Lentil As Anything - Punny name, delicious food.

Lentil as Anything - 41 Blessington St, St Kilda

Written by Tom - check out our other vegan blogs here.

Like me, you may remember seeing the SBS series 'The Naked Lentil' telling the story of one man's fight to keep Lentil as Anything from going down the gurgler. If you haven't heard of Lentil As Anything, here's how it works (as described on the website)
Lentil as Anything is a unique not for profit community organisation. At our core are the pay as you feel restaurants where customers give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule. 
Our philosophy has been working successfully for over 13 years now, with three long-standing restaurants in Abottsford convent, St Kilda and Footscray, a growing involvement in education and ongoing community projects.
Being a hippie at heart, I was hanging to visit Lentil as Anything and jumped at the opportunity during our recent trip to Melbourne.

From the outside, it's bright and colourful with the typical earthy feel you'd expect from a place with this philosophy. Inside, there's half a dozen or so tables for small groups (we ended up sharing a table with another couple) and a kitchen at the back. On the counter, there's a large wooden chest where donations for your food can be discretely made.

Lentil As Anything, front - St Kilda
The founding store, St Kilda
The thing to remember here is that the staff are all volunteers and all migrants. Some are volunteering because their visa is being sponsored, others are volunteering for accommodation, food and the social network. My point is, you shouldn't come here expecting the same service you have come to expect from paid hospitality workers - I'm not saying it's better or worse, I'm just pointing it out.

The menu is 100% vegetarian with lots of vegan options. The food is pretty varied with plenty of choices although, despite being in the name, the only dish featuring lentils is the lentil burger.

We both ordered Okonomiyaki - a bold move considering the founder of Lentil As Anything is Sri Lankan and Okonomiyaki is Japanese. I hadn't found Okonomiyaki at a restaurant since I was in high school and when I saw it on the menu, I couldn't resist ordering it - I'm glad I did!

Lentil As Anything, St Kilda - Okonomiyaki
Delicious Okonomiyaki
The outside was crisp and the inside was soft and a little bit doughy. The sweetness from the sauces was just right and not overpowering (I opted out of fish flakes and traditional mayo to make my meal vegan). The lettuce, tomato and cucumber was a strange addition but I appreciated it to munch on after I finished my meal.

Looking around the restaurant, we saw couples conversing quietly about what I can only assume is how much they're going to pay for their meals. We did the same and came to the conclusion that we would pay based on what we felt the meals were worth and what we could afford. To us, this made sense. If we were on the bones of our butt, we would've paid less but $50 is what we settled on.

Needless to say, I love the concept of this place. It's a social experiment proving there are good, honest people in the world (more so, in and around Melbourne) and despite all the bad happening in the world, there is plenty of good still taking place. I love the idea that people with not a cent to their name or a roof over their head eat the same food, in the same place as people on six figure salaries living in luxurious houses and no one is any the wiser. I hope Lentil As Anything continues to expand and I recommend you visit next time you're in Melbourne, you won't regret it.

Ambiance - 4/5: Exactly what I expected but the calming effect of this place will relax you in an instant.
Service - 3/5: Friendly and efficient but nothing to write home about
Food: 9/10: Comparing it to the last Okonomiyaki I had in high school, this rates pretty highly.

In total, Tom gives Lentil As Anything 16/20 chops on The Chopping Board.

Lentil As Anything on Urbanspoon

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