Melbourne: Lentil As Anything
Get There: 1 – 3 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford – catch the bus.
Price: Pay as you feel.
Hours: 9am – 9pm every day, though no food is served between 11:30 – 12 and 4 – 6. Beware that peak time can mean massive queues.
So you’re in Melbourne and you need to fill up (like really fill up, not just have something from the dollar-saver menu at Maccas), but you can only manage to scrape together a fluffy bunch of coins from under the couch. How sad and grumbly you must be. You shake a closed fist at the human race and all its greed, and think to yourself, “Why isn’t there an establishment that caters to people like ME?! If only someone would fill my belly… I totally promise I would pay them back the next time I had some dosh in my pocket!”
Well – your prayers have already been answered. Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit initiative spread across three locations in Melbourne, with its largest restaurant being in an Old Convent in Abbotsford. It serves a delicious array of vegetarian meals on a “pay as you feel” basis – or “pay when you can” – by way of a cutesie wooden truth box you fill after you eat. The venture was started by a clad of poor hippies bumming around St Kilda who one day decided to open a restaurant for broke-arse Melburnians with rumbling tummies just like themselves – what a kind bunch of souls.
All the staff at Lentils are volunteers, and all profits go towards bettering the venues themselves and communities around them, so if you do have money to donate, give generously. Both the Preston and St Kilda Lentils are a la carte; however, I recommend skipping the St Kilda venue because you only get what they serve you, aka not enough. The Preston kitchen is super generous with its portion sizes, and have also recently turned vegan. The Abbotsford Lentils is a buffet for every lunch and dinner bar Thursday and Friday nights, and includes drinks and dessert: a hobo oasis. The grounds around the convent are beautiful to laze around in, and you can take your food out to the hill for good-time picnic vibes and to make pals with the sea of backpackers, fire-twirlers and pot dealers. Just make sure you take your plates back up to the restaurant.
When you’re finished dining, be sure to have a little explore around the grounds, and if you’re still hungry, go back for seconds!