Liminal cafe review

Curving couches and soft leather banquettes break up the long space.
Curving couches and soft leather banquettes break up the long space. Photo: Jason South

161 Collins St Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-6pm
Features Licensed, Vegetarian friendly, Business lunch, Food shop

And for their next trick, the trio behind Melbourne's greatest cafe hits including Higher Ground, Kettle Black and Top Paddock, have done something… almost completely different. A cafe, produce store and wine shop in the foyer of a city office block might sound surprisingly ho-hum from the group that converted an electricity substation into a coffee palace with evergreen queues out the front. But Liminal shows how the formula can be worked into a lanyard-heavy environment without losing its cred.

Space

In the Collins Street heartland (listen closely and you can hear the rustle of million-dollar bonuses), the Art Deco T&G building does impressive foyer. Through the revolving door and over the clackety marble floor to the back, Liminal talks to the era with curving couches in jewelled shades of green, white marble tables, soft leather banquettes and brass detailing, then adds a pulse with a broad open kitchen. Designers The Stella Collective have managed to break up the open space with various nooks, plus a dedicated area for takeaway coffees.

Mapo tofu and noodle bun with fried noodles and spring onion.
Mapo tofu and noodle bun with fried noodles and spring onion. Photo: Jason South

Food

Their previous outings made the scientific breakthrough of locating restaurant DNA in the cafe genome, and the experiment continues in the confident hands of executive chef Martin Webster. Hit the toasty slab of boudin noir with caramel brown sauce and fried egg, a fat ricotta hotcake like a delicious Sealy mattress or a socialite-thin omelette (think of it more as an egg crepe) wrapped around chunks of prawn and charry cauliflower livened up with a squeeze of lemon.

The lunch menu puts the spotlight on the catholic delights of the hot roll, with early signs showing the rotisserie chicken filling (served with a jug of gravy on the side) going head-to-head with the more outre designs of the ma po tofu. Never fear, the Zeally Bay bread stands up to the Sichuan-spicy sauce crunched up with fried noodles and spring onion. Do you eat it with cutlery or fingers? Your choice, but we kindly suggest this is not the dish of choice when meeting with Hilary from HR.

Ricotta hotcake with berries and whipped cream.
Ricotta hotcake with berries and whipped cream. Photo: Jason South

Coffee

The beans from Square One Coffee Roasters, a spin-off of the Liminal owners' Mulberry Group, make a caffe latte of supreme loveliness. Nutty, silky and sweet, it ruthlessly corrupted my previously iron-clad one-coffee-only rule. Also get it as a filter or a cold brew.

Drinks

Liminal's milk-based coffees are nutty, silky and sweet.
Liminal's milk-based coffees are nutty, silky and sweet. Photo: Jason South

Also a wine shop, there are around 200 labels waiting to be taken to that mergers and acquisitions celebration, while the in-house list goes short and sharp with the likes of Venetian pinot grigio and Yarra Valley pinot noir. Also see: a Bloody Mary jazzed up with fermented chilli and toasted rosemary-infused vodka.

Loving The Gatsby-esque luxe hotel foyer ambience.

Not getting The workers heading to the elevators clutching their takeaway coffees from outside. Big mistake, guys.

Vegan factor There's a solid vegan-friendly game, from breakfasts of brown rice pudding with banana jam, matcha and hazelnuts to grain-heavy lunchtime salads delivering all your daily nutritional requirements.

Overheard "I'll FaceTime you after lunch."

Caffe latte $4

https://www.liminalmelbourne.com/