LIFT Bakery Café has done a roaring trade, attracting customers from all walks of life, in the almost three years since it opened on Gladstone Road at Highgate Hill.

The elevator-themed café offers homemade cakes and slices alongside wholesome breakfasts, rich coffee and organic bread from Leavain Bakery.

LIFT owner Jonathan Milner is the mastermind behind the baked goodies, while his sister Donna whips up the hearty breakfast meals, including a gorgeous waffle and ham sandwich. Jonathan has worked in hospitality for 20 years, including a stint as executive chocolatier at Melbourne’s Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School. “I still keep my hand in the trade,” Jonathan says. “Every six weeks, I teach chocolatier classes at Brisbane’s Chocolate Moments stores.” Three years ago, Jonathan decided to make a leap of faith and buy his own cafe. “It’s liberating to have something that’s all your own, where you can do things your own way,” he says. “I spend most of my time here. When I take days off, I usually spend them shopping or prepping for a function or meeting up with suppliers.”

Jonathan says that “the name LIFT also comes from the feeling of being uplifted” but you don’t have to be told this to see that LIFT is a treat for your eyes as well as for your tastebuds. Elevator signs grace the door, while the menu lists meals from Level One upwards. The cafe is filled with quirky installations handmade by Jonathan’s co-owner and partner, Mark Reese. Mark, a visual merchandiser who works at Myer and The Prop House, has created artworks such as miniature airplanes, unicorns and a ferris wheel out of metal, lightbulbs, recycled bottles and coloured paper. “If you come here on a first date or with new friends and you’ve got nothing to talk about, you can just point at the walls and go, ‘oh my god look at that!'” Jonathan says. “And if you’re on your own, you don’t have to be on your phone. In this artsy space you can just put everything away and appreciate it. There’s a symmetry to the place.”

Jonathan also owns Bobby’s, a function space next door that is used for special events and busy days. Mingling with his customers comes naturally to Jonathan. He loves the diversity and multiculturalism of West End and Highgate Hill. “It’s the whole reason we opened up shop here,” says Jonathan, who also makes gluten-free and vegan products to cater to all his customers. “We moved from South Brisbane, but even after one hill you can tell the difference in people.” Jonathan had an eye on the place for a while. “The space spent 21 years as a Japanese restaurant,” he said. “When it was up for lease, the owner told me, ‘Here’s the keys, I want you to be here.'” Jonathan’s passion has clearly served him well, right from LIFT’s origins and continuing on today as he bustles around his bakery café, brewing coffees and joking with his customers.

Words by Taylah Danae Baggs | Images by Sarah Neilsen