I’ve changed jobs recently, which has meant I’ve had to come up with a whole new set of awesome places for lunch. The Grounds of the City is the CBD outpost of the Grounds of Alexandria and a nifty five minutes walk from my new office – perfect for a girly catch up over Friday lunch.
Set just inside The Galleries it doesn’t have the usual large glass windows and open frontage onto the street. Instead, it’s got windows either backed and filled with treasured or covered in curtains. There are a few tables outside near the takeaway coffee window under fairy lights to bring the atmosphere outside…
The entrance looks more like an entrance to an old school cinema were people with bookings are lining up to get their tables. Once the host finds your booking, you’re invited inside via the big door with brass handles.
Inside the restaurant is an illusion. You forget that you’re in the heart of the Sydney and instead, feel like your in a beautiful back alley restaurant in Paris or inside a glorious old train carriage. It marvellous.
You are highly likely to forget that you’re in the middle of the city. With the darkened windows, you’re relying on the beautiful 1920s style light fittings to see. There are booths in the middle with a beautiful polished wood bar on one side and tables in front of bookcases filled with interesting items on the other.
Now since I was running slightly late, my friend had sent me all the instagram shots of what we wanted for lunch so I really didn’t get too much say in what we ordered. To be honest, everything that was coming out the kitchen looked and smelt amazing so fine by me.
We ordered three dishes to share. You really could have had them as mains but we wanted to try everything (standard). First up, the Pecorino Spaghetti.
It was beautiful homemade, fresh spaghetti with asparagus, shitake mushrooms with a slow cooked 64 degree egg over the top and then covered in pecorino cheese. It smelt unreal arriving at the table and then we cut into the egg and started to mix it through the pasta with the mountain of cheese. It was sensational.
I was a little confused when it had shitake mushrooms. As an Asian ingredient, it’s not something I immediately jump to with spaghetti but it worked really well with the pecorino cheese and I could see why they wanted a stronger tasting mushroom to stand up to the cheese. The mixed yolk and cheese made a beautiful silky sauce over everything. The late season asparagus, a bit thicker and stockier than early season asparagus, held its own against the strong flavours as well. This was definitely a winner of a dish.
Next up, salt and chilli arrow squid with lemon and aioli.
The squid was perfectly cooked. Really crispy on the outside and soft, barely past translucent on the inside. The main problem was it was missing that chilli hit. You could taste the salt and there was a little bit of chilli on the squid itself but I really couldn’t taste it. There was a pile of what I thought was Szechuan pepper on the side of the plate but it didn’t give your mouth the tingling, numbing that I expect from Szechuan pepper. I liked it but it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Finally, we had a mixed bean, mint and feta salad to round out the meal.
It was a delicious mix of green beans and broad beans (two of my favourites!). The feta was lovely a salty and complemented the red wine vinegar in the dressing. Although it was “just salad” it was a really nice accompaniment to the dishes that we’d chosen – especially the Pecorino Spaghetti which was so rich. This just added that freshness that you needed as a break to all the cheese and egg yolk.
It felt like our lunch was over all too quickly and we were jettisoned back to the real world with a bang.
The Grounds of the City is so nice to come do during the day and feel like you’ve been transported to Paris. The food is amazing and what’s even better, it’s a popular restaurant that takes bookings. You can’t lose.
500 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000