The coffee grinder door handles are just a mere first glance of the décor perfection that awaits inside The Grounds. The large warehouse building, an ex pie factory, has been transformed into a Petersham Nursery style, chicken coup-chic oasis. There are real chickens in the expansive kitchen garden, and from the outside the building could be mistaken for an overgrown shed. But inside, there are certainly no power tools in sight.
Instead, copper metal is a motif, from burnished thin pipes lining walls and ceiling to stunning sparkly Japanese Kalito cups and pouring pots, which excitingly are also for sale. Cohesive pops of color like jade-green mugs and similarly hued vintage scales dot the space, which is split by a long takeaway counter into two seating areas.
An intriguing fluorescent ‘research factory’ sign, white glazed brick against cream latticed cupboards, pin-tuck leather benches and chain-bound single bulb lights placed purposefully throughout the space are but few other details that distracted me throughout my visits. I did also paid attention to the food though.
A breakfast of soft poached eggs atop snappy asparagus, sweet roasted tomato and a fresh salad of rocket and basil is complete with a sprinkling of salty, crispy quinoa, which to my friend Connie tasted excitingly like two minute noodles (?). I subbed sourdough for a pair of juicy roast field mushrooms.
Connie, partial to a tat or two, was also a bit excited by the waiters. She wasn’t so impressed by the stewed rhubarb on her French toast though- she’d asked for it on the side but apparently the chef insisted it tastes better on – so the self proclaimed fusspot scraped it off and stuck to sides of super crispy bacon, butter and house strawberry jam to top her spongy thick brioche (I thought the rhubarb was delicious so happily had it for her, + a stolen spoonful of densely whipped vanilla mascarpone).
Aeropress drip coffee arrived in a comforting round mug made to wrap both hands around, and at perfect drinking temperature. Though black, the texture was smooth and latte like, with no trace of a bitter aftertaste. About half an hour later I was hit with insane coffee buzz, slight shaky hands and all – strong, but that’s how I like it. Jack, the house coffee connoisseur, told us that soon they are planning to host special coffee tastings, and teach people a bit about the bean to cup process. If interested, just ask to put your name down on the list. Speaking of in-house, The Grounds makes their own green tea too, a full bodied blend using leaves grown in the garden. All other teas are imported from India and Sri Lanka, such as a deeply spiced organic chai.
On a lunchtime visit, shredded slow roast lamb salad was disappointingly lacking in flavor and on the dry side, though the accompanying roast pumpkin sweet against bitter radicchio and chicory leaves, and chickpeas always go well with tzakiki. Simple vinaigrette is surprisingly delicious thanks to some top quality olive oil.
Chips are decent, but worth ordering just for the mayo that comes with – hot spicy, but also sweet spicy, from what tastes like nutmeg or mace. They also pair well with a serve of three fat meatballs, fluffy, comforting and rich in tomato flavor. Some chewy sourdough toast makes a nice alternative to pasta for efficient sauce soaking.
Fancifully presented complete with edible violet flowers, an ocean trout salad with finely sliced silky pieces of fish atop herbed barley, fresh radish and just cooked broccolini is a nice light alternative, though would be nicer with the wintry barley served warm, not cold.
After food, take a stroll around the garden and spy what’s growing. There’s a lot – kale looked particularly beautiful and bountiful on my last couple of visits. If you wish to dine outdoors there are picnic style wooden tables which would be perfect for big groups, especially in summer. There is also a kids play area, if that suits your café criteria.
Yep, The Grounds pretty much has all grounds covered.