Malvern might be accustomed to welcoming new cafes, but Leah Blefari is accustomed to the difficulties of eating out with particular dietary. And this is why, perhaps, her new café Tonic & Grace stands out from the Glenferrie Road crowd.
Nestled in near Malvern Station, Tonic & Grace has a menu almost entirely made up of vegan and vegetarian fare, with the option of adding a sly egg or bit of smoked salmon here and there. All inclusive of vegos, vegans, gluten-free and dairy-free folks, the cafe is doing a couple of things to the beat of their own drum — and it's a worthy drum to be banging.
"80 percent [of the menu] is vegan," says Blefari. "So people that are vegan or gluten intolerant don't need to worry about what's in their food. There's still the option of adding different proteins for those who don't have dietary restrictions. The whole idea was to flip the coin — usually people with dietaries have to chop and change; how about we make it easier for them and let everyone else add on what they like?"
Blefari's menu includes some of the classic brekky goodness Melburnians have grown to love and demand from their city, including — of course — the omnipotent smashed avocado. This one's vegan though, served with quinoa, beetroot hummus and a sesame crumb, and "people go crazy for it," says Blefari. There are also multiple — six — milk choices, ranging from soy to rice. The cafe's range points to inclusiveness everywhere it can, something Blefari sees as an integral focus.
"We want people recognising that everyone does eat differently and that it's ok. I would love to make some waves, seeing that other cafes follow suit and have all the dietary requirements accessible for people," says Blefari.
Future plans for Tonic & Grace will stretch beyond breakfast options. Blefari wants the cafe to be a one-stop, on-the-way-back-from-the-train-station effort for the folk of Malvern, and is looking at providing ready-made, fresh meals for those too busy to cook.
"Clean, fresh, take home meals, sort of like Hello Fresh… on your way to or from the train station, if you want some dinner, we'll have it there waiting for you — that's the aim."
With big goals (and milk selections) abounding, our interest is certainly piqued. The "Nyctophilia" certainly helps: dark chocolate and pea protein pancakes, with strawberries, walnuts, salted caramel and dark chocolate ganache — made from raw cacao — and, of course, all vegan and gluten free.