The Elwood cafe that serves up awesome wholesome sustenance

Photos: Jasmine Blom & Georgia Ruby

Are you nuts for an almond slice? A sucker for a beautifully presented superfood bowl? Or crazy for Kombucha? If so, Combi is probably your idea of epicurean heaven. The booming Melbourne café was inspired by its founders’ travels through Bali, Hawaii and New York, and offers a haven for those after a delicious treat minus the guilt.

The coffee is Fair Trade, juices organic and cold pressed and there is a sumptuous array of organic raw desserts.

Everything is made using only the best quality ingredients we can get our hands on,” explains co-founder and owner Penny Loughnan.

The business started over a decade ago when Penny and her partner Anthony, began serving organic, Fair Trade coffee at music festivals around Australia from their Kombi van. The couple wanted to share quality food with more people, and so 18 months ago they opened the doors to their café in Elwood. They still serve coffee alongside their creative menu, but now it can come with house-made nut milk or organic coconut milk.

“Over time our knowledge and passion for organic food has grown. When we opened our café we took this as the opportunity to really breathe life into being a beacon of wellness, organic and raw,” explains Penny. “We have invested in a Juice Rite (the best juicer in the business) and have worked hard on smoothie recipes different to what everyone else is doing. We want more superfoods, and blends, which really focus on being packed with goodness. We’re also obsessed with perfecting our raw cakes and snacks. You should see our collection now!”

Penny completed a course on integrated nutrition in New York, and in 2013 attended the Gerson Institute where she gathered her knowledge and cultivated her desire to serve food that she could truly stand behind. Now she enjoys educating others on the benefits of eating well, showing them how good it can taste.

Partners in and out of the kitchen, Penny and Anthony brainstorm everything Combi related. Anthony’s background is in the arts, so he brings a love for music, art and culture, giving the food and menu its flair.
“We want to be fun yet modern, not too serious in how we come across. As much as we want to educate, we never want to preach; everyone has a choice in what they consume. We are here to offer what we believe in, but it’s your choice to join in or not.”

And the people of Melbourne have responded with a lot of love, coming from all over Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and occasionally, the world (thanks Instagram!) to try the menu.

“We definitely arrived at just the right time, with an increased interest in organic and raw food. We’re offering exactly what people are craving.”

So with the rising popularity of organic eating and many cafes now developing a raw selection, how has Combi remained competitive and a leader in the industry?

According to Penny, it definitely comes down to creating good food and the boom of social media.“Give someone a beautiful breakfast and they’re compelled to take a picture nowadays. That spreads like wildfire. But to keep people coming back, they have to love the food, too. So the quality is critical. We pour so much of ourselves into ensuring every single ingredient, recipe and the presentation of how something arrives in front of you, is absolutely perfect.”

Thankfully Combi has plans to take their yummy goods to Adelaide and Byron Bay. They won’t be replicating the exact same concept, but will respond to the market needs in those areas. “Whatever we do we will ensure we bring it to life with lots of personality and fun! If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

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