Sydney: The Grounds of AlexandriaSeptember 26, 2014
7A/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
While in Sydney last year, I visited my friend R and we went out for brunch to the Grounds of Alexandria, a favourite of hers.
More than just a cafe, the Grounds encapsulates a large venue including a coffee roasting room, speciality coffee test lab, and herb and vegetable garden. The cavernous, industrial feel of the cafe harks back to the site’s past life as a pie factory.
When we arrived mid-morning on the weekend, it was heaving with Sydney-siders, so we put our names down and went for a little wander around the rest of the Grounds. When we did get a table (roughly half an hour later – the place is huge so gets through customers at a pretty fast rate), we were led to the back room near the roasting machines.
Despite the large numbers of people, I thought the service was excellent – we were given menus straight away, coffee orders were taken and coffees arrived soon after, and there wasn’t a very long wait for food. Given the scale of operations, this was very impressive.
They’re pretty passionate about their coffee here; they roast their own beans, and develop seasonal blends by testing different beans, roasts and blends in their specialty coffee test lab. Additionally, the menu has a helpful little chart breaking down various coffee orders for you. Finally, the difference between a flat white and a latte is clear!
Speaking of flat whites, mine was wonderful, silky smooth and nutty. Seems like their passion has payed off!
The menu at Grounds is decidedly rustic and, dare I say it, quite Melbourne-like. Certainly it is less polished and haughty than some other cafes I’ve eaten at in Sydney. R ordered (and enjoyed!) the 6 hour smoked ham hock served with crushed peas, parmesan and house preserved lemon on toast. An unusual but delicious dish inspired by British cuisine, I thought this was a nice take on the typical bacon for breakfast.
Being a sucker for Middle Eastern cuisine, I ordered the Turkish Eggs – poached eggs in a tomato sauce with cannellini beans, spinach, labneh yoghurt and pistachios. I thought the menu was very reasonably priced, with my dish only $16. In Melbourne, a similar dish would be approaching $20 in many cafes.
The front counter has a crazy delicious looking range of cakes, pastries and biscuits. One of the most mouth watering displays I’ve seen in a long time, it was very tempting, but R and I were keen to look at the market stalls outside, so we resisted (just).
Prior to brunch, while waiting for a table, we spent some time wandering around their grounds. It’s unlike anything I know in Melbourne (except perhaps the Collingwood children’s farm and cafe), with a large outdoor area that’s partly covered. It was really lovely walking around and exploring all the place. It’s clear that the team have put a lot of effort into their property, and I’d highly recommend a morning here for families with young children.
One of the highlights were the resident animals, including some chickens and a lamb. Here is Kevin Bacon, the resident pig. Just check him out. I mean, how great is this guy? Just snuffling around in the mud like nobody’s business. He’s so cute and likeable, it’s a complete mystery why anyone would want to break into the Grounds and steal him, which unfortunately happened last year. Thankfully though, the team later found Kevin dropped off at a farm in Victoria, and now he’s happily back at home!
There was a very large area in the middle of the yard that was covered and had lots of tables where families had sprawled their things and were enjoying coffees and some sunshine. Garden furniture and hanging pot plants made this feel just like someone’s backyard.
The structure of the old factory remains intact, like this smoke tower.
The Grounds are dotted with small stalls and carts selling various wares. There are flowers by Silvia in one corner…
… and egg and bacon rolls in another. Hands up if you think this is a good idea!
I mean seriously. We’d already eaten, but watching these guys flip bacon and fry up some eggs before slapping them in soft, white rolls was a mighty fine sight. They were doing a cracking business too, with a coffee machine near by, plenty of people were eschewing the cafe proper for a roll and coffee out in the sun.
Along the back wall was another guy running a spit with kransky sausages, chicken and lamb, probably for the lunch crowd.
On some weekends, the Grounds invites a petting zoo to come over and set up. Naturally, this was a huge hit both with younger children and the two of us! I’ve just realised the irony of following a photo of a lamb spit with a photo of a petting zoo. Ah well, circle of life, yo.
The classic petting zoo fare was there – a calf, some lambs, a little flock of chickens and ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, and this adorable little goat.
Here, lamby, lamby.
Gah! Many cute, much fluffy.
Finally, the market stalls! We’d perused these earlier before brunch but returned to snap some photos and also purchase a couple of yummy things. There were plenty of beautifully set up stalls that we quite easily spent lots of time here!
A tad overwhelmed by what was on offer, R and I ended up with two chocolate filled bombolone, the perfect sweet finish to our brunch! We had a fun-filled morning at the Grounds of Alexandria, and I’d highly recommend a visit to anyone who is young or young at heart!
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