When Libby Houghton first visited 141 Johnston Street it was love at first sight. With large, street-facing windows and a corner block, it was the perfect space in which she could bring her dream of opening a cafe to life.
Finally opening in August 2016, Libertine & Co is the result of years of planning and dreaming. Libby’s desire to open a cafe had been burning since the 1980s and her motivation came from a place of kindness. As a single mum, Libby found solace and connection at her local cafe in Echuca, using it as her refuge in rough times. Today she finds a sense of joy in being able to provide that to others at Libertine & Co.
In what can be described as a true family business, Libby’s children now run the cafe with her: her son, Fred, mans the machine and has an innate love for coffee, Toby looks after the accounts and her daughter Marjie manages the social media. Libby’s niece, Eve, is her right-hand woman in the kitchen. Together, the team welcomes customers into their family, providing a friendly space for all those who walk by.
It’s not just the staff that are welcoming: the cafe’s decor is eclectic, warm and comfortable, a reflection of the space’s purpose. A prominent feature of the design is the mint green refurbished La Marzocco coffee machine, where you’ll find Head Barista, Fred, expertly churning out Sensory Lab coffee.
The importance of developing a relationship with their coffee supplier was a high priority, and both Libby and Fred instantly clicked with Sensory Lab’s Jimmy Yeoman and Joe Tynan, who have been a fantastic support from the start.
The house blend, Steadfast, is known for being rich, sweet and creamy, consisting of beans from Brazil and Colombia. This means it pairs well with both the Demeter biodynamic milk, as well as holding its own when served black.
Organic farming is important when it comes to the menu. If you are staying for a meal, try the Ploughman’s Stack. Designed by Fred, it includes homemade pickles, cheese, poached eggs, capers, prosciutto and rocket on sourdough.
While the cafe services the travelling brunch crowd on the weekend, during the week it is all about the colourful Collingwood locals. Located in an area that has held on to its grungy, eclectic flavour, it welcomes the community’s characters, which Libby finds a daily delight.
A visit to Libertine & Co will have you feeling warm from the inside out. Libby has built a haven where people can come and enjoy a coffee and a meal, but most importantly, find somewhere that feels like home.