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Alexandria area guide

Restaurants, bars, shops and events in Alexandria

Photograph: Daniel Boud

The suburb known for its trucks and warehouses has been invaded with great coffee haunts and cafés of late and is billed as a potential successor to Surry Hills and Redfern for the next "it" hood. Which means it's also been invaded by brunchers – so watch for queues. You'll find the city's savvier food-lovers gathered at the café-bakery-urban farm that is the Grounds of Alexandria. Or lining up for flaky pies at Bourke Street Bakery. Or snacking on pizza slabs at Cipro. Or shopping at Salt Meats Cheese. Or getting their coffee nerdery on at Don Campos. Or even sucking up some pasta at Café Sopra. But there are some old faves that have hung in as the gentrification's been taking hold – the Alexandria Hotel is still an excellent old pub, and a spiritual home for Swans fans everywhere.

Alexandria Highlights

Restaurants

The Grounds of Alexandria

First and foremost: this place is about coffee. There are two separate espresso stations – one for in-house and one for take-aways – which churn through huge bags of the beans that are roasted about 10 feet away in the Research Facility. The roastery sits against one wall and is encased in glass and looks not unlike the inner sanctum of Dr Evil’s lair. The person sitting at the computer controlling the two massive Probat roasters could be roasting coffee or may just be planning world domination – who's to say? They aren't setting out to reinvent the wheel here. The menu contains elements common to most Sydney cafés. It is the execution that puts this place ahead of the pack. The sandwiches are eye-catching – slow roasted, shredded lamb shoulder or American-style tuna and egg stand out – and the salads go a step beyond the Caesar/Greek/roast pumpkin trifecta. The service is also a cut above. They manage the crowds admirably and project an atmosphere of casual professionalism that makes the Grounds feel more like a restaurant than a café. When it comes to lunch, not all schnitzels were created equal. The Grounds’ herb-crusted chicken schnitzel is extremely popular and it’s not hard to see why. Rather than a single, flattened breast that covers the plate, at Grounds they leave the meat a little plump so that it stays tender. They fry them up to a dark bronze and then add a swirl of forest green salsa verde and a lemon wedge. The side of red cabbage 'slaw balances out the deep-

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Salt Meats Cheese

It seems like every time we turn our backs Alexandria adds another awesome venue to its growing portfolio of inner-city cool. The café/bakery/coffee roastery that is the Grounds of Alexandria was the first to pull the crowds, ably assisted by wholefoods canteen Bread and Circus and neighbouring coffee counter Don Campos. But the winner for this industrial-suburb-that-could must surely be Salt Meats Cheese, a massive imported-food warehouse specialising in crazy salts, cheeses, and, yes, you guessed it, meats. In the centre of the warehouse the exotic salt counter is selling one-way tickets to flavour town. Big black cloth sacks filled with spiced, smoked (and even hammed) salt are on display, but watch your fingers there, grubby. There’s a little shaker on hand for tasting. That means no double-dipping between bags lest you mess up the wild porcini salt with Bolivian rose. Perish the thought. Out the back of the enormous warehouse, you’ll find a cheese and salumi bar run by a man with a moustache so big it looks like it could get up and stroll away on its own. This cured-meat cabana features a bar made entirely of Himalayan rock salt and more hanging salumi than a Berlusconi house party – many of them made and cured by Sardinian chef Giovanni Pilu, of Pilu at Freshwater fame. The front bench is covered in huge wheels of cheese, the entire section of the warehouse cool and comforting. With the musty scent of cured pork and the lighter perfume of gruyere, earthy tru

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Restaurants

Sub-Station Cafe

A few years ago a number of decommissioned power stations were sold off around Sydney. As these squat brick buildings sat on modest sized blocks in some of the most sought after real estate in the city they quickly were transformed into itty bitty homes, snug offices and compact studios. But it was up to husband and wife team Orit and Ram Stern to turn one into a café to power the people with snacks, not volts. You’ll find Sub-Station in the food and drink friendly pocket of Alexandria that counts Cipro, Bread and Circus and Campos amongst its prized tenants. From the outside it looks just like any other civil serving power station, but inside it has had an extreme makeover. All the electric gadgetry has been replaced by a busy open kitchen and a sturdy window bar that is regularly occupied by the local police rescue officers, fortifying themselves for a day of saving lives with warm spinach and fetta pastry fingers. The space is tiny so a wall of succulents and herbs in the shaded courtyard, vintage newspaper advertisements for David Jones and Lowes and light fixtures fitted into old mattress springs is about all the decoration they have room for. Everything else is needed for cooking and sitting. If you like to assemble your breakfast like an edible meccano set get the Sub Station breakfast plate. It’s a feather-light take on a cooked breakfast with poached free-range eggs hemmed in by a little dish of ricotta, baby spinach, tomato wedges, thick-cut ham off the bon

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh - Alexandria

If Sophia Loren owes everything she has to spaghetti, it might be fair to say everything Barry McDonald has, he owes to Johnny Love Bite tomatoes and individual watermelons. The successful businessman has turned a fruit-and-veg business into a series of successful trattorias, each with an attached fruit and vegetorium. And now Alexandria joins the fray. This new restaurant and food store is set in the old Buckland Hotel – a fairly forgettable pub of blah repute with good bones on Mitchell Road. On the weekends, there are people lining up waiting for the joint to open. Mid-week, it’s a little quieter – mostly young families and couples on dates – and pretty easy on the nabbing-a-table front. There are still tables outside – a hangover from the Buckland days. In fact, if you didn't know better on first glance, you might still think it was a pub. To that end, the floor staff seem pretty chilled with someone just ordering a Campari and soda and some taleggio-filled arancini. Sadly, those cheesy deep-fried rice balls a little bready, but the idea is still very appealing. The walls are either adorned with black-and-white photos of Sophia Loren, or plastered chalk scrawls (a large hand helpfully points to the outdoor section; another, the pizzeria). Make sure to look up to see the specials on the restaurant’s support beams, lest you miss out on a cocktail of mandarin, gin and Aperol or the torta melanzana. If you’re a Sopra devotee, you’ve probably got your favourite dis

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Read more

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