“Come and have lunch with me in the New Year,” said a contact, met professionally yet also morphing into a friend. “There is a new place at the Australian National University near the Sports Hall called The Coffee Grounds.”
I didn’t want to be a spoil sport and say that I can’t drink coffee. And as it turned out, drinking coffee is not compulsory at this leafy and casual outdoors/indoors restaurant. Being a hot day I ended up sitting under the trees drinking mineral water, but if I was a coffee drinker I could have enjoyed ONA coffee.
Burgers feature on The Coffee Grounds menu. My friend ordered the classic cheese burger ($12.90), while I ordered the chicken burger ($13.90). Both of us are conscious of our post-Christmas weight (in her case, ahead of a wedding, although she ought not to worry) and we were able to substitute salad for chips at no extra cost. We also asked for less aioli: staff obliged by putting the sauce in a glass container to the side.
My friend’s cheese burger was substantial with a generous slab of melted cheese over the beef patty. Like me she did not eat all the bread; it was a dinosaur of a roll, not a pretty brioche bun that seems to be all the range at the moment, more like a rustic European style white bread. It was unbuttered, perhaps because the chef had gleaned that we were dieting.
My chicken burger is on the menu as a spicy Peri Chicken burger with avocado, tomato and aioli. But I asked for it to be cooked sans spiciness. The resultant grilled chicken breast was perhaps more ordinary than a spicy Peri Chicken burger might have been, but it was still flavoursome. There is an art to grilling chicken breast so that it is well-cooked yet not tough and dry, and The Coffee Grounds succeeded. Actually they delivered pretty much everything we asked for – and quickly – and the whole process of ordering and delivering was seamless, allowing us to get on with eating and chatting about work and life and love.
The Coffee Grounds is not as new as my friend had thought. The café, formerly The Purple Pickle for 18 years, became The Coffee Grounds in 2014. It has a homely, healthy vibe that almost made me wish I was a university student again – that is a student without exams who could sit out under the trees and dine on burgers everyday.
What: The Coffee Grounds
Where: Building 19, ANU Sports and Recreation Centre
Opening hours: 8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday; 8.30am to 3.00pm Saturdays