The Grounds of Alexandria is a place we’ve been eager to visit since it opened in 2012, creator Ramzey Choker transforming the former industrial space in Alexandria, Sydney, into The Grounds with the aid of friend Jack Hanna, a coffee guru.
Carrying reference to Babylon’s Hanging Gardens, The Grounds is the pair’s own vision of a beautiful space they’d love to inhabit; a world away from the outside bustle of southern Sydney, where you leave traffic behind and enter a jungle of lush gardens housing cafés, coffee roaster, florist, bakery and markets.
A neat stopover in striking distance from Sydney Airport, The grounds is very different to many of the other concrete clad eateries of the area, a pleasant escape to which inner city apartment dwellers flock.
There’s a variety of upmarket food and drinks on offer, hard to take in on one visit.
Our first stop is The Bakery, where we enjoy an excellent coffee without succumbing to the gorgeous array of cakes, but even mid-morning the bakery is dark and cool, dimly lit in comparison to the bright and light exterior garden.
Visiting in autumn, there’s colour everywhere, from the russet tones of annuals to myriads of flowers. We find ourselves in a verdant garden, wending our way around vendors who’re intent on satisfying queues of hungry patrons.
There are lines several metres deep at the food vendors due to it being a public holiday. In fact, seating is a scramble around prams and toddlers, couples trying to grab some quiet space at the ends of communal tables amidst family celebrations and bawling babies or off centre down a hidden alleyway.
The Grounds are very family-centric, with an animal petting run, chicken shed, and an atrium catering for family entertainment and dining as well as functions.
Fortunately, we’d booked weeks ago at The Potting Shed, a more formal restaurant tucked away on one edge of The Grounds.
It’s a beautiful garden setting which is both intimate and open; a place to spend time chatting over a few drinks. But service is keen, our waiter informing us that we have a 1 ½ hour booking only. So much for grazing in the garden!
Rush aside, our food is delicious: Marinated olives and pickles presented in a cute tin cup (9) followed by Spice Roasted Lamb Rump sliced amidst a salad of broad beans, fresh peas, cracked wheat and buffalo curd (32), a Trio of sliders, and Yellowfin Tuna Salad Niçoise with white anchovy, olives, heirloom tomatoes and a quail egg, served with black bread crisps (23).
The meals are pretty as well, a feast for the eyes amidst the garden-themed venue. Realia surrounds us – garden implements such as pots and shovels, letterboxes, gates…all add to the ambience.
We would have loved to relax and enjoy a three-course set menu; however, we’re cajoled into ordering in a hurry, rushing under orders (though there are tables free throughout our meal).
People. Too many of them in the ‘green city’. How we long to visit The Gardens when the clatter of pushing crowds has gone elsewhere! Then, perhaps, we could stop, smell the roses and absorb the ambience.
Building 7A, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, NSW Ph: 02 9699 2225
Open: Cafe: Mon – Fri, 7am – 4pm; Sat – Sun, 7:30am – 4pm Potting Shed: Mon – Sun 11 or 11.30am – 9 or 10pm.