A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published June 24th 2017
The Grounds of Alexandria make coffee a green experience
A new benchmark coffee destination in Sydney's inner west has been set by The Grounds at Alexandria. Walking into this beautifully designed venue, I'm immediately reminded of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (not that I've ever been there!). Ample outdoor eating spaces are covered in bougainvillea-covered pergolas, flower pots fill every nook and cranny, and raised vegie plots adjacent to café areas display herbs and seedlings of the produce that will eventually end up on my plate.
On a sunny Friday morning there's a happening vibe, with families and groups taking advantage of the variety of seating arrangements. I grab a takeaway coffee and meander the avenues that owners Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna have cleverly created using old farm furniture and quirky vintage pieces such as an old pick-up truck, food wagons and raised flower beds. They have turned a one-acre block within the concrete industrial jungle of Alexandria into a thriving welcoming space for the whole family. Retaining the heritage facades of the old Mill, a former tannery and wool-washing factory, this community-minded urban sanctuary now houses a coffee roaster, café, bar, kitchen garden, coffee research and testing facility, artisan bakery and florist and hand-made organic jams and pastries.
Food stalls are filled with impeccably presented and delicious-looking sweets, and the mindfulness and effort that's gone into fitting out the entire block with quirky and vintage pieces is a testament to the owner's passion and purpose. An old red telephone booth doubles as an ATM, rustic cart wheels dangle from old corner posts, and boxes of flowers, fruit and vegies are prettily placed nonchalantly both as décor and as a reminder to their commitment to provide freshly prepared food, both looking after their customers and the farmers they purchase from.
coffee roastery and research facility at The Grounds
It is all about the coffee though, and two separate espresso stations pump out cup after cup. The beans are roasted on site and huge picture windows allow you to watch the roasting process. Almost feeling like I've walked into a James Bond movie with Dr. Dastardly nearby, I wander along adjacent windows showcasing white-coated bakers busily pounding out loaves of freshly prepared sourdough.
Without being huge or elaborate, the menu covers everything from hamburgers, pizza and hotdogs, to more enticing slow-roasted shoulder of lamb, spicy-crumbed schnitzel, red-cabbage slaw salads with seeded vinaigrette, and American-style tuna and egg sandwiches. Children are well catered for on the menu and with the nearby Animal Farm and Secret Garden.
On a weekday morning the place was busy but I couldn't fault the service. Standing in a queue for coffee is never my favourite thing to do, but staff were friendly, brisk and efficient. I imagine weekends would be even busier as market stalls fill up an extra warehouse corner and parking is limited so allow plenty of time.
Note: Current road-works have turned Huntley Street into a one-way until the end of July 2017 so you can't enter from Bourke Street if you're travelling south. There is limited on-site parking and parking attendants are very helpful and good at keeping traffic flowing.