The Potting Shed is the new establishment by The Grounds of Alexandria. Located only a few footsteps away from the more well-known venue, it’s a lushly styled bookend to the popular cafe – with a service that also stretches into dinnertime. Until recently, it had only been open for events. Luckily, you no longer need to have walked down the aisle or thrown a bouquet to dine at The Potting Shed.
Like at The Grounds, you don’t need to spend much time prospecting for a pretty spot to sit near – every flourishing planter, bloom-filled pot and fragrant spill-over of greenery has been well-placed to max out how beautiful this site is. Just as The Potting Shed’s design – by Vince Alafaci and Caroline Choker of Acme&Co – draws on the appeal and colour of thriving gardens, the menu casts attention on the snap, crunch and rustic elegance of freshly unearthed produce.
The food is overseen by head chef Kahlil Rogers-Perazzo (Tetsuya’s, Quay, Pilu), and covers appetites of all sizes: from the loose commitment of share platters and sides to heartier salads/grains and mains. Some items draw on earthy simplicity – like Jacket-Roasted Sweet Potato with Rock Salt and Crispy Shallots ($9) – while others derail your expectations. The Black Barley salad ($18) flips your idea that this is all saintly, flavour-restrained territory; it’s all crackly textures and spiking sugar levels, thanks to the crunch of candied walnuts, cranberries, apple slices, pistachio and spinach pesto, plus sugar snap peas. It’s so unexpectedly sweet, it’s a salad that feels like an undercover dessert.
Parcels of Pansotti ($19) prove to be a smart delivery system of goat’s cheese: the stuffed pasta should come with a declaration form that they are delicious – especially when rounded out with sweet and rich flourishes of marjoram burnt butter, roasted carrot, sweet wine, walnut sauce, and perky garnishes.
Pastured-fed Angus Eye Fillet ($26) is just straight-up hearty and satisfying; Will cleaned out his serving platter of steak, zingy horseradish butter and garlicky greens with record speed. (You can also switch things up and get a hit of bottarga, chips or salad to accompany this main.)
Like the printed menu – which is adorned with a physical trowel – the cocktail list digs right into The Potting Shed’s well-cultivated theme; you can get a tequila-and-mezcal-spiked Smoking Shovel ($16), bubbly Gardener’s Wife ($15), or the ‘power shandy’ that is the Porch Crawler ($14); or try the pun-free selection of ciders, beers and wine. The juices can appear with a sprig of mint from the garden, though (punchline-free).
Dessert is hard to overlook and we noticed that plenty of people were ordering the Mango & Pineapple Sundae ($12). It’s served with a delightful scoop of salted caramel ice-cream, scattering of candied nuts and more-ish fragments of banana sponge; the dehydrated pineapple frills add a pretty pinwheel-like flourish, while the fruit chunks add an intensely tart note to this otherwise all-sweet affair. White Chocolate Parfait, Banana Tarte Tatin and Cherry & Hazelnut Bombolini are other ways to cap off your meal here.
The Potting Shed is a one-of-a-kind place – casual and accessible, but elegant and lushly styled to the max that it also feels like a not-so-average outing; and priced at a point that makes it easier to frequent than a special-occasion venue. It draws on the thriving appeal of plants and blooms, but there’s nothing garden variety about it.
The Potting Shed at The Grounds, 4143 Bourke Road, Alexandria NSW (02) 9699 2225. Follow The Potting Shed at The Grounds on Facebook.