So Melbourne’s got a pretty good reputation for being a foodie’s paradise. And if you’re into that sort of thing, there’s a fair share of fancy restaurants serving fancy food, using fancy ingredients, inspired by fancy art. Lentils As Anything is a different kind of inspirational. It’s not just about the food you come here to eat, but the concept you become a part of. With branches in Abbotsford, St Kilda and Footscray, it’s safe to say it’s a concept people genuinely want to be a part of.
When you sit down to eat here, you’ll notice the simplicity of your surroundings, the diversity of the staff and patrons, then you’ll probably notice that there aren’t any prices on the menu. And not because they’re too embarrassingly high to be there. This is one of the integral aspects of the Lentils as Anything concept – you pay as much as you feel your meal and experience was worth.
DID SOMEONE SAY FREE FOOD? I admit, that was my first reaction. No, I’m not encouraging that you freeload off this generous, not-for-profit company – but, instead of a bill, you pay in donations. Some would argue it’s the same thing, but there is no rule saying how much you owe. That’s not to say there aren’t expectations though. Signs at the counter informed me to take into account rent, electricity, water and various other costs in running the business.
I found the internal conflict (melodramatic, much?) I faced when forced to pay incredibly eye-opening. I found myself taking all things into consideration, including meal size, taste, quality of service etc. Looking back at it now, I remember all the times I never batted an eyelid at the bill, particularly when I’m faced with a decision that’s already been made for me. I won’t tell you how much I eventually donated -not because I was a cheapo, but because I wouldn’t want to influence the decision that you ultimately make for yourself. Honest!. Don’t let it scare you though, you just put the donation into a box, no one’s standing around judging you!
The menu consists of a mixture of South Asian, African and Australian cuisine. They only serve vegetarian food and have a mixture of a la carte and buffet serving style (depending on the location).
The regularly updated menus can be found on their Facebook page here. For more information on the company and the people behind it, including a fascinating timeline of how Lentils as Anything was shaped, visit their website here.
Keep a look out for the wonderful projects they run – they’re always looking for volunteers!
Eat happy, Melbourne.