It was my birthday last weekend and I told Mysaucepan that being a Cancerian, my personality traits are exactly true to what my horoscope describes – homely and caring, moody at times but also creative, sensitive and a romantic at heart. I might add that I can also be extremely bashful, modest and shy, especially among strangers.
She kept pestering me about what I wanted to do for my birthday and even canceled would-be plans with her friends just so I could decide what we should do to celebrate. But all I really wanted to do was to cook a nice meal, spend a quiet evening at home and serenade her with a beautiful Scriabin prelude on the piano.
Being a Sydney restaurant reviewer, she reminds me it is her passion and duty to keep up with Sydney’s dining scene and so we settle on going out to dinner at a Japanese yakiniku restaurant last Saturday night.
The next day, our friends Vince and Jun suggested a birthday lunch in a cafe driven by freshly roasted coffee beans and food inspired by fresh and organic produce.
The kitchen subscribes to sustainable practices including picking fresh herbs every morning and working with a full-time horticulturalist to grow seasonal produce for the menu.
The Grounds of Alexandria has been opened for only about three months and it seems to be packing in the lunch crowds on weekends.
We arrive at 12.30pm on a Sunday only to be greeted by a queue that snaked from the restaurant to the outdoor area, a weekend lunch crowd eager to get a taste of what this place is all about.
“Give me your name, go wonder around the grounds and come check with me in an hour”, a frantically busy queue manager called Jason tells Vince.
“What da fook are we going to do for an hour?” I told Mysaucepan.
“The food better be fooking good”, I wondered to myself as I snap photos of garden herbs and lettuce leaves, chickens in urban chook dens and children gleefully frolicking under what is a perfect winter day in Sydney – chilly and crisp air with sunshine warming our backs under clear blue skies.
Owners Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna conceived an inner city sanctuary where home-grown greens with an emphasis on hearty cafe-style food would satisfy locals looking for a point of difference on the menu.
The herb garden and vege patches do look healthy but judging from the crowds trying to get into this place, I doubt if these herbs and vege are sufficient to satisfy the sustainable requirements of their well-intended philosophy.
The grounds itself are both child and pet friendly.
Familes appear happy to wild away some weekend quality time as they wander around while waiting for their names to be called.
I’m not a fan of hot chocolate but judging from the numbers dished out on wooden boards with a small bottle of fresh milk and a short glass of hot chocolate, I figured they must be doing some things right.
As we wait for our table, I am a little amused at the frantic pace of the cafe staff scurrying around, attending to a burgeoning crowd where diners are already tucking into their food while there is an ever growing queue trying to get in.
We are seated at a table directly opposite the service areas and for the time we are here, I’m pretty sure the beef burgers and oven-roasted spatchcock appear to be vying for top honours on the menu.
Maybe it’s me but perhaps it is for the rustic feel that Sydney cafes are determined to use wooden boards as serving plates, just like how Aussie surfers are determined to be mauled by Great White Sharks in recent times.
Underneath a beef pie covered with a layer of golden brown puff pastry are piping-hot cubes of meat in a thick flavoursome gravy.
Hello cafes and restaurants! This is winter so give us an incentive to rug up and drive out to your restaurants. Otherwise, we are quite happy for a huge pot of beef bourguignon, Ipoh hor fun or Vietnamese pho to be slowly simmering at home.
A hand-made pappardelle with lamb and parmesan is the right idea for a winter dish except the chef might have forgotten about a substance called salt. Nevertheless, a few sprinkles and the flavour of the stringy lamb rump comes to life.
I would rather a dish that is under-seasoned over something that might be irreversible.
I observe the chefs at the kitchen where pre-roasted spatchcock Marylands are finished off on a cast iron pan and then drizzled with a delectable salsa verde.
Given a choice between chicken and spatchcock, I think it’s a no-brainer the smaller bird is more tender with a sweeter and more intense flavour and this dish is no exception. I will gladly come back again for this dish except I’m pretty sure I don’t want to wait an hour for my table.
Service is cheerful and snappy despite how busy this place is on this Sunday afternoon.
Diners and their families are happy to be a little more patient with time on weekends as toddlers wander around the grounds.
The food is on the mark for this kind of wholesomeness under $20.
I would be happy to recommend this place to my friends, but a group of 6 – 8 people waiting for an hour each is equivalent to a business day and this might be testing the patience of the most patient, no matter how good value the food might be, especially during precious weekends.
Come up with a better system to manage your crowds during weekends, then we shall consider coming back.
So dear readers, how long are you prepared to wait for your table in a busy and popular restaurant?
The Grounds of Alexandria
Building 7A Huntley street. Alexandria 2015
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9699 2225
Business hours: Open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch
Wow that spatchcock looks very appetizing! I agree smaller birds are more tasty
The spatchcock was cooked well and it tasted good.
I wonder if places like this are so popular because they showcase how people would like their backyards to be? Homegrown greens, chooks, all looks heavenly to me.
I think this place appeals to young families who have kids and pets to wonder around the grounds. I can imagine your backyard being very similar although I think you have even more chooks than them!
Firstly….Happy Belated Birthday Chopin! So sorry we missed it.hope you had a fab celebration!!
As for Grounds of Alexandria, for weeks now it has been a nightmare to get a table and get served, especially during the weekends. Although I agree with you that food and beverages are quite delicious ans delightful, waiting for an hour to get a table and then another hour or more to get served is simply ridiculous and simply not the way I would prefer to spend my precious weekends.
Dear Fiona N,
Unless one has kids and pets to wild away an hour, I’m not sure it’s worth the wait. I would wait for a good yum cha during the weekends though
Oh dear. That is quite a wait. Thank goodness the sun was shining and it wasn’t raining. It does seem this is a very popular type of restaurant so clearly we need more of these kinds of establishments in Sydney. The pasta does look like a great winter dish but I think I’d have to have the spatchcock because I love salsa verde. Yes, they need to do something about the waiting times but I’d still like enough time to wander around their garden xx
For a first time diner, it would be good to have some time to wonder around the grounds. But once is enough for me and I won’t want to wait that long again.
I would LOVE to go there but there is no place worthy enough for me to wait around for an hour or more. I’d have to be starving, no food and nothing else open. It all looks really good and I think the concept is perfect.
This place do have a good concept with their coffee and fresh ingredients.
I love the concept, and I’d love a backyard like that, but the longest I’d wait for a table anywhere is 15-20 mins, MAX. If a place is known for long queues I just wouldn’t go :p
Happy Belated Birthday!
I totally agree with you. There are so many good restaurants in Sydney at the moment and surely we can find one any time of the week that is void of long queues.
It’s a great space isn’t it! And one where there is lots to explore too. I don’t know about waits, it depends on how badly I want to go there. Waiting 10-15 minutes is fine though, especially if there is a bar.
I agree 15 minutes is fine and if it’s really the food I want to eat on the day.
If it was somewhere I’d dined before and the food and service proved to be exceptional time and again, I’d wait for an hour, provided they had an amenable waiting area. (But I’d expect to be served without a wait once I was in the door!) The grounds here looked like a lovely place to wander and “people watch” and their food looks like reason enough to go there. Smiling that you ordered beer, chai, and hot chocolate at a coffee house.
The food did not take that long to come once we ordered. There were 5 of us and I had the beer
What an incredible place to have lunch. Every photo even more mouth watering than the last. Thank you for taking us on this lovely culinary journey with you, the photos are magnificent.
Glad you like the photos and thanks for popping by.
it looks like a fantastic place but 1 hour is too long for me – especially if I brought my small kids along. I’d say 30 minutes max
As long as the kids can be pre-0ccupied by the grounds and the chooks, I think you will be fine but kids or not, I won’t wait an hour again.
Aah, happy belated birthday Chopinand! That burger looks very nice I have to say, I’d probaby go for that 😀 Shame you had to wait for so long. I don’t think I had to wait for a table before. I probably wouldn’t ever want to wait. The whole purpose of being at a restaurant for me is because I’m hungry. How is wandering around for an hour going to fix that?
Thanks for the wishes.
I am one that can withstand hunger very well and if it’s the food I want to eat, I am happy to wait for a long time to work up an even more ferocious appetite once I hit that piece of steak or whatever else I happen to be craving on the day.
Happy belated birthday! Looks like you got a nice birthday meal eventually, too. I think I’d succumb to that hot chocolate, too. It just looks too cute not to order.
Thank you for your wishes. The hot chocolate seemed very popular as they were dishing it out non-stop while we were waiting for our table.
Well happiest birthday to you! I’m impressed that you waited for an hour. I’m the world’s least patient person, so I’m afraid that my maximum wait time would be about 15 minutes (unless there is a bar that I can prop up at… in which case I’ll hang out drinking and waiting all night!) Having said that, the spatchcock does look like it might be worth a wait… maybe 30 minutes?
Thank you for your wishes. I am a very impatient person and I was impressed with myself too on that day, perhaps it was my first time there and I had the grounds to take photos and occupy a good part of that hour wait.
I had the spatchcock and it was good.
Now with the kids, long wait is almost impossible but we used not to mind about a long wait as long as we can get in… I feel like I had more patience and free time back then. I’d love to try this place, but I’d be outside of the restaurant before the restaurant opens. 😀 Everything looks great!
I think the trick for restaurants like these is to go early during weekends if that is really what you want to do. I’m sure that will cut down on waiting time.
I like the concept, love the concept. Your photos are fantastic at capturing the family feel of this place.
Can I book? No. Will I go and wait for an hour for a table? No. The food looks lovely (not outstanding), but I just don’t wait for that amount of time for brunch/lunch, I am a book a table girl. As Sarah Kate said, happy to wait if I can do it at the bar for dinner
It’s how they serve the hot chocolate + fresh milk separately that excites me!
That pappardelle looks unreal! This place really is a photographic dream, isn’t it? I’m so glad you took some photos of the chickens, they were my favourite part of the entire space. So cute!