I think I am the last blogger/writer/reviewer in all of Sydney to visit The Grounds in Alexandria. This place has been reviewed more times than any other place in this cafe infested city of ours. Since it swung open its doors 3 years ago I have attempted twice to visit. On the first occasion I couldn't find a park remotely close to it and the second I had to deal with an almighty meltdown by a child that I gave birth to, and thought it was just easier to head back to the burbs instead of swanning around the coolest cafe in town.
So finally in the last school holidays I made it there! This time I easily found a park (because we arrived at 7am) and there wasn't a melt down in sight as my offspring were starving and would do anything to fill their little bellies. So here is a big tip for y'all - if you arrive at 7am you won't encounter any of the queues that the cafe is notorious for; you will be served oh so quickly; and you will be able to check out the grounds of The Grounds without bumping into too many hipsters.
Now if you can't get your brood to The Grounds by 7am and you arrive at the same time as the rest of Sydney, you might not score a table straight away. Instead the staff will give you a buzzer and you can go for a wander and then when you feel your buzzer buzz, you can head back for your table. Otherwise grab some takeaways and find a seat somewhere within the gardens and take in the gorgeous surrounds. As soon as we walked in I spotted the designated pram parking area (there is also an area for fur baby parking as well). Then we were greeted by loads of vibrant staff - I'm presuming they fuel up on many espressos when they get to work, cause they all seemed to be buzzing for such an early hour! We could choose a table either inside the cafe or outside on the patio - I chose the later as there seemed to be a few too many "dudes" on the tables inside and I didn't want my little dudes annoying them.
There is room for your pram next to your table, however when this place is full to the brim it may be wiser to leave it outside in the parking area as I'm sure it would be difficult for you to manoeuvre it around (there are high chairs if you need them). As there were only a few other diners where we were sitting, the boys could wander around without disturbing anyone whilst I had a squizz at the menu and ordered our drinks.
When I suggested that the boys road test The Grounds version of a babycino it was met with a resounding NO! So our waitress suggested that the boys could have a kids size juice or smoothie instead. One went for the orange juice which came in a cute teddy bear glass and the other went for the berry smoothie which looked a picture and cost me a bomb! $10.00 for a kids smoothie is a bit rich and I'm hoping that this was just an error on behalf of the staff member who processed our order, but it did taste delicious. Oh and their coffee was literally the bomb as you would expect from a place that actually is a roastery.
At breakfast time kidlets don't have a menu but there are quite a few items on the main menu they could share or if you check out the the front counter you will surely find them something there to eat as it is groaning with some of the most delicious looking baked goods that I have seen in ages. The boys went for muffins - banana & nutella as well as a peach one. The muffins ($5) were crunchy on the outside and oh so light and fluffy on the inside. Apparently at lunch time children have their own menu and if I'm brave enough to brave the crowds, one day we will go back and road test it.
Like most of Sydney I am currently obsessed with Avocado Smash. The Grounds version is exquisite! It costs $15.50 by itself or $19.50 with two perfectly poached eggs. A combination of green and red tomatoes sit on top of freshly baked Grounds bread. On top of this is thinly sliced avo, then fetta, then home made dukkah, then a drizzle of delicious olive oil and finally a decent sprinkle of micro herbs. This my friends is breakfast perfection. If you are not a fan or if you need a bit of carnivore action with breakfast then don't fear as protein is available in, some seriously delicious forms in other menu items.
With full bellies and itchy feet we went on a tour of this little city farm. Our first stop was the kids play area. It was kinda cute, not as cute although as I had seen in some photos on other review sites. Perhaps it was the time of day, I'm not sure, but it was in need of a bit of love on the day we visited. There is a cubby house that is full of chalk boards and a small climbing wall. Outside there are a couple of small picnic tables for kids and space for them to have a little wander.
From there we walked through the picture perfect garden setting to the main attraction - Kevin Bacon. This pig is loved by all of Sydney and he is one big boy. Kevin shares his digs with Turbo the shetland pony, some whacky looking chooks, a couple of ducks and on occasion some goats. First thing in the morning is mucking out the stalls time. For those of you who have never visited an actual farm this is when the "homes" of the animals are cleaned out. Poo is removed, fresh straw is laid, etc etc. The animals are also fed and groomed, ready for their big day ahead entertaining all of The Grounds visitors. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you too can help feed the animals at 11am and 1pm.
After our inspection of the animals we of course needed a pit stop. We first discovered the "old" facilities which are all retro and gorgeous but out of order, so we then went and found the new loos. The boys had a giggle as they thought we were in the wood shed - they whole thing is made out of timber, except obviously the loo itself. I didn't see any baby change table but that's not to say they don't have one, I just got side tracked when trying to find it - there are so many gorgeous vignettes all over The Grounds so it is easy to lose track of what you were doing.
The Grounds hold monthly markets, functions (I'd love to be able one day get over to a Mum Society brunch) and they have their very own florist on site. They also host FREE school holidays activities where kids can do everything from mini foodie tours to yoga! And on special days such as Mothers Day, they have amazing looking events where you can book ahead and thoroughly spoil your loved ones.
If you don't heed my advice and arrive early then there is also a BBQ vendor on site where you can grab something to eat from. The Potting Shed is also another spot in The Grounds that serves food from lunch time, but it is a watering hole (boozer), so just be mindful of this if you contemplate taking your kiddliwinks in there.
Now lets sort out this parking issue shall we? There is nothing more frustrating when go out with kids and a pram, if you have to park miles away from where you are going. There is a car park right in front of The Grounds, but it has limited spots and you have to get in very early to snag one of these - access this from Bourke Rd. There is also street parking in both Bourke Rd & Huntley St alongside the cafe, which once again can be difficult to find unless you arrive first thing in the morning like I did. The Grounds do offer a valet parking service (for a fee) which you can access from Bourke Rd, or if all else fails the Alexandria Homemakers Centre which is around the corner on O'Riordan St is a good choice to park as long as you don't mind walking for a wee bit. Just get up and go early to save yourself the hassle I say.
I have read so many superlative reviews of The Grounds that I was worried that my expectations of the place were a little too high - but this place is amazing as everyone raves about it. From the moment we walked in the front gates to the moment we left I was oohing & ahhing. It's definitely an oasis of retro coolness in inner city Sydney, that is oh so kid friendly.
So am I the last person in Sydney to have visited The Grounds?
2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW 2015
02 9699 2225
Open 7 days
Mon - Fri 7am - 4pm
Sat - Sun 7.30am - 4pm