Alexandria's most popular petting zoo and coffee roaster continues to expand, this time with a shiny new restaurant and bar. The Potting Shed is slotted midway between The Grounds gardens and neighbouring business Salt Meats Cheese. Although there's still a few Dora the Explorer backpacks about, this is very much The Grounds for adults.
During the day frazzled parents take a load off with a chilled grenache while the tykes hang out with Kevin Bacon, The Grounds' much-loved pig. Later in the evening (awesomely, it trades until late), tunes from the Black Keys and the National blare over the speakers and upwardly mobile Sydneysiders pack the outdoor space to its hilt. A cocktail list with creations such as the Smoking Shovel – young tequila and mezcal with spiced orange, carrot and capsicum juice – has enough variety to wet the whistle for most tastes.
The kitchen is its own entity, separate to The Grounds Cafe. Anyone who's had to navigate the army of strollers at The Grounds on a weekend will know that a wait for a table is nigh inevitable. The Potting Shed reduces that wait and gives diners two options for a bite of lunch.
The food is expectedly produce-driven and full of the same farmhouse flavours abundant in the cafe. Things are just a tad more booze-friendly with a number of designed-to-share plates: think steamed black mussels accompanied by a tomato sofrito and chorizo; kurobuta pork sliders on charcoal brioche with kimchi and red-eye mayo, and a grilled half Holmbrae chicken with fenugreek, coriander, walnuts, pomegranate, cucumber, radish and grains.
A winner in the salad stakes is a mix of black barley, thick-cut apple, sugar snap peas, celery heart, parsley, cranberries and candied walnuts – the latter providing a nice toffee-apple texture. Fried squid with a jumble of coriander and chilli makes for a great beer drinking partner, particularly when the tap-beer is a cold glass of Reschs.
As with the rest of The Grounds, plants, flowers and wooden boxes are in abundance. Late in the day with a setting sun that dances from tree to tree it's really quite a special spot. My advice is to grab a table early with a few mates and spend the afternoon doing not much at all but ordering charcuterie, cheese and growlers of Hillbilly cider.
The Potting Shed at The Grounds of Alexandria, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria, 9699 2225
Prices: share plates and mains $10-$26, desserts $12; vegetarian friendly: yes