“I wanted my shop to look kind of like The Grounds of Alexandria,” was what one coffee shop owner told me a couple years back. What I didn’t know was that he was to be the first of many like-minded business owners, because when it came to inspiration, it seemed like all roads led to The Grounds of Alexandria.
It’s hard to get around Australia’s coffee circuit without chancing The Grounds a couple times. Heck, it’s hard to get around Instagram’s influencer-slash-food-blogger circuit without scrolling over a couple pictures of The Grounds – and double tapping. Inevitably, The Grounds were at the top of my list when I visited Sydney in the last week of my stay in Australia.
It was uplifting to see that people’s fondness of the Sydney institution was not misplaced. A lush green oasis in the middle of the industrious suburb of Alexandria, south of the city center, The Grounds isn’t so much a coffee shop as it is a foodie’s playground. The winding maze of vines and knocked-down brick walls from what was once a pie factory hide surprises at every turn, be that a restaurant, or a picture-perfect moment. Some of its shops include the Cafe, the Grounds of the City, the Garden, a bakery and patisserie, and an abundant florist. Oh, and there’s also a pig named Kevin Bacon.
The Grounds is known for its coffee and its ever innovative brewing techniques, but me and my friend chose to spend our time at the Potting Shed, a bar-come-restaurant to the back. She had the fisherman’s pie ($29) and I had the shed cheese burger ($25). The food was alright, but the ambience – the hanging plants, the chatter and activity – was better.
If not for dining, then most people come to the Grounds to explore. It’s more than just a collection of great establishments, it also regularly hosts weekend markets, workshops on everything from coffee to calligraphy, and sports viewing events, among other things. It’s also an extremely popular wedding venue, not that it’s hard to see why – the courtyard festooned with trees and flowers would surely make for some stunning photographs.
Word of warning, The Grounds is nearly always packed, regardless of day, time, and season. From what I’ve seen, people don’t mind waiting in the dead of winter for a chance to shuffle their way to a seat between groups of other patrons. To be fair, you’re getting more than just a meal, the place does live up to the hype, so see it as a chance to soak it all in and be inspired.