Husband and wife Diego Portilla and Rebecca Howell first met in Kyneton in 2012. Howell was co-ordinating the Jamie’s Ministry of Food project. Portilla was working as a chef at Annie Smithers’s eponymous fine diner, now known as Source Dining.
Portilla practised beekeeping and learned fermentation before he spent a few years working at Daylesford’s Lake House, where he established connections with local farmers and producers.
The couple maintained these relationships when they moved to Footscray and their cafe, Small Graces, is committed to using local, ethically sourced ingredients and produce that have undergone minimal processing.
Most of the vegetables come from Goornong in Central Victoria, and eggs from Victoria’s Burd Eggs. Sourdough Kitchen in nearby Seddon supplies bread, andcoffee comes from Rumble Coffee Roasters in Kensington.
The bright, airy space is north-facing, with outdoor seating for 20 people and another 27 spots inside. A big chalkboard hangs on the mint-green wall –it displays changing specials that make use of seasonal ingredients. There is space enough for kids, prams and wheelchairs.
Those who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free will find options on the menu, and dishes that do have meat in them include the protein as an accompaniment to vegetables or salad, rather than the other way around. Portillo also uses less popular cuts of meat where possible, and makes his own ferments. There is also sweet-potato waffles, which come with house-made black-sesame ice-cream and grilled banana.