This must be the most photographed restaurant/venue in Sydney at the moment! I've heard such mixed reviews about this place; stories about two hour long waits to get a table, poor service, parking nightmares, average food etc etc. But then I had also heard so many stories and seen so many photos of how beautiful the actual grounds are. I'm a bit of a sucker when it comes to novelty so last weekend when I was in Sydney I made it my mission to go and check out The Grounds of Alexandria once and for all.
I went on a Monday morning, hoping to avoid the crowds and the parking nightmares but that was just wishful thinking. I circled the area for 25 minutes; yes, that's right, 25 minutes to find a park. Any other normal person would've given up after 10 minutes but I'm not normal when I have my heart set on something food related!
And then once I got there the place was PACKED! It was Monday morning at 9.30am. Who are all these people? Don't they have jobs to be at? And the service was absolutely horrendous! The only consolation was I didn't have to wait for a table because I was on my own, but that also meant the door
b***h person with a despicable attitude problem felt all I deserved was the table right at the extreme back end of the restaurant, practically inside the kitchen. Considering we walked past at least three empty tables on our way to the worst table in the house I wasn't going to take that lying down. After speaking to someone who seemed to be the in charge (who also had a major attitude problem of his own) I did manage to get a better table. But then it was a 15 minute wait till anyone took my coffee order, and another 15 minutes till my food order was taken. And it wasn't just me who was receiving this treatment; all around me I could see frustrated people looking at heir watches or trying to flag down the wait staff who were floating around with their "holier-than-thou" attitudes; obviously we should be bowing down to them for the privilege of dining at this stupid place!
Oh and it was incredibly loud in there; everything echoes, the music was loud, there was hardly a foot between tables and you couldn't even hear yourself think as all you can hear very loudly and clearly are your neighbour's conversations. Ok, so can you tell I was getting a little angry by this point? I could've of course walked out and vowed never to return but damn it, I had spent 25 minutes looking for parking and I was famished.
So eventually I did manage to get my cofffee and it was perfect.
They source their own single origin coffees and roast them in house so the quality was very high.
They decor is nice; mix of industrial vintage that seems to be done to death in cafes everywhere these days but I do like the styling and there are lots of interesting pieces of furniture and coffee related paraphernalia around.
The menu was pretty interesting too; items leaning towards the pretentious end and prices also reflective of that, if you know what I mean. I actually couldn't find a menu anywhere online so here's my snap collage of the current breakfast and lunch menus.
I went for the smashed avocado on sourdough with roast tomato, olives, grilled haloumi, micro herbs, parsley olives and poached eggs (19.50).
This was actually rather delicious. Notice how I'm sounding disappointed that the food and coffee were good; so horrible was the service that I hoped the food would be equally horrible so that I could hate this place and write it off for good. But this dish ticked all the right boxes; delicious bread, plenty of fresh avocado, perfectly grilled haloumi and juicy grilled tomato. I should've broken the eggs to show the lovely oozy yolks but I was starving and wasn't in the mood to fluff about with yolk bombs.
So ok the food was good but I was actually dying to get out of there because it was far from a relaxing breakfast; the noise, the rudeness of the staff, the noise.... arghhh it was just all too much for a Monday morning.
But I then walked around and took lots of photos so the rest of this post is very photo-heavy. There is a lot to see around the grounds starting at the takeaway section with all the incredible looking bread baked in house to amazing looking pastries, cakes, muffins etc.
I treated myself to one of those beautiful looking Wagon Wheels sitting in the pot on the bottom of the photo. And it was a little bit amazing!
How good do these look?!
Points for styling and presentation!
Ok so you get the picture, the takeaway treats look totally drool-worthy. So now to tour the grounds...
Not that anyone comes here to buy bales of straw but gotta love the novelty factor!
I'd imagine that if you got takeaway and sat around in the grounds it's actually quite relaxing. Maybe that's what I should've done because people who were sipping coffee outside looked rather at peace compared to the mayhem inside.
I do love a good wine barrel filled with pretty flowers...
Not real, but still pretty spectacular
Also not real, in case you were wondering
Definitely real and one of the star attractions at The Grounds is Kevin Bacon, who was sadly abducted recently but since then been found and returned to his home. But he looked very depressed and was in no mood to play. Poor piggy!
There is a gorgeous florist here with the most stunning flower arrangements; if you are a local, lucky you to be able to get your fresh flowers from here!
If you come on a weekend (huh! good luck to you if you do, because I can only imagine how crazy this place must be on weekends) there is apparently so much more to see from lemonade stands and cake stalls to petting zoos!
So the verdict: If you are a sucker for novelty like me and must see this place for yourself then go. But don't say I didn't warn you; the service is horrendous, parking is a nightmare, the wait times will probably push you over the edge and it's far from a relaxing experience. I went, I saw and I won't be bothering again because let's be honest there are SO many wonderful cafes in the surrounding suburbs minus the novelty factor but with amazing food and service that are far more worthy of my time and money!