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October 15, 2015

Introducing: Combi on Leigh Street

Opening a new store on Leigh Street is a homecoming of sorts for Combi, which started life as a coffee van in Adelaide but has since found bricks and mortar success as a raw, organic eatery in Melbourne.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem and Farrin Foster

Combi owners Penny Loughnan and Anthony Baker brimmed with energy as they bounced around Leigh Street earlier this week, inspecting the site of their soon-to-open store.

The couple, now based in Elwood near Melbourne, are originally from Adelaide and are looking forward to seeing family here – but their smiles are probably present wherever they go, because they’re just those kind of people.


Combi is set to open at 17A Leigh Street, Adelaide in November.

Perhaps they get their energy from Combi’s food and drink – which is made from organic and raw ingredients and, as Penny says, is designed to be both “healthy and delicious”.

“The store in Elwood has been open a year and a half, and it’s so busy – there are line ups every day,” says Penny.

“I studied in the States… I did some study of integrated nutrition in New York, but then went to the Gerson Institute to learn about how nutrition can unlock the body’s ability to heal itself.

“When I got back to Melbourne after studying, I thought ‘it’s so important – we need to have this in Melbourne’ – at that time there was really nowhere I could go to get even an organic juice.”

Even taking into account Combi’s raging success in Melbourne, planning to open a second store so far away in Adelaide is an interesting move.

Indeed, the Leigh Street store was never actually in Anthony and Penny’s plans – instead they have long been working to open another store in Melbourne and one in Byron Bay. But in that unique Adelaide way, they were lured in by their ties here.

Anthony’s son is Josh Baker of Coffee Branch, Clever Little Tailor and Pink Moon Saloon fame. It was Josh who originally taught Anthony to make coffee when Combi was just a mobile organic coffee van operating across South Australia.

“I had no background in food, I worked at all the Adelaide Fringe Festivals in the ’90s and worked at Carclew and lots of places like that,” says Anthony. “I needed a change so I got a little shop in the foothills and Josh taught me to make coffee, and then I wanted to move around so I got a coffee van, met Penny and we travelled around festivals serving fair trade coffee when that movement was only just starting.”

And it was also Josh who spearhead0ed the campaign to get another bricks and mortar version of Combi in Adelaide.

“George [Ginos] – who I think owns a lot of the buildings on the street – came to us and said he’d talked to Josh and thought that something like what we do would be really great for the street,” says Penny.

“At first we were hesitant, we weren’t sure if Adelaide was ready for what we offer. but then over three months we noticed that a lot of people coming into the Elwood store were from Adelaide.”

Now, their shop – which is a tiny frontage tucked in one door down from Pink Moon Saloon – is in the midst of being fitted out in readiness for a November opening.

It won’t have the full menu from Combi in Melbourne as space is limited, but will be serving many of the most popular items including cold pressed juices (that are being made in collaboration with Organic Avenue), acai bowls, kombucha, smoothies and raw, sugar-free, dairy-free cakes.

But even with a selected offering – Combi on Leigh seems set to make the West End quite a lot healthier, and probably a lot smilier too.

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