When The Grounds first opened its menu didn’t include fries. Parents went nuts because they wanted fries for their kids, so chef Ben Bayly conceded and put them back on. All other offerings, however, are on par with the adult’s menu, with its focus on seasonal, locally sourced, ingredients – bolognese with organic beef; succulent Te Mana lamb; and slow-cooked glazed Bostock’s Organic Free Range chicken, to name a few key players.
As well as being restaurateur of The Grounds, Bayly is the executive chef at busy Italian restaurant Baduzzi, and has plans to open another Auckland eatery soon. But here at The Grounds, the philosophy around the food, service and ambience is ‘family’. It’s a place where kids are welcome, and where staff and patrons are considered family too. Bayly describes it as “the modern Cobb & Co.”. He has three children under 10 and knows good, family-friendly eating establishments are hard to find. “It’s about reaching over the table, having fun and sharing a meal together,” he says.
The Grounds is more than a family restaurant, though. It’s a sophisticated offering from a world-class team. Bayly brought with him more than 10 years of experience from his time as executive chef of fine-dining restaurant The Grove. At The Grounds, the cooking style has been simplified to suit the more relaxed space.
The Henderson restaurant is massive – 800sqm (Baduzzi is 240sqm including the kitchen) “so there is a lot of ground to cover”, says Bayly. Weekends are swamped with families. The kids get free entry to the adjacent adventure playground. It is also part of Whoa! Studios, which has a theatre space, live shows and red carpet entrance making it perfect for functions too.
Bayly and Woah Studios owner, David Sutherland, opened The Grounds on a handshake agreement. Now it’s a top dining experience destination. Bayly, Sutherland and The Grounds head chef Mike Shatura are proud of being in Henderson, and support growers and producers in “the west”. “We’re sophisticated Westies. This is our outpost, this is where the magic happens.”