There's one thing you must have if you visit The Grounds of Alexandria, and that's patience. A 10.30am arrival on a Saturday nets us a 40-minute wait for a table for three. By 11am we hear latest arrivals face a 60-90 minute wait before they can expect to be seated.
And yet waiting is hardly a chore when we start to roam the outdoor dining area. Surrounded by factory outlets, showrooms and light industry, the Grounds of Alexandria is an oasis of charming greenery with a kitchen garden, chicken pen, and sprawl of casual seating. Quirky design chic--like flower pots in rusty wagons, and rusty typewriters hidden in flower beds-- combined with a kids play area and an in-house coffee roastery, make this a weekend utopia for couples and young families. No wonder the place is packed.
Wagons and signposts at The Grounds, Alexandria
The kitchen garden and flower pots at The Grounds, Alexandria
I agree kiddo, hanging jars for lights are magical indeed!
We meander past the gardens, admire the ingenious use of recycled rusted furniture and end up collapsing on a bench to soak up the morning sun. The outdoor dining area is for takeaway orders only (which has a restricted menu), but it guarantees happily caffeinated parents and easily distracted kids.
The floor manager circulates the grounds regularly, checking on waiting patrons and providing a reassuring update on waiting times.
Vintage soft drink cans for plant pots, giant chick pea 'cans'
and a kids play area keep things fun for everyone
Muffins and brownies
Cakes and pastries spill across the separate takeaway counter as the queue for coffee grows longer and longer. The tarts and bread are supplied by Luxe Bakery in Newtown at the moment, but we're told that bread will be baked in-house soon.
Jam jar mugs at the takeaway order counter
Mini cupcakes and carrot cake slices
Custard tarts, chocolate tarts and lemon tarts in the display counter
Takeaway drinks and breakfast menu board
Takeaway salad and sandwich menu (restricted options on weekends)
Indoor dining area
The indoor dining area is split into two sections, one with a view of the roasters and the kitchen; the other brighter and airier with views onto the balcony and a direct line of sight toward the main coffee counter. This altar to caffeine worship includes a gleaming La Marzocco espresso machine (upgraded with variable pressure levers -- "There are only two like this in the whole word!", our barista declares with pride), a Clover for pressurised filter coffee and accoutrements to make pour overs and Aeropress coffee.
Preparing our pour over coffee
The pour over uses filter paper set in a Kalita 102 ceramic coffee dripper, said to create a clean, almost sweet brew with plenty of body.
Plunging our Aeropress coffee
We also check out their Aeropress coffee, a filter coffee that uses manual pressure to deliver a brew with low acidity.
Aeropress coffee (front) $6 and pour over coffee (rear) $6
I find the Aeropress delivers a little more flavour at the front of the palate, whereas the pour over has a lingering finish. Both are gentle brews.
Hot chocolate $3.50
The hot chocolate has all the makings of a kid's make believe tea party, presented on a picturesque wooden chopping board.
Pouring frothed milk into the melted chocolate
Unleash the pot of thick melted chocolate into your cup and pour out the hot frothy milk from the world's cutest miniature milk bottle. It's not overly chocolatey but wins points for novelty.
Double ristretto macchiatos $4.50
And because we're caffeine addicts we tack on a couple of double ristretto macchiatos that are executed admirably, rich and intense in flavour.
Breakfast boards at the pass
The kitchen is swamped but our meals don't take too long to arrive.
Rolled eggs with crispy quinoa $16
The idea of rolled eggs with crispy quinoa immediately caught our attention on the menu. It arrives as two soft boiled free range eggs showered with golden quinoa that we suspect had been deep-fried until crunchy. It provides a uniquely nutty textural contrast to the eggs, especially with their gooey yolks of sunshine.
Toasted sourdough is unbelievably moreish, a combination of chewy crust and a substantial fluffiness. As we pick through oven roasted roma tomatoes, stalks of asparagus and sprigs of rocket, the addition of truffle oil seems unnecessary in the face of such commitment to seasonal freshness.
Pork and veal sausages and free range fried eggs $17
with a side of crispy bacon $4.50
There's plenty of heartiness in the pork and veal sausages, served with two free range eggs sunny side up with toasted sourdough and a bed of sauteed spinach. We fortify our order with a side of crispy bacon, remarkably generous in size with what we estimate to be four rashers of bacon. It's pan fried until crisp and smoky.
Brioche French toast $13
The brioche French toast arrives as sourdough French toast without explanation, but it's tasty anyway, and probably better for our waistlines. It's a mountain of comforting egginess, built with a mortar of tangy tender rhurbarb and crowned with a quenelle of lemon-tinted mascarpone.
No wonder this place is busy. Luckily some things are worth waiting for.
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The Grounds of Alexandria
Building 7A, No. 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 2225
Monday to Friday 7am-4pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
The Grounds of Alexandria Markets
Rosebery - Kitchen by Mike
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5/28/2012 01:18:00 am