Walking into The Grounds of the City feels like a throwback to the heyday of cafe society in a beautiful mash-up of art deco and art nouveau influences. Theatrical yet relaxed, glamorous yet humble, the space embodies timeless design and yesteryear charm.
The project, which was a collaboration between creative head Ramzey Choker, stylist Therese Moussa and Acme & Co owners Caroline Choker and Vince Alafaci, is a diversion from the typical client/designer relationship and has played a crucial role in the success of The Grounds. “There is total transparency between us and everyone understands the objective,” explains Ramzey. “Caroline is my sister, Vince is her husband and Therese used to work with Caroline.”
Acting as a grown-up version of its partner restaurant in Alexandria, the aptly named city space caters to the corporate community. While it is visually different from the more rustic Alexandria site it still provides the same sensory elements: beauty, ambience and a place for social interaction. The team’s latest venture finds a home in The Galeries building, formerly a department store first called Murdochs and later known as Waltons, with the interior design paying homage to the site’s 1920s legacy.
“When we were developing the concept for the space we went back to the Waltons building in terms of what was here previously to try to tap into the history of the era.” Staying true to this theme with a focus on fine detail was the driving force behind the design. “Nowadays everything is so polished and minimal, everyone uses sharp edges,” says Ramzey, who believes that fine detail is lacking in modern day cafes.
Everything in the space is bespoke – the coffee equipment was custom built overseas, the fridge doors were designed in a manner that replicates art deco style, années folles apothecary bottles line the back wall filled with coffee beans sourced from various farms around the world, and customised plateware has been designed specifically for selected menu offerings.