotsford Convent is a unique historic and arts precinct only four kilometres from the city.

Image by Louisa Bailey Photography, Flowers by Botanics of Melbourne

What unique features/ambience does the Convent have that sets it apart for weddings?

Think whimsy and romance; humble and classic. The Abbotsford Convent offers so many unique features. Whether you are celebrating your love under the shade of a graceful old oak tree or in the lush floral surrounds of the Heritage Gardens, guests can then dance with family and friends into the night and enjoy the open air courtyard under a sky filled with twinkling stars.

Please describe the options (room or garden) that the couple has for their wedding:

Happily ever after starts in your choice of three unique and exquisite locations to say ‘I do’.

  • The Good Shepherd Chapel (1986) is still owned by The Sisters of the Good Shepherd and is situated on the original grounds. The Chapel can host ceremonies up to 250 guests.
  • The Heritage Gardens are the perfect elegant backdrop for your ceremony amongst rolling lawns and lush greenery. The Rose Garden is one of our favourite ceremony locations. The magnificent oak tree is over 100 years old. With its grand height and sweeping branches; it is conveniently located along the Yarra River within the Abbotsford Convent precinct.
  • The Rosina Function Space by Bursaria is the perfect venue for intimate gatherings or the biggest of celebrations. With its rustic charm, stunning high ceilings and original leadlight windows its spectacular designed chandeliers set a magical scene for our couples ‘first dance’.

Image by Jonathan Ong, Flowers by I Heart Flowers

Are you the exclusive caterers for the Abbotsford Convent wedding venues?

Yes. We’re proud to be the exclusive caterers for The Abbotsford Convent.

How many wedding guests can it comfortably hold?

Eat. Drink. Dance with us. The Rosina Function Space comfortably holds:

Cocktail x500 guests / Seated with dance floor x250 guests / Seated w/out dance floor x280 guests

Are you able to help the couple organize everything for the wedding day, or do they need to bring in other vendors such as a wedding planner/stylist?

We always have a passionate team of professionals on site and a personal Event Manager who has been liaising with the couple through each step of their planning process. We pride ourselves on ensuring the Bride (& Groom) have a familiar face to assist them on their special day and that couples and their guests feel completely relaxed.

We’re passionate about providing amazing experiences and we work with a number of talented wedding vendors and suppliers.

Image by Abigail Varney

Does a couple have exclusive use of the space?

Bursaria have access to three ceremony locations which are located within the public precinct along with exclusive use of The Rosina Courtyard and Rosina Function Space which is where all wedding receptions are held.

We love being a part of such a vibrant community rich in culture and the arts. The ambience this brings is always one of understated elegance and warmth.

The Refectory, Werribee Park

Please describe The Refectory? 

Set within the historic Werribee Park only 30 minutes from Melbourne, The Refectory is nestled in 10 acres of formal gardens and expansive lawns surrounding the grand 1870s Mansion.

Image by Bursaria Fine Foods

How do you suggest couples best use this space so that they take full advantage of the building, garden and surrounds?

Guests can host their wedding ceremony in the stunning gardens, enjoy pre-dinner drinks and canapes on the front lawn overlooking the stately Mansion and then move inside The Refectory for their beautiful celebration.

There are a number of ceremony locations to say ‘I do’. The majestic gardens feature a colourful parterre, ornamental lake and grotto, glasshouses, heritage-listed trees and expansive lawns.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the Victorian era with a ceremony hosted within the Werribee Mansion – a living, breathing postcard of the 19th century, built in the Italianate architectural style. Along with a ceremony Bursaria couples can request photography within the historic Mansion. We can also coordinate exclusive use of the main hallway, grand staircase, salon and first floor landing for post ceremony drinks.

Image by Cam Grove Photography

What do you suggest as far as a styling a wedding here – what have you seen in wedding styling here that is particularly effective?

With its classic features, designer lighting and spectacular high ceilings, The Refectory has been recently restored with a combination of neutral tones and contemporary furnishings that provide an understated elegance.

We’ve seen spectacular ceremonies styled with arches overflowing with floral abundance and weddings with dramatic rich florals and golden place settings through to minimal accessories with only a hint of colour and soft greenery. We love that The Refectory offers an classic setting for our couples to create their dream wedding.

Image by Handcrafted Pictures Co, Styling by The Details Co

How many guests can The Refectory hold?

Cocktail event for up to 300 guests / Seated with dance floor 150 guests / Seated w/out dance floor x180 guests.

How would you describe the food served in this space?

Our award-winning team are excited to work with our couples to create the perfect menu for their wedding day. We want everything to reflect who you are and how you imagine your special day to be. We offer both grazing and plated menu experiences at The Refectory.

Are you able to use local wines and other produce from the area to create the menu?

We are proud to partner with Shadowfax Wines (also located on the grounds of Werribee Park), allowing us to provide local, premium wines with distinctive characteristics to match our unique menu.

The Barn by Bursaria at Werribee Park

What was The Barn originally? Please describe the Barn and its special attributes.

The Barn by Bursaria takes you back in time to the early 1900s when farming at Werribee Park was at the height of industry and grandest of balls, picnics and polo matches were held at the adjoining Mansion. The Barn, formerly known as the ‘Implement Shed’ as the name suggests was built to provide storage for farm machinery and in the 1920s most of this was moved to make way for George Chirnside’s expensive collection of cars that included a Rolls Royce, Lancia and Broughham.


Image by Elk & Willow Photography

Where is it situated?

The Barn in located within the beautiful grounds of Werribee Park, located amongst the heritage homestead. With bluestone buildings, original trusses, exposed brick, barn doors and rustic fence lines this unique venue is nestled within 100+ acres of picturesque countryside.

Is this a more relaxed, rustic space? The Barn would appeal to….

Yes, guests can mingle over pre dinner drinks in this relaxed and intimate setting at a unique countryside venue.

What is provided in this space?

Our Wedding Package for The Barn includes the addition of food and beverages, along with a dedicated event manager. The Barn includes:

  • Rustic long wooden tables
  • Cross back chairs
  • Crisp white linen napkins
  • Festoon lighting
  • Chalkboard directional signage
  • Cake table and knife
  • Gift table
  • Seating chart
  • Personalised printed table menus

Which season is best, to use The Barn?

Spring or Summer is best as The Barn is partially outdoors.

How many guests can it hold?

64 guests seated.

Radicchio with walnuts and blue cheese salad
– Image by Bursaria Fine Foods

Are you able to suggest some ideas to best utilize this space and surrounding grounds?

We would highly recommend having your ceremony in front of the beautiful bluestone buildings which are right next to The Barn itself. The stunning original barn doors provide the perfect backdrop for a ceremony and then as dusk sets in the festoon lighting starts to glow setting the scene for a glittering evening filled with soft lights under the stars.

Do you suggest that the food you serve here is more relaxed and rustic – such as food stations, or grazing tables?

Absolutely, we offer a relaxed, grazing feast style of menu for The Barn as we feel this works really well within the rustic space. Guests can consider our popular charcuterie or cheese platter and roving desserts.

In addition, for couples that are looking for a unique dessert station, we can offer a pavlova station layered with fresh garnishes, fruits and whipped cream!

Thank you Sara for sharing your story. You can’t but help be wowed by the wonderful food that is the heart  and soul of Bursaria Fine Foods.  To find out more about Bursaria Fine Foods visit the website.

Headshot by Alison Mayfield Photography.



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