How much would you pay for a hearty meal at a restaurant in Sydney?
At Lentil as Anything, that amount is completely up to you.
Serving vegan cuisine and staffed primarily by volunteers, Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit initiative that runs on a pay-what-you-want philosophy.
Don’t get them wrong. This isn’t some sort of social experiment to see how honest you are or to navigate a price point for what you should be paying for a plate in Sydney. Pure and simple, it’s a hand that feeds and asks only what you can personally afford in return.
Yeah, we see you there, opening your wallet and flicking through your notes, wondering what that actually is. Don’t ask the guys behind the counter here for help with this though, because they’ll only beat around the numbers bush.
“People ask us how much they should pay and we never give them an amount,” says Lentil as Anything’s Sydney Project Coordinator (and volunteer himself), Matthew Pettit. “We do this because we don’t want people to use it as a guide. The idea is to pay according to your own personal opportunities.”
It could be anything from a colourful note from a worker, or a silver coin from the homeless. No numbers here – we’ve got rules to follow.
To add to the fullness of your generous plate (and your decision-making skills), here’s some food for thought: all donations aren’t solely fed back into the outfit and its rental/grocery bills. They’re also used to provide opportunities (and whatever payment it can give) to the handful of long-term unemployed and refugee staff members, training here under employment pathways programs, and using Lentil as a platform to that first big break in the hospitality industry.
You never know who may be serving you or what your donation may mean to them.
This restaurant and concept is nothing new – quite the contrary. You could say Lentil is something of an institution around the Melbourne circles, having been launched back in 2000 in St Kilda before growing rapidly to encompass four locations throughout the city.
Now, it’s made its way to Sydney – and where better to place an initiative of this calibre than the inner west? “The people of Newtown have really rallied behind it before it’s even opened,” says Matthew, who tells us he’s already got the local Vegan Society and the Sydney Uni Vego Club booked in for seatings, plus over 40 keen volunteers who’ve emailed, called, and physically knocked on Lentil’s door asking how they can get involved.
Right now, they’re sharing their space with Cookies+Milk, who’ll be operating their daytime hours as per normal, before transforming into Lentil at night. Live and local music acts will set the scene every evening. While local artists will consume the walls, with art available for purchase. Buy one with the confidence that the majority of the profits are going directly back to them – like you’d expect anything less.
Lentil’s menu is a rich mixture of Indian, Sri Lankan, Japanese, and Malaysian cuisines. Think, North Indian Pakoras, Miso Soups, Mushroom and Lentil burgers and Sri Lankan Farmer’s Dosas.
For the moment, it’s drawing inspiration from the popular items off its Melbourne outfits, as well as the experience of its chefs, though Matthew assures us this menu will evolve to take on a more seasonal approach, featuring hot and easy-to-produce warmers like okonomiyaki and vegetable curries during the winter months, and fresh and light salads during summertime.
With the first Sydney Lentil only having just opened, it’s still early days, but the dream is for it to emulate Melbourne’s success with up to four Lentils in Sydney – the last of which will be an unprofitable outfit in a lower socioeconomic suburb. “If we’re able to get people to come and give more than what’s worth, we can build Lentil to operate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Matthew.
He’s already eyeing locations in Redfern and Marrickville for Lentil no.2 to offer this.
Address: 531 King St, Newtown
Opening hours: Daily 6pm-9pm
Find Lentil As Anything on Facebook: Lentil As Anything