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the social enterprise restaurant's ethos

Lentil as Anything: Everyone deserves as place at the table!

Everyone deserves a place at the table – come and dine at an incredible social enterprise vegan restaurant with community wellbeing at its heart.

A man with a dream

Lentil as anything was born in 2000 by revolutionary founder Shanaka Fernando in St Kilda, Victoria. Shanaka created a social enterprise vegan restaurant where anyone could come and grab a bite and in return could ‘pay as you feel’ or donate your labour or skills, putting to the test humanity’s honesty. This ‘pay as you feel’ method was the first of its kind and is now widely used throughout the world. Shanaka’s model abolished economic and social barriers and brought the community together to share a meal, but usually more than just that.

We call ourselves a human race, but it’s not a race. It’s not a competition. I prefer the term human kind. It implies kindness. We share an affinity. There is a richness that awaits us and it relies on our ability to embrace and be open to each other.

— Shanaka Fernando, Lentil Founder

The success of this community development project was surprising, and Lentil as Anything has now grown to have three restaurants in Victoria and one in Sydney (Newtown). The vegan menus at each location change daily and what is being served is decided by what is in season and fresh. The choice to have a vegan menu means each meal is packed with goodness and results in minimal emissions, so is good for both you and the planet.

Amazing locations – Sydney & Melbourne

Lentils in Newtown also has what they call an ‘Open Space’; a bright space above the restaurant specifically designed for the community to connect and share. Here you can hold non-for-profit functions, workshops, classes and events. A perfect way for the whole community to share and grow.

You will find three Lentils in Melbourne; Abbotsford, Thornbury and St. Kilda.

Lentil’ Abbotsford is located just 4km from Melbourne’s CBD within the Abbotsford Convent. This restaurant opened in 2005 in a former nuns dining hall making it the perfect vibrant space to enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal.

Lentil Thornbury gets its amazing produce from the local market which is handpicked by Lentil’s food rescue squad. It is also home to “The Inconvenience Store” which is a fresh food and rescue produce store which is stocked with donated goods from generous growers or rescued by Lentil’s amazing volunteers. 

The St Kilda restaurant is located just a stone’s throw away from Luna Park fairgrounds and the beach. As the restaurant is located in a highly mixed socioeconomic area it caters to a wide variety of people. Nonetheless it always serves up delicious eats and this one is known for their vegan Okonomiyaki and Green Lentil Burgers.

Social enterprise restaurant offers more than just a meal

When you come to dine at Lentil as Anything you will notice a range of people who are welcomed as they are. Shanaka encourages personal uniqueness and kindness, hoping to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. As a result, people from disadvantaged backgrounds approach Lentil’s asking for training and upskilling, which they are more than happy to provide. Each individual completes their training at their own pace, some might need 6 weeks, others many months while they find stable housing or overcome other personal circumstances. No matter the circumstances, Lentil as Anything will happily teach anyone who wants to learn all while providing food, mentoring and even a reference to help them start their journey to paid employment.

Each social enterprise restaurant is primarily run by these volunteers who want to learn new skills or just want to give back to their community and have fun, no experience necessary. Volunteers can do just about anything from helping the kitchen prepare for the day, serve tables or be part of their food-relief program. During 2020, food security became a larger problem than ever before, and Lentil as Anything stood up to the plate. Working with community organisations and governments Lentil’s has provided over 1000 people per week with food relief. Lentil as Anything ensures no matter your circumstances you will be welcomed, fed and feel “together as anything”.

Where?

391 King St, Newtown, Sydney
1/3 St Heliers Street Abbotsford, Melbourne
562-564 High Street, Thornbury, Melbourne
41 Blessington Street, St Kilda, Melbourne

Website: https://www.lentilasanything.com/

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Catherine Spence
Expat kid, deck hand, book seller, tour leader… Catherine has lived, worked and wandered in 100+ countries (and one ocean) accompanied by a pack full of books and a travel coffee press. Now at home in Tibet she valiantly struggles to instill the concepts of refillable water bottles and recycling to her extended family and dreams of her next visit to a source of salt & pepper squid.