Collectors Cafe at the Queensland Museum (South Bank) is a good option if you're looking for somewhere affordable to feed a hungry horde during a trip to the museum or gallery precinct.
I recently paid my first visit to the cafe after the museum's major revamp earlier this year. Before the revamp, the museum cafe was something of a poor relation to surrounding food outlets. Compared to the State Library's cafe or the eateries at GOMA or the Queensland Art Gallery, it was pretty downmarket, with a menu largely confined to chips and other greasy options.
But the old museum cafe did have a great location and lots of potential, so I was curious to see what they'd done with it when the museum got its facelift.
I was suitably wowed by the new fitout for the site, which now goes by the name of Collectors Cafe. For a start, it's really big, with seats inside, upstairs on a new mezzanine, and spread along what was previously a wasted part of the whale mall. It's substantially larger than any other cafe in the precinct.
Collectors also features striking architecture, with clean lines, warm wood, and interesting artworks dotted around the interior. It's even home to Bespoke, a small exhibition space featuring a changing array of locally designed furniture.
But does the food live up to the swanky refit? Well, yes and no. On the outside (near the whale mall seating) there's a glass cabinet with healthy wraps, rolls and filos; tossed salads; and hot options like lasagne, chickpea patties and croissants. I ordered from here, choosing lasagne ($8.50), green salad ($3) and a chamomile tea ($3.50).
I then wandered inside to wait, and saw the other side of Collectors. Here were some of the old favourites -- hot chips, packaged sandwiches and salads ($5-$6), jelly and fruit cups for kids, and the like. But there were some other fresh and interesting options, including sushi and transparent ricepaper rolls.
I sat and waited for my food, which took a while to come out. When it did, my lasagne had been crisped to burnt on one corner, but was otherwise fine -- tasty and a big serve for the price. My salad was fresh, and my tea (made on a teabag rather than fresh leaves) acceptable.
While I ate, I noticed plenty of family groups coming through and being served speedily. With plenty of pre-made food and a cafeteria-style serving line inside, Collectors can process large groups quickly -- which is a big advantage over some of the other food outlets near the galleries. It also has enough cheap options for kids that you should be able to find something to suit most fussy eaters without having to pay too much.
As the downstairs area of the cafe filled up, I finished eating and went upstairs to check out the mezzanine. It's a lovely space with great views and an artwork that doubles as a children's swing. While downstairs was buzzing, a few diners were enjoying the quiet in this area, and catching some warmth from the winter sun.
My food at Collectors wasn't sensational but it was good enough for me to go back again. It has a bigger range and more space than almost any other eatery close by, and that's definitely a bonus for anybody with children or a large group to feed. I'll definitely take my kids there next time we're visiting the gallery precinct and need to refuel.