Yes, it is I, the legendary Bismarck. The one rumoured to have words so potent as to render the trolls of the net silent. And so today we break two long held traditions of our house: first that we never go to the Grounds of Alexandria and second that I don’t do blog posts. Similar reasons really – there’s always too many people at the Grounds, and my legions of potential blog fans would break the internet if I ever unleashed a post. But today, a new day dawned: We braved the Grounds thinking the interest may have dwindled by now, and of course I’m writing this post having formed the view that the internet is now strong enough to cope.
Having made our way to the general vicinity of the Grounds, our first indication that the hype still abounds was the sign directing us to the second overflow car park for Grounds patrons. Following a circuitous route through the renovated back alleys of old industrial Sydney, we eventually were able to park our vehicle and make our way onto the estate proper. The first impression the Grounds gives is that of an Instagram wonderland, with more kitsch and cliché than you can poke a stick at. It really is a beautiful place to be, or more accurately spaces, with seemingly a new neighbourhood awaiting you on each turn of a corner. This fact though, meant tragedy for us unsuspecting newbs. Having arrived both hungry and decaffeinated, we were like pinballs bouncing through a refurbished late 1970’s vintage Bally Pinball machine – the Kiss special edition (limited release).
It’s harsh to say we ended up in the gutter, but we certainly missed the Jackpot.
As we bounced our way through the various themed backgrounds, our eyes full of wonder, we eventually found our way to a long welcoming bench that was in a kind of semi greenhouse. There was a bit of rain about, but with the glass roof and the outdoor heaters, it looked like the spot for us. With a gang of 6, we find that having a bit of a buffer zone between us and the other guests aids in digestion. There was a big sign indicating that coffee was on offer and this is where I was directed. First to the bar to make the order, make the payment – tap of the nose, wink of the eye, pick up your coffee round the corner by the fire. The fire turned out to be gently smoking hickory logs, installed in a brickwork cauldron pit. And just as I started contemplating the pleasing surrounds (in truth thinking I was settling in for a long moment of self reflection) the coffee was ready, willing and very drinkable.
Renee had returned from the menu log to advise that we had only 4 choices: yogurt and muesli cup, B&E roll, kale and crap salad, something else that didn’t appeal. The kids all went with the muesli (really??) and the adults, the B&E roll. The muesli was presentable and quite tasty, where I would describe the B&E roll as competent. If presented this at the monthly safety toolbox BBQ at work, you’d say it was the best thing on the planet, but being presented this at the much vaunted Grounds* (*say this with a hallowed shimmer in your voice), fell a little short of the mark. I expressed a view that with all of these cashed up hipsters around, they’d really sold themselves short with the menu. I mean, the menu was simple, but also very reasonably priced, therefore allowing the captive patrons to leave several lobsters in their wallets that were quite willing to give up their lives for the cause of culinary exploration.
It was around at this point in the meal, when the caffeine and carbs started to take effect that we were able to look around and see with a bit more clarity. “What are all of those people lining up for?” I enquired, at which point we discovered that we had never actually made it to the grand centrepiece of the Grounds, only to the satellite farm kitchen, serving the desperate wanderers who were unable or unwilling to wait for the main game. And as it turns out, also serving those embroiled in some sort of fugue state, rendering normally highly functioning people to act with the level of intellectual insight of some of the higher order lichens.
Ah well, what to do now, but wander among the urban ruralites and consider with an element of distaste, how the Grounds presented a polished view of agriculture that was misleading. There were free range chooks, a content sheep, a bored goat and a very bored pig. All of the animals were clean and healthy, but you couldn’t help but feel for them. Certainly the goat looked like it was in want of a job, or at least some mischief. And the poor pig just wanted to lie down on some mud or other soft thing, but could only shuffle around the concrete sniffing at food scraps that it clearly didn’t need. Sheep are dumb, so it didn’t care either way. At least the chooks were happy jostling over the right to eat the best bits of pig poo on offer. This was the life of pets, rather than as honest farm animals. Probably a stretch to describe the centuries grown partnership between man and beast, as providing a noble vocation for the animals, in the process uplifting them to a higher order through their engagement with us – I mean after all, we still eat them. However based on most of the farm animals I’ve seen, there is clearly a higher level of purpose and confidence compared to these pampered city pets. Perhaps providing context to the saying – It’s not whether you live or die, but whether you’ve lived a lie. Perhaps not, but I digress.
So in all, if you’re Alice of Instragram, the Grounds will be your Wonderland. You will be able to get good coffee, a tasty snack and there are rumours of more substantial offerings, but you’ll need to wait out the line to find that out. Moving quickly past this obviously glaring omission from our experience, I was nevertheless left with the overriding sensation that in the attempt to capture the hearts and minds of inner Sydney (done better than any other place I’ve seen), that the food had become second priority and I’m afraid that is akin to a criminal act in this house. They’ve built a great business here and my head came away with a sincere respect for their model, but my heart wasn’t convinced. More importantly my stomach, now deprived of a breakfast opportunity, bears a grudge and doesn’t know whether to blame my head or the Grounds. My head maintains it’s the Grounds’ fault.