The Grounds of Alexandria

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nestled in amongst the outlet and furniture shops in the homemaker/industrial hub of Alexandria sits The Grounds of Alexandria, famous for it's innovative 'ground roots' approach to food. You know you're near when you begin to hear the hustle and bustle of crowds and begin to find it hard to find parking - on the weekends the queue for a table may last up to an hour or more .

But if you do find yourself in this predicament, don't worry too much. Outside the main cafe you'll be left wonder The Grounds, an expansive, open outdoor area that includes a courtyard, herb beds, a pig and chicken pen and on the weekends is home to The Grounds Markets where you can buy homemade bread, pastries, coffee, flowers and other edible knick-knacks that are all made on site. Wandering past and gawking at all the beautiful stalls is sure to provide a fun and unique experience that will pass the time and distract you from the wait in no time.

We arrived at 9:15am on a Saturday to find it already packed and busy, and after putting down our name were given a buzzer and left to wander around until our table was ready. Families and couples alike were sitting on the benches and rustic table setting sipping takeaway coffees and munching on bacon and egg rolls and smashed avocado on sourdough, just a some of the few options that were available from the outside takeaway stalls. You could come here when the markets are in full swing and order a full brunch without even having to step foot in the cafe, and that's just one of the many features of The Grounds that makes it such a popular and appealing brunch and lunch spot.

Among the many stalls on the Grounds that are part of the Markets is a bakery and sweets vendor, with an exquisite array of delicate pastries, sweets and individually portioned desserts laid out on platters and cake stands, glistening and looking extremely inviting and tempting. Next to these were a variety of house made specialty organic loaves in all different shapes, sizes and colours.

Alongside this is a DIY nuts and chocolates stall, with an unimaginable amount of differently flavoured nuts and chocolates that you could pick and choose from yourself to make your own nut mix. Flowers and freshly squeezed juices and lemonade were also available (with cute little signs to match!).

As we had a table of five our wait was a little longer than expected, so after wandering around we decided to munch on some freshly made, bite sized doughnuts. These delectable little morsels were filled with a choice of strawberry jam or chocolate; we chose the latter. And how delightful they were! Not quite like the holed cinnamon doughnuts you'd typically get from Donut King, these were fluffier and had a stronger yeast flavour. The chocolate was definitely the perfect sweet addition to it.

Homemade donuts with chocolate filling

The inside of the cafe resembles something of a mini, mismatched maze of tables, with little alcoves and nooks enclosed by glass walls and retro, funky decor. Near the entrance is the main coffee section and also where patrons can order takeaway food and glimpse the colourful array of sweets in front of the bakery section of the kitchen. There's also a large room at the back that is ideal for larger groups; I'd come on an earlier visit for a girlfriend's birthday brunch.

Phone booth ATM! 

The Grounds' house resident Kevin Bacon

We're given simple, paper-printed booklet menus that make our job of ordering slightly difficult as everything in it sounds mouthwatering. We begin with drinks - Chocolate Milkshakes, Lemon Iced Tea, Apple, Pear and Mint Juice and a Cappuccino. All the cold drinks are served in hip handled mason jar-style glasses, the pear juice refreshing and minty and iced tea cool and with just the right amount of sweetness. The milkshakes are rich and thick, deceivingly big and served with a hefty scoop of ice cream that floats on top and slowly melts away to leave a puddle of creamy sweetness.

Apple, pear & mint juice, (left, $7.50) and Lemon Iced Tea ($6.50)

The Grounds Chocolate Milkshake ($8) 


Service is brisk and the kitchen is constantly kept on its feet - the line of order never seems to die down. We're seated along a banquette right in front of the service pass and get to have a sticky beak of all the dishes as they get garnished just before being sent out.

Toast from The Grounds Bakery ($6.00)

GG gets the toast with a side of bacon, and this comes out as a colourful array of sliced thick toast on a wooden board with a dish of butter, the bacon in its own little iron 'pot'. Besides the traditional white loaf there seems to be a charcoal-coloured slice and deep red, almost pink-toned toast that we guess to be perhaps coloured with beetroot.

Sweet Pea Falafel ($18)

Our order arrives briskly, much to our surprise considering the amount of diners around us, and fills up the small table quickly. I have the Sweet Pea Falafel, which comes as three oval-shaped, studded falafels to a serve on top of a minted yoghurt and topped with two poached eggs and an heirloom tomato and herb salad. The falafel have a crisp outer and crumbly, tasty center and are quite generous in size. The salad is fresh and zingy and the eggs perfect little bundles of runny yolk.

Signature Avocado

Mum has the Signature Avocado - avocado, tomato, fetta, zaartar and microherbs on a thick slice of toast. It's not a terribly big serving but is healthy, simple and clean. And pretty to look at, too!

Wellbeing Breakfast ($19)

Dad has the Wellbeing Breakfast after spying it on a nearby table. It's mix of individual samples - ocean trout, gribiche eggs and a green bean and fennel salad along with dill creme fraiche and two slices of toast. The gribiche eggs is a cold mix of hard boiled eggs and green herbs, mix and pick each of the components as you choose, or try placing a little dollop of everything on a piece of toast and savouring it all at once.

Seasonal Fresh Fruit Salad ($14)

CK goes for a healthy fruit salad with vanilla bean yoghurt and homeycomb on the side. It arrives in a deep, generous bowl, a mound of fresh, tropical and standard fruits chopped up to bite sized pieces and extremely pleasing to look at. So much healthy goodness in one bowl! There all varieties of fruit - strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, rockmelon, honeydew, pineapple, mango, passionfruit, pomegranate and even starfruit. The yoghurt is lovely with the fruit and has a strong vanilla flavour.

Our tummies are full to the brim by the time we're finished, within almost 45 minutes of being seated thanks to the fast arrival of our meals, and come back outside to see the courtyard even busier than before with crowds of hungry people arriving in time for lunch. The sun is shining bright and its not even midday yet, but we've had enough brunch to keep us full and satisfied for the rest of the day. All the breakfast dishes are tasty and pack a punch - paying homage to but still a far cry from the traditional bacon-and-eggs-with-toast hot breakfast you'd find at other traditional cafes. But that's the thing with The Grounds - everything they serve is a twist on the traditional, utilising homegrown and homemade produce wherever possible to create fresh, delicious brunch and lunch fare. I'd try everything on the menu if given the chance! At lunch more fulfilling options are offered on their special lunch menu (available after 11:30am) such as burgers and creative salads as well as the more popular breakfast dishes, but brunch here really is the real deal. It's a wonderful place to take your family or friends next for a special weekend (or weekday!) meal. Yum!


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