UPDATE: OCTOBER 26, 2017 — After opening in July this year, The Grounds of the City will this weekend extend its hours into the evening for nighttime service. The venue will remain open till late for dinner and drinks Tuesday right through to Sunday. Best leave work on-time though — otherwise you might face a hefty wait to get in.
Sydney's most insanely Insta-famous café The Grounds of Alexandria has finally swung open the antique doors of its new sister venue inside The Galeries on George Street. This time around there's no luscious garden, no Kevin Bacon or Margoat Robbie. Instead, get ready for a 1920s dining experience so elaborate, so completely over-the-top that you'll swear you've walked onto the set of The Great Gatsby.
Setting a new and impossibly high standard for themed dining in Sydney, The Grounds of the City has created a lavish 1920s coffeehouse complete with shoe shines, a tea lady and an impressive array of vintage glassware, art, crockery, books and silverware. It's essentially one big dine-in antiques store.
As to be expected, the new venue is crazy busy at the moment, so a love of lines is essential should you choose to come on a weekend. However, despite the venue operating at maximum capacity pretty much all day every day, the staff appear to have no trouble keeping up and the operation runs like a well-oiled Singer sewing machine.
Currently serving breakfast and lunch with dinner soon to follow, the food menu takes inspiration from the '20s and brings it up-to-date with contemporary ingredients and technique. Steak and eggs are given a new lease on life by way of a punchy chimichurri sauce and an expertly-cooked medium-rare fillet ($25), while fluffy homemade crumpets make the perfect base for a serve of poached eggs with citrus-cured ocean trout and a roasty pine nut hollandaise ($19). It's the bee's knees of the breakfast menu.
The lunch menu follows the same vein with modern versions of old-hat classics, including Maine lobster with seaweed butter ($46) and lamb chops with buttered zucchini and chervil yoghurt ($28). Otherwise, make-your-own meat and three veg. Choose from rump cap ($34), rib eye ($42) or tenderloin ($36) and stock up on the knock-out sides, which include smashed potato with burnt onion and bone marrow ($10), minted heirloom tomatoes ($11) and cauliflower and almond mac 'n' cheese ($12).
Good coffee is a non-negotiable in the CBD and The Grounds of the City doesn't disappoint. There's a dedicated barista's bar with a coffee sommelier (yes, really) as well as batch brews, cold brews, espresso, filter coffee and a killer affogato made with tiramisu ice-cream and popping candy. Those who prefer tea can order a bottomless cup ($8). Just signal the tea lady and she tootles over.
Sadly there's not quite enough time to really savour the experience of The Grounds of the City, with tables being turned over every hour and a half. If you find your time cut short, head to the takeaway counter at the back for puffy cream cakes, fruit tarts and eclairs to-go. It's at least a little piece of The Grounds to take home with you.