On any given day many of the 170 seats at Murrumbeena cafe Levi are occupied by families eating near the kids’ corner at the back, solo coffee drinkers absorbed in newspapers, and dogs asleep at their owners’ feet in the front room where the retractable roof has been opened to let more sunlight in.
Levi is by co-owners Harry Butler (who also owns Frank’s cafe in Cheltenham) and business partners Lucas Sproson and Kellie Buntz.
The name Levi is an homage to the site’s former life as a denim factory. There are subtle design nods to its history – some obvious, some quite subtle. The facade has a bronze-toned circular plaque with the venue’s name – look closely and you’ll notice it resembles a jeans button. The signage hanging off one side is draped as if on a clothesline. And the paint job around the brick exterior is blue most of the way down, until it switches to white at the bottom – like rolled up cuffs.
Inside, distressed brick counters, glass walls, large plants and long communal benches (made from timber that was once part of the factory’s roof) break the large warehouse-like space into sections.
Chef Emma Jeffrey (ex-Mammoth, Gilson, Hammer & Tong) turns out poached eggs with a herby, labneh-like whipped yoghurt, chilli butter, peri-peri sauce and fried curry leaves, all served on two thick slices of Turkish bread to soak up the sauce. A breakfast pavlova comes with toasted meringue, poached peaches, a warm white-chocolate mousse and an icy mandarin granita.
Coffee beans come from Hallelujah Coffee, and there’s Prana Chai and Grounded Pleasures hot chocolate. There are plenty of alternative milks from Minor Figures and Happy Happy Soy Boy. Most of the wine is from local Victorian producers, and there are three beers from Brunswick’s Foreigner Brewing Co.