UPDATE: Grounds Keeper Cafe closed down at Parramatta Park in early May 2019.
They say good things come to those who wait. And this is certainly the case with the new The Grounds Keeper Cafe in Parramatta Park. After 2.5 years of working on the requirements needed to establish a café in a heritage-listed location, the team behind the Ryde and Blacktown Grounds Keeper Cafes have served up another winner. And they are open 7 days a week at this location!
Food and Drink
The Grounds Keeper Cafe has stayed true to its origins. The menu is identical in all three locations. It features a full and interesting breakfast and lunch menu with a Middle Eastern twist. It’s evident they’re passionate about what they do. And there’s no hiding any shortcuts when you have an open kitchen visible to your customers.
Their sweet selection makes it almost impossible to choose. I tried the spiced carrot cake, which was as pretty as it was delicious. Juicy sultanas, a thick layer of frosting, and a blend of spices that added a hint of “Christmas cake”. Thankfully the serving was extremely generous, so after Mr 3 devoured almost half, there was still plenty left for Mama (phew!). Other options in the cabinet on the day of my visit included a Persian pavlova and Moroccan orange cake (both gluten free), brownies, rocky road and brightly iced cupcakes with a hint of edible glitter. The selections will change with the seasons.
A round of applause for the “Little Grounds Keeper” child-friendly options on the menu. I fully support a place that acknowledges, although they may be small, little people still appreciate real food. With lunch options like Wagyu cheese burger, penne napolitana, grilled chicken tenderloins, and kafta skewers, they’re walking the talk when they claim they won’t serve up anything they wouldn’t feed their own family. The kid’s breakfast options are also worth a look, with nothing over $10.
Location and Experience
I’ll put it out there right now. Whilst the café is near a playground (100m walk to Pavilion Flat Playground), it’s not visible from the cafe. So it’s a different experience from the Ryde and Blacktown locations, where the cafe is right in there with the playground. At Parramatta, it’s not as simple as watching your little people play while you sip your cappuccino and catch up with friends.
From a parents perspective, this café will be more appreciated by those who have children who are willing to sit and enjoy the café experience, with the promise of a play afterwards. Or for the pram-pushing mother’s groups, who use the café as a pit stop on their brisk morning walk. The café has plenty of space for prams in the outside courtyard, and the onsite toilet has baby change facilities. Plus, the staff are very welcoming of families in general.
I can see The Grounds Keeper Cafe will also be popular with Parramatta CBD office workers mid-week (either to dine-in or grab a sandwich/ wrap as a quick takeaway bite). And with MAMILs on weekends as they finish several laps of the circuit.
One of the things I love about living in Parramatta is how historic buildings are given a new lease of life and reinvented to be enjoyed as part of a modern city. When I first heard a café was going in near the tudor-style gatehouse, I assumed it would just be tacked onto the side. I didn’t realise until our visit that they’ve regenerated the entire building.
The outside area captures the best of its park location. There are big market umbrellas shading a courtyard of sandstone pavers that feel in keeping with the colonial heritage of the space. Despite the hum of nearby traffic, the outlook is leafy and green. Importantly, it’s almost fully fenced so is a safe space for you to relax in with your little people.
The old gatehouse itself has been converted for indoor dining featuring a couple of small cosy rooms perfect to get out of the weather or to enjoy a little more privacy. Upstairs is a function space. It has big windows overlooking the streetscape on one side and the park on the other, perfect for a birthday party, naming day or work event. The indoor space is a little tight and unfortunately not suitable for those with mobility issues (or big prams).
The nearby Pavilion Flat Playground is only about 50m from The Grounds Keeper Cafe. You will find swings, climbing ropes and spring rockers, as well as a boat-themed structure for imaginative play. There’s also a large grassed area perfect for kicking a ball around.
For a little bit of history, and to practise your balancing skills, take a look at the convict hut beams nearby. While there, read about Governor Phillip’s vision for an mile-long avenue to rival the grandeur of London’s Pall Mall.
The bigger Domain Creek playground is on the Westmead side of Parramatta Park opposite the Queens Road Gatehouse. It’s a 1-1.5km walk from the cafe to the playground (one way) if you walk in a clockwise direction.
At all three locations, The Grounds Keeper Cafe is a responsible cafe. This means they offer customers a $0.50 discount on any takeaway beverage if you bring your own reusable cup. And extends from coffees to kids milkshakes.
Finding The Grounds Keeper Cafe
The Grounds Keeper Cafe is located just inside Parramatta Park, in the George Street Gatehouse on the corner of George and O’Connell Streets in Parramatta. This entrance is for pedestrians only.
Parking restrictions can be an issue within Parramatta Park. Spots nearest to The Grounds Keeper Cafe are one hour only during the week. This of course limits the time you’ll have to enjoy your visit. You’ll need to keep an eye on the time or face the wrath of the rangers. To get the most out of your weekday visit, I’d suggest finding a two hour spot as you enter Parramatta Park at the Macquarie Street entrance near Gatehouse Tea Rooms and walk approximately 500m to the café. Or for those with more stamina, you can park near the Domain Street Playground on the Westmead side of Parramatta Park and enjoy this playground, a walk of the park’s 3.2km circuit, and the cafe all in one visit.
On weekends, the parking spots nearest The Grounds Keeper Cafe extend to three hours. This makes a leisurely café and park visit more achievable. Alternatively, visit the Parramatta Park website for help with planning your visit using public transport.