by Katrina Whitehead in Cool Travel on Thursday 30 August 2012

It’s not often you arrive somewhere for a lazy breakfast on a Saturday morning, to find a DJ pumping out tunes, a clown and a fairy doing wacky things with balloons, Italian cheese makers kneading mozzarella, chickens pecking about their coop, and row after row of impressive veggie patches. It’s a complex and seemingly chaotic package, but somehow, it all melds together, in a civilized, serene and incredibly cool oasis that’s attracting Sydney’s foodies in droves. Set in an old pie factory in the industrial suburb of Alexandria, The Grounds is almost more of a concept than a café or restaurant – a vast, gastronomic playground.

As well as a buzzing café, the site hosts a coffee research and testing facility, and an expansive, paved garden with heirloom veggies and herbs. Fresh herbs are picked from the garden every morning, and a full time horticulturalist ensures seasonal produce is grown for the menu. The coffee is outstanding, and the dine-in menu boasts hearty and home-style dishes, like soft-boiled free-range eggs rolled in crispy quinoa with asparagus and truffle oil, crispy chicken schnitzel with salsa verde and house slaw. There’s also a tasty takeaway menu, with bacon and egg rolls, a delectable three-cheese toastie, and a slow-roasted lamb shoulder sandwich. 

On weekends, the site is host to a small, friendly market – and The Grounds will soon be hosting classes in the garden, teaching kids how to sow seeds and watch plants grow. This outstanding new hotspot has been brilliantly conceived – and they’re doing their best to cover every last detail. There’s even a door-girl wielding a clipboard to cater for an ever-growing queue of salivating customers. One thing’s for sure: The Grounds certainly turns the old ‘KISS’ adage on its head; proof that sometimes, it’s the complex ideas that are the best.