We asked for it, and so here it is: a Melbourne cafe changing up the tried-and-tested formula. Although Nathan Toleman of The Mulberry Group (Higher Ground, The Kettle Black, Top Paddock, soon-to-open Beach House, Geelong) doesn’t see it as a cafe.
“It’s kind of a bit of a mix between a cafe, a produce store, a wine shop, a gallery and event space,” Toleman says.
He compares the new spot to upscale US grocery chain Dean & DeLuca, but amped up. At Liminal, diners will be able to stop in for a coffee or glass of wine; pick up charcuterie, cheese and rotisserie meats; host meetings and events; and attend workshops in the demonstration kitchen.
“We’d love to be a bit more adventurous,” Toleman says. “We thought, ‘Well, if we’re going to do it, let’s not just do it in the same mould – let’s try and break the mould a little bit.’”
The Mulberry Group is known for dramatic transformations – The Kettle Black is in an old Victorian terrace, Higher Ground a former power station, and Beach House is under construction in a heritage-listed, 1930s beachside property. Liminal’s address at 161 Collins Street (which also houses cult croissanterie Lune) means the team is dealing with something they’re not so used to – moving into a shiny new space.
“It’s at the base of a beautiful new refurbished office building. It’s a pretty exciting move for us; I guess we’ve never really been traditionally attracted to foyer cafes,” Toleman says. “There’s a beautiful floorplan that’s already there, [it’s] open and beautiful … [and] just a blank canvas.”
The design of the 400-square-metre space – roughly the size of Higher Ground – is by The Stella Collective's design director Hana Hakim, who was briefed to create a welcoming hub that would draw people down from the office tenancies upstairs, and in from the street.
“Traditionally people aren’t naturally drawn into office buildings from outside, but we want people to be able to come in and have an experience that they can’t get in other cafes,” Toleman says. “Where you walk in and there’s lots of different things going on.”
The food offering is still under wraps, but will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We’re really happy with the direction it’s heading,” Toleman says. “We’re just really excited to get started.”
Liminal is due to open in April 2019 at 161 Collins Street, Melbourne.