In the heart of Sydney’s industrial concrete jungle lies the 1800 square metre mega-café, The Grounds of Alexandria.
The Grounds, as it is most commonly known as, should not be foolishly taken for the average Sydney café serving the typical smashed avocado on sourdough, but rather a day trip at a gastro dome of flavour for families, business partners and the Instagram obsessed “hipster”.
The former pie factory from the 1920s offers a shabby chic, industrial-type experience, enhanced by the dim lighting of the randomly placed overhanging lightbulbs. It is an experienced emphasised by the many elements of the café. A sit down, flavourful experience can be had in The Café which is the primary and original building, offering a seasonal, rustic, paddock-to-plate philosophy and the finest coffee; The Potting Shed, that envelops diners in a homey atmosphere as seating options include benches, swing chairs, or standing at the bar, making customers feel like they are sitting on the family porch; and finally The Garden, where diners can sit next to an aging, vine covered brick wall surrounded by an abundant vegetable and flower garden and a small petting zoo. Be sure to say hello to the renowned resident pig, Kevin Bacon.
Owners Ramzey Choker (formally from Bacco Pasticceria, Rocket) and coffee connoisseur Jack Hanna (formally from Jack and The Bean) have succeeded in creating their vision of a concrete, industrial carpark into a thriving, communal welcoming space. The Grounds simply buzzes of good vibes and casual charm which is embodied in the vibrant, helpful and well informed staff. Hint: you will never have an empty glass of water.
The Grounds is focused on delivering the finest quality coffee, and it certainly delivers. World latte art champion owner Jack Hanna has exceeded customer expectations through his seven bean house blend. At $3.50 for a small and $4 for a large, the prices are reasonable and the taste is extraordinary, featuring a creamy yet firm, subtle yet almost earthy texture in the palette. For those who opt for sweeter refreshments can enjoy the array of freshly squeezed juices, a favourite being the Pineapple, Watermelon, Passionfruit and Mint juice ($8) , smoothies ($8.50) with the optional addition of protein powder for $2 more, that is served in a delightful jar. Customers can also opt for the classically humble Hot Chocolate ($7) that The Grounds certainly gets right or the Affogato ($7) that is unlike any of its competitors.
The seasonal menu contains a lot of typical elements located in other Sydney cafes, however the execution and flavours of food, ranging from full bodied to subtle, sets The Grounds apart from its competitors. Breakfast ranges from the humble banana bread with vanilla and blossom mascarpone, banana and berries at an extremely reasonable price of $9.50, to Cobia Kingfish with avocado, lime, chilli, coriander and seeded toast sitting at $17. The classic Brekkie Board is a crowd favourite boasting of chicken chipolatas, grilled asparagus, smoked salmon, cherry tomato and basil salad, and fresh, toasted sourdough. For $22, it is worth every cent.
The lunch menu contains gluten free options such as the Pumpkin Risotto and Vitello Tonnato that is anything but boring. A must have for any ‘Ground goer’ is The ‘Ground’ Burger. Picture this: A two hand burger bursting with succulent, juicy, dry-aged Angus beef, house made pickles, tomato, and perfectly melted cheese, dripping with a perfect, harmonious blend of mustard and mayonnaise. Your tastebuds will tingle with the occasional “oomph” of the tomato relish inside, but will not be dominated by it. Although the burger is inconsistent in its drip/messy factor, the thick chips are the perfect accompaniment to dip in the left over sauce and to fill up the rest of your stomach.
Is there a downside? Yes, but it is hardly their fault. The Grounds is constantly packed whether it be a weekday or weekend. Saturday and Sunday is their busiest day, so beware of a tirade of prams if you do choose to venture out on these days. Although there is a nearly guaranteed waiting period to sit down in The Café, The Grounds has you sorted by having things to do in The Garden such as the chance to water your tastebuds with Lemonade Stands where you can enjoy Rose Lemonade or The Classic Freshly Squeezed Lemonade at a decent price of $4, flower stalls, markets selling jewellery, fresh produce and jam products as well as barbecues selling food at the same high level of quality as you would find in The Café such as Bacon and Egg Rolls and American style Cheeseburgers. The Café also provides visitors with a take away option for drinks, sweets and baked goods from the bakery.
Although patience is required when entering The Grounds, there is always something to do and see.