There’s something in the water in Alexandria. One by one, disused warehouses are being converted into cafes and bars. Sympathetic renovations abound – think Allpress Espresso, Kitchen by Mike, Don Campos, Bread and Circus or Sonomo HQ. Further afield you’ve got the likes of Brasserie Bread and Freda’s Bar and Canteen taking up residence. Add The Grounds to the list of cavernous and ultra modern spaces slightly off the beaten path of the inner southwest.
The Grounds is situated on the corner of Huntley street and Bourke Road. It’s is in the same ‘complex’ as 4143 at The James Barnes. It felt like this place would never open, but open it did for the first time yesterday, so this morning I went to check it out.
When we arrive, I count ten staff. We order our coffees and are told since we’re having them in, to take a seat and then order. The coffee takes a while, which is odd considering the gaggle of waiters clustered around the till and the small number of customers. To be fair, we did arrive at 7:15am on their second day of trade, and I know from experience that a POS system can be a pain in the arse to get going. When it arrives, the coffee is good. Well-rounded flavour, and well presented.
The Grounds is an amazing space. Imagine a kind of barn (well, former pie factory), all rustic wooden finishes and concrete floors (drool), lit with tungsten lights and dotted with industrial touches like exposed copper pipe. This space cries out to be described in cliches – rustic, post-industrial, but above all, beautiful. You can view the coffee roasters through glass panels and on the wall behind neon yellow letters spell out ‘Research Facility’.
The ‘barn’ opens out onto a large garden/courtyard and there’s plenty of seating to while away the hours. There you’ll find a micro-garden of herbs, fruit and veggies, with chickens no less, giving Cornersmith a run for its money in the made-from-scratch stakes. They also bake their own bread and roast their own beans, and plan to hold cupping and coffee making classes. If you take a quick squiz at Katie Quinn Davies’ (no relation) shoot for The Grounds, I think you’ll agree their home style food (could they BE any more on trend) looks pretty bloody scrumptious. I for one can’t wait to try it.
All in all I’m delighted to have these guys in my backyard. And I plan to spend a lot of time in theirs.
The Grounds of Alexandria
7a/2 Huntly Street (corner Bourke Road)
Alexandria NSW 2015
Weekends 7:00am – 3:00pm
We all have that New Zealand export we’d just love to claim as our own. It may be an actress, band, TV show or recipe. It won’t surprise you that my case, it’s a coffee roaster.
Allpress Espresso started in New Zealand, now has a roastery in Zetland, Sydney, has opened a café in London and is slowly spreading its brand to cafés all over Sydney. They even have an iphone app to help you track down their brews.
Much like Flint and Steel, Allpress Espresso in Zetland is a coffee roaster as well as a café, but in the case of Allpress, it’s more than a hole-in-the-wall. It’s all slick stainless steel, marble bench tops and sheets of glass, industrial-chic with a touch of retro fitting right into its Zetland surrounds. You can see right through the cavernous space to the roasterie and watch them work their magic on the beans. Or, you know, forklift sacks of coffee around. Whatevs.
It’s one of those places where I’ve never had a bad coffee but at the same time, the last few times I’ve stopped by it’s been less than stellar. I don’t know how to explain what I mean, but the coffee tastes ‘rushed’ these days. That said, I’m a huge fan of their Carmelo and City Espresso blends which I often buy for home use.
The focus may be on the coffee but there is also quite a good menu of things like pastries, sandwiches, cakes, artisanal breads and breakfasts like soft-boiled eggs with sourdough soldiers, avocado and ricotta. It’s the kind of food I’d refer to as ‘assemblage’ rather than cooking but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty.
Allpress is one of those places where you want to time your visit carefully. Like many of my faves its closed on Sundays. Unless you’re into waiting for a table, on a weekday, the pre-work coffee rush is a bad time to go, and on Saturday it’s not so great to show up in the morning as the breakky/brunch crowd takes over. I’ve had quite good luck at 2pm, but then again, maybe I should just learn some patience.
What NZ export would you like to claim as your own?
58 Epsom Road, Zetland 2017
(02) 9662 8288
Monday-Friday 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 2:00pm
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