Lentil as Anything
After four successful venues in Melbourne – the first opening in St. Kilda in 2000 – Lentil as Anything has expanded its pay-as-you-feel empire to Sydney. Its fifth restaurant is on King Street in Newtown – part of the South King co-op.
Shanka Fernando, a Sri Lankan expat and the social entrepreneur behind the business, has flipped the traditional, fixed-price business model to offer a fundamentally different dining experience. This restaurant focuses on food at a community level, rather than solely for profit.
Customers pay as much as they can afford or they think the food is worth. No questions asked. The menu features an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes: Sri Lankan Farmer's Dosa, a crisp chickpea and rice-flour crepe filled with spiced potato masala, served with tomato chutney and a fresh cabbage and onion pickle, and a mushroom and lentil burger, served with vegan aioli, caramelised onion, tomato relish and a fresh rocket salad.
His staff members are also, accordingly, atypical. Each volunteers their time and many are refugees or long-term unemployed.
With around 70 per cent of food either coming directly from growers and farmers, or from the wholesale market, the rest is donated from food-rescue operations.