Glamorous interiors straight from a movie set and cakes that are out of this world: The Grounds of Alexandria’s new city venue is all about transporting you somewhere else.
Escaping the everyday: it’s one of the things that The Grounds of Alexandria helps us do so well, and a reason this former pie factory-turned-brunch spot, garden and city farm in Sydney’s industrial Alexandria is one of the city’s top destinations (and Australia’s seventh most Instagrammed location).
Ramzey Choker, its entrepreneurial founder and director, has done it again with his new cafe and restaurant: The Grounds of the City. Here in the Sydney CBD, the mood is a world apart from Alexandria – the only animals (apart from the ones on your plate) are rendered in Baroque-style paintings that hang on the walls – but the feeling of escapism remains.
Step through the fancy frontage – that advertises in old-school signage its wares within – and you couldn’t feel more removed from the strip lighting and slippery floors of The Galeries, and from the hustle of the city. The look is based on gorgeous old coffeehouses of yesteryear and was brought to life by architecture and interior studio Acme & Co (whose CV includes Archie Rose Distilling Co., Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Fred’s). The space is so richly detailed – with antiques, books, and custom-built stained-glass windows – that if feels lifted from a Wes Anderson film set. The low, ambient lighting – courtesy of the antique French theatre lights – will make you feel like a glamorous extra.
The Grounds of the City was three years in the making, and the concept derived from the spirit of community. It stems from “the coffeehouse community in a time gone by,” Ramzey tells us, and “the idea of growing a social culture shaped around coffee and connection”. Before he dreamt up the decadent details (including a shoe shiner and intricate timber joinery), he and the team first considered how they wanted the space to feel. “We studied and researched the psychology of the way design influences feeling, and drew inspiration from different decades, dating back as far as the 1920s where the spaces were so rich with detail and colour,” he says.
Of course, coffee is a serious business here: you’ll find a sommelier at the Barista’s Bar who will guide you on a tailored coffee experience; but the French bistro-inspired menu extends far beyond. Come for breakfast and tuck into anything from house-made crumpets, lemongrass and ginger tea bircher, to steak and eggs. Lunch and dinner (served Thursday nights currently, with Friday and Saturday night service starting soon) might be lobster with roasted seaweed butter, freshly shucked oysters or grain-fed beef burger. Or you could just come for afternoon tea: a resident tea lady does the rounds with a trolley laden with cakes – from fluffy sponges to creamy cheesecakes – that really are next-level.
Whatever iteration of The Grounds you opt for, you’ll want to linger – and that’s important for Ramzey: although The Grounds of Alexandria and The Grounds of the City were created with different guests in mind, both “serve as a place for everyone to feel welcome”. And while Alexandria is geared towards hosting the whole family, “Our City venue serves a multitude of purposes,” he says. “It’s a place that transports you out of the feel of Sydney’s CBD, where 9 to 5 workers can escape their computers, business corporates can impress their clients and shoppers can unwind.”
Discover more on The Grounds of Alexandria: