Interest in healthy, environmentally minded eating shows no signs of slowing down. Leah Blefari has seen it first hand, from working as a dishy and bakery attendant, to crewing for big hospitality companies Red Rock Leisure and Peter Rowland Catering.

Her new cafe, Tonic & Grace, keeps this ethos front of mind. “The people in Malvern really know their food, they want to be able to eat out and not feel guilty about what they eat,” she says.

The cafe’s sleek white bones and plethora of hanging ferns and ivy echo its food ideology: simple and plant-based. As for the name itself, a tonic is a substance that improves well-being, and grace refers to politeness and respect. (For customers, presumably.)

Unlike most cafes, which require customers to modify dishes to suit their dietary needs, Tonic & Grace is mostly vegan and gluten-free by default. Eggs or a cheeky rasher of bacon are available as extras. “I wanted to create a menu that was conscious of the environment but still enjoyable,” Blefari says.

She did so in concert with Taiwanese chef Jason Huang, who’s been in the industry for 30 years working at big names such as Jimmy Grants, Longrain and Paper Boy Kitchen.

The Smash-a-cado includes quinoa, cherry tomato, beetroot hummus and sesame crumb. For sweet cravings, go the Nyctophilia: dark chocolate and pea-protein pancakes with strawberries, roasted walnuts and dark chocolate ganache made from 100 per cent raw cacao, with no refined sugar. Harajuku Lover is an interesting take on okonomiyaki, with daikon, yuba tofu (tofu skin), spring onion, green algae, veggies, barbeque sauce and mayo.

Blefari also took sustainability into account while compiling the drinks list. Coffee supplier Red Star Roasters has an array of environmental initiatives, including reusable bean buckets, a carbon-offset program and the recycling of used grounds. And all of Tonic & Grace’s smoothies, juices and tonics are made on-site, to reduce packaging and waste.

In the future Blefari plans to keep the cafe open until 7pm. “City commuters who come off the train at Malvern Station can pop in to buy the ingredients for dinner on their way home,” she says. “It’ll be a pre-order system like Hello Fresh, but based around our dishes here.”

For more cafes like Tonic & Grace, see our Guide to Melbourne’s Best Healthy Cafes.

Tonic & Grace
63 Glenferrie Road, Malvern
0439 357 782

Mon to Fri 7am–3.30pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm