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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Grounds of Alexandria

quinoa rolled eggs at The Grounds of Alexandria

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.

Flower-filled wagon at The Grounds of Alexandria
Wagons and signposts at The Grounds, Alexandria

Hens at The Grounds of Alexandria
Garden chooks

Vegetable and herb garden at The Grounds of Alexandria
The kitchen garden and flower pots at The Grounds, Alexandria

Outdoor area at The Grounds of 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.

Kids playground at The Grounds of Alexandria
Vintage soft drink cans for plant pots, giant chick pea 'cans' 
and a kids play area keep things fun for everyone

Muffins and brownies at The Grounds of Alexandria
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 Grounds of Alexandria
Jam jar mugs at the takeaway order counter 

Mini cupcakes and carrot cake at The Grounds of Alexandria
Mini cupcakes and carrot cake slices

Custard tarts, chocolate tarts and lemon tarts at The Grounds of Alexandria
Custard tarts, chocolate tarts and lemon tarts in the display counter

Takeaway drinks and breakfast menu at The Grounds of Alexandria
Takeaway drinks and breakfast menu board

Takeaway salad and sandwich menu at The Grounds of Alexandria
Takeaway salad and sandwich menu (restricted options on weekends)

Indoor dining area at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Pour over coffee at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Aeropress coffee at The Grounds of Alexandria
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 and pour over coffees at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Pour your own hot chocolate at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Hot milk and melted chocolate at The Grounds of Alexandria
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 at The Grounds of Alexandria
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 at The Grounds of Alexandria
Breakfast boards at the pass

The kitchen is swamped but our meals don't take too long to arrive.

Rolled eggs with  crispy quinoa breakfast at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Sausages, eggs and bacon breakfast at The Grounds of Alexandria
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 at The Grounds of Alexandria
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.

Brioche French toast at The Grounds of Alexandria


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The Grounds of Alexandria 
Building 7A, No. 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9699 2225
[facebook page]
Opening hours:

Monday to Friday 7am-4pm
Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
The Grounds of Alexandria Markets
Rosebery - Kitchen by Mike

31 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/28/2012 01:18:00 am


31 Comments:

  • At 5/28/2012 2:07 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ooh id eat quinoa if it was deep fried!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 6:30 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    mmmm I do love the sweet blend of a pour over coffee. I can use some if that double ristretto macchiato right now!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 7:13 am, Blogger Food is our religion said…

    I he always wanted to come here but I heard the crazy queues even start at 9 am ><

     
  • At 5/28/2012 8:02 am, Anonymous Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    that first picture of the oozing egg won my heart over.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 10:00 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    i love the look of the french brioche! will have to get that next time... so hard to get a table for breakfast, i have gotten up early enough once! most of the time for lunch which is not bad. but who can say no to oozy egg?

     
  • At 5/28/2012 10:06 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    mmm check out those runny eggs! and I love the cute hot chocolate set up with the teeny tiny milk bottle!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 10:40 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Mmmmm deep fried quinoa, now that's something I'd need to try.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 11:22 am, Blogger Pat said…

    I'll queue for lots of things, but breakfast ain't one of 'em. Not this breakfast, anyway. I thought Grounds was seriously ordinary. Surprisingly average coffee, derivative decor, lost staff, no real evidence of systems put in place to efficiently seat, feed and water customers. A bit more money spent on training and a bit more time spent on the food would've gone a long way.

    Reckon you'd go back, Helen? I'd be hard-pressed to recommend it.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 11:26 am, Blogger MissPiggy said…

    We dropped in here recently to have a sticky beak...I couldn't believe how crowded & manic it was. The gardens are lovely though...love the chooks.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 1:01 pm, Blogger Octie_Appetie said…

    I think with the food like that really can make a nice saturday morning for me.. Better check 'em out soon... great review :)

     
  • At 5/28/2012 1:48 pm, Anonymous Amajjika said…

    I'm wondering if they had many gluten free options? Our local has a full complement of gluten free options which form part of their normal menu.
    It's such a common requirement these days that it's disappointing when cafe's don't cater for this.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 2:03 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Excellent pics, especially the one of the rows of tarts and the coffee cups. This place looks lovely.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 2:07 pm, Anonymous Spencer said…

    I am glad I don't live near that place. It would be very dangerous for my waistline!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 2:12 pm, Anonymous Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said…

    I love the idea of this place surrounded by greenery and chooks! That runny egg was the money shot for me.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 2:28 pm, Blogger joey@FoodiePop said…

    Just voted, good luck!

    I cannot believe the hype surrounding this place, but it's good to know you don't need celebrity chefs or swanky digs to be a hit.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 2:39 pm, Anonymous SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said…

    The buzz around this place is amazing! Going to have to try it myself soon. The idea of a perfectly done cup of coffee might just be enough to get me out to Alexandria.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 5:58 pm, Anonymous Andy said…

    Yeah the Grounds is great, and yeah the waiting time is pretty full-on :P

     
  • At 5/28/2012 6:36 pm, Anonymous tastyfoodsnaps said…

    if i knew their hot chocolate was served like that i would have ordered it :( and sour dough french toast.. ive never seen this before! still looks yummy :)

     
  • At 5/28/2012 7:44 pm, Anonymous The Food Sage said…

    This place sounds magical and amazing. I'm going through a bit of a hot chocolate "moment" and this one sounds lovely. I found one at the weekend that is served as a kind of chocolate lollipop (you can choose between milk or dark) that you have to dip into the hot milk. Divine!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 8:49 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Lovely to see professionals using the Aeropress, my favourite coffee maker of all time!

     
  • At 5/28/2012 11:00 pm, Blogger cara waters said…

    Love the idea of eggs rolled in crispy quinoa and that hot chocolate just looks amazing.

     
  • At 5/28/2012 11:08 pm, Anonymous gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Congrats for the nomination! Coffees @ The Grounds look great, I'll wait until the hype disappears to try them out.

     
  • At 5/29/2012 10:03 am, Anonymous Anna @ the shady pine said…

    What a gorgeous looking place!

     
  • At 5/29/2012 2:12 pm, OpenID love2dine said…

    What fantastic photos of perfectly delicious looking food.

     
  • At 5/29/2012 6:05 pm, Anonymous tania@mykitchenstories said…

    Its great isn't it?. Your pictures are great

     
  • At 5/29/2012 7:18 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Thanks for another in depth review Eleni. I've heard mixed reports about this place but def want to check it out for the Aeropress!

     
  • At 5/29/2012 7:45 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Typewriters hidden in the garden? That sounds like my kind of easter egg hunt.

    That made more sense in my head.

    Mmm, perfectly-yolky eggs.

     
  • At 5/29/2012 9:17 pm, Blogger A said…

    I've been hearing great things about this place and have wanted to try it for a while, but I'm not too willing to queue for that long! The interiors and layout are like porn for food bloggers.

     
  • At 5/30/2012 2:11 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - Fry all the things!

    Hi Pat - Thanks for sharing your personal feedback! I think The Grounds offers a community experience, and the abundance of space particularly well-suited for young families. We found our orders were taken and delivered within a reasonable timeframe. The food that arrived was generously portioned and of high quality.

    I'm not a fan of queues either but we were in the area and I was keen to check it out. I would go again, but probably in a non-peak period, or when waiting time was 30min or less!

    Hi Amajjika - There's no mention of specific gluten-free option on the menu and I'm not sure if they have gluten-free breads, but it's a good point, and one that many restaurants and cafes should perhaps consider.

    Hi Joey - Thanks for the vote :) And yes, the place has had a lot of buzz. Alexandria is so hot right now :)

    Hi tastyfoodsnaps - We saw another table order the hot chocolate so we got a preview of how it's served :)

    Hi The Food Sage - I've seen those chocolate lollipops but never used one. I think I'd be tempted just to eat it on its own!

    Hi YaYa - I'm quite intrigued by the Aeropress. Keen to have a go myself sometime!

    Hi Gaby - Thank you, and yes, that sounds like a plan!

    Hi Peter G - I think any place with 'hype' tends to get mixed reviews but yes, great to see the Aeropress making more of an appearance at cafes around Sydney.

    Hi Hannah - Imagine if it was a chocolate typewriter? /head explodes

    Hi A - lol. And pretty plating makes for easily sexy food photos too :)

     
  • At 5/30/2012 8:08 am, Blogger ernesto morales said…

    Wow nice poached eggs I can wait to have a gorgeous breakfast. As I can wait to send a free text at textme4free.com

     
  • At 5/30/2012 4:31 pm, Anonymous Vivian - vxdollface said…

    Hehe the hot chocolate looks like so much fun :D I still need to check this place out, really digging their decor. lol I thought the quinoa was an off-coloured roe ^^" the dish looks great though

     

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