The Three Feed – The Grounds Of Alexandria

The Grounds Of Alexandria
7a/2 Huntley St, Alexandria
Ph: 02 9699 2225

Angie Cowen (wellness woman) Craig New (hungry, as usual) and Vanessa Gray (Vanessa Megan head wonder genius) came together on a chilly Wednesday morning for some pre-winter lovin’. This is their story.

By Craig New

Vanessa & AngieI have an aunt who lives in Pasadena, and the thing I remember most about visiting her there for the first time when I was eight is Disneyland. It was a sensory overload, I almost passed out with giddiness when I first walked through the pearly gates. There were oversized fuzzy cartoon characters, lips frozen in grinning rictuses and giant foam gloves waving perpetually; the sounds of screaming from rollercoasters mingled with that demented carnival music that is only found at theme parks; the illustrated map that opened like a broadsheet newspaper to guide me through the myriad delights the park had to offer. If it sounds malevolent and twisted, then I guess you understand what kind of kid I was. This was paradise.

One place I remember clearly was Adventureland, not because it had better rides or attractions (I don’t think it did), but the ambience of the place was mesmerising. Everything seemed made of wooden logs and I kept expecting to see a duel in the middle of the street. There were restaurants everywhere, large open places overgrown with bushes and trees and filled with the symphony of conversation. Walking into The Grounds brought all of this rushing back to me.

Kevin BaconTo get in, we wandered through an expanse of garden that was equal parts paving and greenery. There was the obligatory wishing well, and various configurations of tables set up in beautiful ways (such as the stunning little glasshouse that could almost be waiting for a princess party of some description). Angie grabbed my arm and said, very firmly, “This is where we’re getting married.” No pressure or anything. We detoured from the path inside to visit their outdoor gardens which are home to not only luscious greens and vegetables, but a flock of chickens and a pig named Kevin (if you don’t get the joke you need to watch more films). The sign asks not to feed him, but I couldn’t resist offering him a blade of green as he climbed up the fence, flopped his little hooves over the top and snuffled into my hand.

Inside, the joint was pumping. It was 9am on a Wednesday morning but felt like 10am on a Saturday. The seating wrapped around a counter that sat comfortably in the middle, a glass walled room on the far side that showcased a master coffee grinder performing his duties for observation like a human-sized Oompa Loompa in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. You could also see directly into the kitchen, where an entire ensemble cast were making bread from scratch and doing interesting things with frypans. It was loud and fun and relaxed, just like Disneyland.
Vanessa frequents this place a lot, which we could tell not just from her assured menu recommendations but from the senior staff who came up to say hello. It makes sense that she feels at home here; she’s a beautiful woman and The Grounds is a magnet for beautiful people. Angie’s theory is that good food makes people beautiful, my theory is oh my god, check out her legs.

Our waiter was overflowing with helpfulness and charm and good humour, and answered all of Angie’s questions with a laugh and expertise. What we didn’t know he promptly found out. The stats in short: Maldon sea salt, scrambled eggs cooked in their home made ghee (which made Angie squeal like Kevin the pig), ham is sourced from organic farms in the Hunter region and not from Kevin, who we were assured was too old to be carved up for sandwiches. (At this point Vanessa, who grew up on a pig farm, weighed in to inform all of us, waiter included, that you get pork from pigs at 16 weeks, bacon from pigs at 22 weeks, and sausages from pigs ready for the nursing home – I guess Kevin’s not out of the woods just yet.) They source some of their greens from the garden, but as they get so many people through the door they have to supplement a great deal from local, sometimes organic suppliers.

Smoothie or juice?So onto breakfast. We started with a green juice and a smoothie made on homemade yoghurt, LSA mix, banana and honey (both $8). I once saw a documentary about great white sharks, and it’s said that if they have to chase their dinner seals for too long, they’ll stop because the energy spent in running them down won’t equal the energy they’ll get from eating them. I felt a little like those sharks, sucking down the thick as glue – but insanely delicious – smoothie. It wasn’t until I finished, my cheeks dimpled in with exertion, that I realised I could have just used a spoon.
Foodwise, we ordered the Health Plate (a gluten free granola, $21) on Vanessa’s insistence, Truffle Scrambled Eggs on sourdough ($16) and Smoked Ham Hock with poached eggs ($18), with sides of spinach and homemade labne with pine nuts ($4) and a kind of avocado tomato salsa with coriander ($3.50). I abstained from the ham, naturally, but Angie and Vanessa thought the ham was “nice”. That was it, which in my experience means a little underwhelming. They both thought it could have used some olive oil or lemon zest to give it a bit of an accent. But I’ve got to say they finished off the meat (leaving the sourdough and smooshed peas).

GranolaThe Truffle Scrambled Eggs were good, especially with the avocado salsa messed in and smeared across the sourdough. The best part about this dish was the mushroom, a big, fat, wide fungi that worked well with the leak.

The highlight of the meal was, surprisingly for me, the Healthy Plate. The granola was mindblowing. Angie said it was like a healthy version of cereal she remembers eating as a kid, which actually makes it sound a lot worse than it was. It was made all the more special by the homemade yoghurt, a spectacular lemon-tinged dish that I would have licked off the floor had I dropped any.

In the middle of all this, as both Angie and Vanessa spent most of their time Facebooking and Instagramming the meal (as I took the opportunity to eat as much of the food as I could), Angie interviewed Vanessa briefly about how she made the move from acting (she has starred in many television shows and films) to beauty products. I was more interested in how she made the move from pig farming to acting, but that didn’t come up.

“It wasn’t really a decision,” Vanessa said. “My best friend passed away and I got into hypnosis, then started to learn the basics of making creams.” [Side note, this was all said in little interrupted bursts between people coming to the table and eating, so I’m kinda filling the gaps – sorry Vanessa if I misquote you!]

Breakfast“I had such a drive to help people. I just started doing it and it took off.” Now Vanessa spends her time creating ever more beautiful smelling and skin-healing products that are a lot like the perfumed version of cooking when you get down to it. She has five staff and stockists around the country and life is basically sweet as an Essential Blend Spray.

But by now we were on to dessert. Well, Angie and I were. Vanessa had to leave early on urgent hand cream business, so we shared a gluten free cake and a mixed berry tart ($7 each). The cake was a little dry and nothing special but the tart was fantastic. It was filled with a chocolate custard, and although I believed until this point that I didn’t like custard, our friendly waiter insisted I eat it. He was right. There was a faint orange flavour hiding underneath, and the berries set it off beautifully. I’ve gotta say, I could have dived face first into their entire dessert cabinet if I’d been given the chance.

Overall, we felt very full after the meal – even me. I didn’t even eat lunch, which is almost unheard of. It was weird that the vibe and atmosphere came close to overtaking the food, but all in all we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will definitely be back again soon. Perhaps to get married.


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