Nestled among the trees in graceful Abbotsford Convent by the Yarra River is a little Melbourne miracle. Lentil As Anything is a volunteer-run restaurant and cafe serving up simple, hearty self-serve vegetarian food that is, quite literally, priceless.
Payment at Lentils works through an honour system whereby diners give whatever they can afford. There are no cash registers here — no waiters handing out bills. There’s just a little wooden box asking for donations — whatever you feel your meal is worth.
Originally opened in 2000 in St Kilda, Lentils is now a registered not-for-profit organisation with four restaurants in operation: St Kilda, Abbotsford, Preston and Footscray. The Lentil As Anything website explains its evolution and philosophy thus:
“Money was influencing the trends in the community, leaving many disenchanted. Lentil As Anything aimed to re-engage those who where left behind. It seemed that money was often a barrier to people participating … We used the money left in the box to run the restaurant. Money became a unifying force. Trust began to feel at home. The quest to prove that the inherent goodness in everyone is an abundant resource is alive and growing – with every meal.”
Not only is Lentils at Abbotsford Convent a lovely initiative to support, it also serves up delicious food in a genuinely beautiful environment. You can eat your meal inside, often serenaded by local musicians, or take your food outside onto the patio. On warm days, you can also sit on the sweeping lawns that look down onto the beautiful gardens surrounding the convent.
No matter whether you live in Melbourne or are just here for a visit, make sure you get to Lentil As Anything to experience this very special Melbourne institution.
If you would like to contribute to Lentil As Anything by volunteering, making a donation, fundraising, doing an internship or busking, visit the Get Involved page on the Lentil website.
Address: 1–3 St Heliers St, Abbotsford
Opening hours: 9am–9pm (breakfast 9am–11.30am, lunch 12pm–4pm, dinner 6pm–9pm)