Queuing for a table has become second nature in Sydney; whether it’s the droves of people waiting outside Mamak in Chinatown, to the hordes of hungry people at Din Tai Fung. We are prepared to do it and even though we comment, “Oh this is ridiculous I’m never coming here again”, we seem to come crawling back.
I’d heard about the infamous queues at The Grounds, which is the reason why I’d stayed away for so long. However one Saturday morning, Shannon (my lovely partner) gave the thumbs up; we’d try and brave the crowds.
After finding a parking spot fairly easily about 200m down the road, we were told about the extensive wait after arriving at 11.30am. Okay no big deal, let’s just stroll around the outside seating area, huge garden featuring vegetables and herbs, and order a coffee while we’re waiting.
Here is how The Grounds works:
- There’s a café inside (essentially the “main event”)
- There’s a takeaway counter where you can order coffee, food (snacks, sandwiches and burgers but reduced choice on weekends) and pastries
- The outdoor seating area is first in best dressed
There’s no doubt the whole space is an artistic and design triumph. It has an industrial and rustic feel, although clearly plenty of thought (and cash) has gone into the decoration. Located in an old Four ’N’ Twenty pie factory, The Grounds really is a pleasure to look at and to soak in the atmosphere.
I go to the takeaway counter to order coffee and there’s an army of staff behind the counter, furiously making coffees. On the other side, there’s a huge number of people with their arms folded, almost glaring at the baristas; I call it the “Where’s my effing coffee” look.
Fifteen minutes later I trudge back outdoors with a flat white and chai latte. The first thing we notice are the drinks are not hot, but in fact warm. The temperature of coffee is so vital. If it’s too hot, then a person can wait for it to cool but in this case it had already gone past that point. In terms of taste, the flat white was fine but nothing spectacular.
I found that the beautiful setting of The Grounds and the coffee did make you forget about the wait for a while but my spirits certainly dropped as the minutes ticked by.
Finally, 50 minutes later, we were seated inside, ready for lunch.
I order the hand made pappardelle with slow braised lamb, peas and extra virgin olive oil ($17). Shannon chose Ramzey’s secret spiced chicken baguette ($14). We also get the chunky chips to go with our lunch.
The food comes out soon enough, and the portions are very generous. My pasta has chunks of juicy lamb and peas dispersed throughout the dish, and topped off with shavings of parmesan. The lamb is as soft as silk and easily breaks apart with a few prods. Normally I’m not a huge fan of peas, but in this case, it works. A fantastic dish and highly recommended.
I’m told Shannon’s baguette was delicious, and it came with a small jar of salad dressing to accompany the salad. The chips were pretty much spot on; crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It would have been great if the spicy mayo had a bit more bite to it.
To drink, Shannon ordered the orange juice (freshly squeezed) and I had the dripper coffee ($6) which we are told are roasted beans from Colombia. In hindsight, I’d probably order just the barista-made coffee as the taste is quite different, but it could just be something to get used to.
The bill comes to $50 which is pretty good value for money for top class café fare. The staff are enthusiastic and attentive. But is it worth the long wait? Probably not. I’m not a person with too much patience but if you’re happy to queue for a table, queue for a coffee and possibly queue for an outdoor seat while you’re waiting, The Grounds is worth a try.