Sydney is definitely up there when it comes to the fine art of dining with some truly stand-out places dotted around the city. Recently, there has been a buzz about town with a certain new-ish arrival on our doorstep: The Grounds of the City. When my friend initially mentioned this place, my go-to response was: “The grounds of Alexandria? Perfect! I love it there!”, to which she responded “No, you goose! The Grounds of the City. Totally different. It’s a restaurant on George Street!”.
Huh. One can see where my confusion may have come in (right?), and alas the name does indeed make sense as both places were created by the same team. The Grounds of the City has been around for the past few months now, but I can tell you the hype has not died down in the slightest. My first word of warning: Book. In. Advance. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My friend and I rocked up, eyes gleaming, mouths watering, stomachs rumbling, only to find we had one whole hour (cry) to wait until a seat and table would be available.
Torn between finding the next nearest place to inhale and chow down on something (anything!!) or wait, we decided to take a deep breath and be patient. Behind a rather intimidating red rope and before two ladies standing guard in an information-desk-hole-in-the-wall, we gave our mobile number and meandered on our not-so-merry way to kill some time. 45 minutes later, and we were in!
Wow. Stepping inside was like a jump, hop and a leap back in time. Think an old 1920s hotel. Stained glass windows, marble, antique pendant lighting, a lady wheeling around a tea trolley brimming with cakes and pastries. It had it all! Through a huge, heavy cast-iron door, we were led past all the comfy looking leather-bound booths and placed on stools at the bar. Not my first choice of place to perch, but hey! I should’ve listened to my own words of wisdom. Book in advance Alix, book in advance.
The place was packed! Behind the bar, staff were busy making cocktails and crafting up coffee. For my photos, they even kindly offered to artfully grace a swan on top of my caffeinated brew! Now that’s service.
There were many delicious looking items on the menu, with most standing around the $20 mark. Not cheap, but I later learned is reasonably priced for the portions that come out. Let your eyeballs feast on this!
We ordered the handmade Marrickville burrata (served with brioche, olive crusts, heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mint), pumpkin tart (with buffalo curd, roasted onion and thyme) and the smashed potato side (complete with bone marrow, thyme and burnt onion). Can you believe that giant bowl of goodness is a side?! Holy potato! My friend was most impressed with her burrata dish, and my pumpkin tart was melt in your mouth. Hugged in gorgeously delicate pastry, the flavours were absolutely delicious. On top were sprigs of what I assume to be parmesan-crusted kale chips which were crispy and delightful. A side salad you would usually think not to be noteworthy, but this was not your average side salad. A lot of care went into this little pile, I could tell. It was made up of layers! Lettuce, zucchini, radish, squash, a sprinkling of pine nuts and a lovely coating of dressing. Not too much, not too little. Nothing tiffs me off more than a salad that’s drowning in dressing or if a few leaves of lettuce, chunks of onion and tomato are chucked haphazardly on the side of your plate, dry as a desert. But nope, the vegetables and dressing were in perfect balance. Good job, guys! In my eyes, that little bit of extra care went a long way.
We followed up our banquet with a pot of chai tea and lovely little dessert to share; the lemon meringue tart. Smooth, creamy, and brimming with lemony zesty zing. The meringue was the crispy kind, rather than the soft pillowy kind, but that didn’t bother me too much – it just made for a slightly more crumbly experience!
The damage at the end was around $30 each for a really filling, unique dining adventure. Not as bad as I was expecting! Overall, I was rather impressed with the whole experience. It is definitely a busy, moody, crowded place, so if that doesn’t appeal to your taste then I’d encourage you to perhaps try somewhere else. But, if you’re all about the hustle and bustle and are after a different-than-usual fooding experience, definitely give this place a go and see what you think!
Just book in advance. Did I mention that?