I certainly took a huge risk choosing The Grounds of Alexandria as the destination of my 21st birthday, based only on reputation - I had never set foot in there before the day of the party. Thankfully, that was a risk that paid off. Gorgeous cake made by the incredible Sherrie.
The Grounds helpfully provides a PDF with all information about their venues, set menus and pricing so I'd recommend you email them about your event first! A huge thank you to Anthony, the event planner who took care of my email request and booking - I think we exchanged dozens of emails as he patiently answered all of my questions and provided the resources. It did take a few days for each reply but he was generally very understanding.
For a party of about 35 people, The Patio space I booked was perfect in terms of size, overlooking the Garden and beside the small farm featuring Kevin Bacon, the pig. There is a minimum spend of $1000 to book out the space.
As an outdoors space, it was definitely a little scary, given the Saturday forecast of rain and tops of 17C. However, the patio was fully covered so everything stayed dry and huge outdoor heaters actually made things very warm. It was spacious enough so everyone could sit down and relax but also big enough to host some party games - even to play limbo, skipping and balloon volleyball once we moved the tables out of the way.
The minus was that we could not book a projector system (since you wouldn't be able to see it) or speakers. My parents decided to bring a small TV from home that we were able to conveniently plug into the hidden powerpoints in the space.
The only problem was that the entrance to the patio was only blocked off by a chair (with a sign) - that didn't seem to stop random customers from wandering in at odd points (somehow ignoring all the balloons, decorations and crowds of standing guests) and others from approaching the open catering table, with a speculative glint in their eyes. But hey - I'd walk closer too.
Parking was thankfully still available when we arrived at around 10AM to set-up (the place was already bustling) but friends ran into difficulty later on. We were given an entire timeframe from 10AM - 4PM, including set-up and pack-up, which is enough but even one reserved parking space would have reduced our anxiety to get there so early.
The decor at The Grounds has an eclectic, rustic style and it was exactly why I loved it. This extended from the slightly worn wooden tables to the metal serving platters to stone-like plates to the beautiful copper-coloured knives and forks. They had good quality brown serviettes (the million-ply thick kind). Even the spoons and takeaway containers were all great quality and bio-friendly. The old brick wall and hanging leaves in the background made for great photo backdrops.
The catering was amazing but there was just one problem: quantity.
I ordered a customised Garden Brunch catering menu which included cafe-style granola, baked goods, smashed avocado toast, quiches and smoked salmon bagels. The pastry for the quiche was lovely and shortbread-like and the avocado seasoned well by the cheese. The yoghurt for the granola was slightly thicker than expected but made it even more filling.
All the food was presented beautifully and were delicious, wholesome, generous and arrived promptly (though it was a huge pity that, despite all the leftovers, I didn't end up eating a single smoked salmon bagel?? I think my guests took all the boxes containing them)
Catering is calculated per person. I have to admit it's not particularly cheap, hence I had to cut back on guest numbers to stay within my budget. However, it became abundantly clear, once the food began arriving, that I had overestimated the amountwe would need.
Every component was meal-sized (at least to an Asian girl...of which there were many). At the end, we looked like we still had another party to cater for. In retrospect, I could have easily fed 10 or 15 more people with the catering.
We had two waitstaff - Martina who was our main organiser for the day and Imran, who stayed at The Patio with us the entire time to make sure everything was running smoothly. They were both extremely helpful, polite and unobtrusive. They also organised a literal stack of bio-friendly takeaway boxes so we could deal with the food - I think every guest walked away with at least a box.
I definitely made the right decision, hosting my party at The Grounds and heartily recommend it - with the caveat that maybe you want to ask about catering size before making the booking.
I, for one, can't want to go back for more.