The Grounds is one of those places that deserves the definite article in its name. Somewhere so unique that you only need mention it in the softest of undertones to see ears prick up and mouths pop open with choruses of excitement and recognition. Friends have heard about it, or driven past it, or are just generally dying to visit. And I now understand why.
The Grounds is like a mini-oasis hidden in the heart of an industrial desert. Alexandria is a suburb generally known for its grey warehouses and factory outlets, a place you drive to on a rainy day when you have a sudden craving for antique furniture or half-priced designer jeans. The absence of residential homes and flats has left the area with a corresponding shortage of cute cafes and restaurants. Well, until now.
The Grounds hits you with greenery as soon as you leave its little brick-walled carpark. Hanging ferns, sprawling herb gardens, overflowing hedges, an overgrown chicken coop .. You almost feel like you’re trespassing on someone’s private farm until you approach the cafe itself and start to hear the rumble of chattering voices and the clink of cutlery. Even though we chose possibly the worst day to visit (pouring cats and dogs), the queue for a table was still a solid twenty-minute wait.
The bed of baked goods sitting on a glass cabinet as soon you walk in does nothing for your grumbling stomach. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, really. All the muffins look and smell amazing.
We perused the menu while we waited (again, tortured by all the food around us – so close, yet so far) and it was a very cute menu indeed. Complete with an extensive hand-drawn diagram of all the different types of coffee available.
I love the flowers and the stand of rolled-up newspapers; makes it feel like you’re in your very own kitchen on a lazy Sunday morning.
This was freshly squeezed juice (mandarin, orange and lemon) served in an adorable jam jar. It was sour, tart and tangy (assuming those adjectives are all subtly different). Very refreshing!
Lamb parpadelle. I didn’t try it, but its eater became considerably quieter almost immediately after it arrived, apparently because he was too deeply involved in the enjoyable experience of devouring it. Must have been good then!
Scrambled eggs with field mushrooms on sourdough. Another dish that received a sterling review from its eater.
Soft-boiled eggs with crispy quinoa, roasted tomatoes and asparagus. This tasted just as amazing as it sounded on the menu. The quinoa was beautifully crispy and gave the gooey eggs a crunchy golden outer coat. It was the perfect balance of sweet (the roasted tomatoes) and salty (the crunchy eggs), and was one of those dishes you don’t feel guilty after eating. Most things that taste amazing are also really bad for you (ie Butterville) but this was an exception!
Cherry pastry. Heaven on a wooden board. Enough said.
Blueberry and ricotta muffin. Grainy, hearty and good. Wish it had been heated up though.
Verdict? Can’t wait to come back!