Is The Grounds of Alexandria overrated, or just overmarketed? We finally made it, after months of discussion. No coffee is worth a 20 minute wait, actually. The donuts were good, but nothing we saw justified the crowds, prices, or wait.
It's amazing how excited city people get about chickens. Then we saw the piglet. Ok, it's amazing how excited we got over a piglet, although he looked a bit lonely. The "farm" doesn't appear to be in use, with the vegetables planted as landscaping, and not appearing to be harvested. The outdoor seating area is pleasant but the mayhem indoors is not, and the food didn't appear to be worth the wait.
Until we wandered around the corner to Salts, Meat, Cheese. The first and best thing to say about this warehouse market is that it's unpretentious. That's a big deal here in Sydney where there's more food hype than food. You can get some supergourmet things here, you can also get some lowbrow imports like Reece's Peanut Butter cups. There are expensive things and cheap things, and enough to look at and explore. Unlike the overpriced Gourmet Grocer in Balmain, prices are clearly marked.
Best of all, there's a happening in the far corner. At first it seems like a bar, with people waiting for attention. Then you realize it's 4 hot boys and a lot of meat. When it was our turn we announced our interest in pairing a cheese and ham for crepes. The relaxed and charming guy who helped us suggested asiago, but when we showed our interest in something else, went right off to get us a sample, and let us try several different proscuittos with it. When we ran out of cheese for the pairing, he got us more. We spent less than we expected, and had a great time. That's the kind of experience that will bring us back.
This market does not offer the level of cheese available at Formaggi Ocello, but the prices are about half. If you want good cheese to cook with, or for a big party, this market would be great. They also have a huge selection of imported dry pastas without jacking up the price like Crown Street Grocer does (and without the impossible wait for someone to ring you up and take your money).
They specialize in house-flavored salts, which are fun to smell and buy and eat.