Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lentil as Anything

Driving down Barkly St a few months ago, my eyes gazed lazily over the forlorn shops up the western end of Barkly St.  I sailed by the ping-pong specialist, Wing La with its dusty wedding cakes, Jim Wong's and Poon's (this sums them up: cornflour in an arrowroot sauce).  Then I spied it - the tired Barkly Hotel had been transformed into the newest branch of Lentil as Anything.  I whooped with joy!  I have always loved the anarchic, free-love ethos of this pay-as-you-feel vegetarian eatery, and now Footscray could share in the love.

Fast forward a few months later, and after viewing The Naked Lentil on SBS, I had suffered a bit of a Lentil loss-of-innocence.  It seemed like a crazed Ponzi scheme perpetrated by a complete egomaniac (watch the doco if you don't believe me).  Still, my thoughts about its founder aside, it employs many people who may otherwise struggle to find work, gives work experience to many others, and provides an opportunity for many in our society to enjoy low-cost, healthy, vegetarian food.

Fellow parents and would-be gourmands of the west, if you are tired of toddlers escaping from chairs while waiting for their meal, which they then proceed to complain is "too spicy", take them down to Lentil.  All the food is there waiting for you in their new buffet-style service, and you could take a teaspoon of each dish, see which they like, before you fill their bowl.

In about 2 minutes we were sitting down to spaghetti and scalloped potatoes for the kids, orange segments for the baby, and a Sri Lankan feast for the grown-ups, all with free refills.  You can't beat that!

Here we have "biryani rice", crispy and naughty "potato donuts", Sri Lankan pumpkin curry (sweet and nutty) and a fantastic S. Lankan cashew & pea curry.  This was a revelation - the cashews had become totally soft, but had lost none of their creamy nuttiness.  Jeera pappadums topped off a great meal.  I'm looking forward to stopping in for breakfast - apparently they do a full Sri Lankan spread!

Lentil as Anything
233 Barkly St, Footscray (map)
Hours: 9am - 9pm, 7 days

Lentil as Anything on Urbanspoon


  1. I've been thinking of going, but after reading your review, might be sooner rather than later! Sounds delicious!

  2. Hi Penny & Deb - do check them out. Lentil used to do a la carte, not buffet, and I did prefer that, but anything that keeps them afloat and providing a community service is OK with me!

  3. Really? I much prefer the buffet. Maybe because I'm greedy. The menu was so hit and miss, depending on your server, who was in the kitchen and what they had in stock. I LOVE the buffet - you can see exactly what you're getting, can take as much as you like, there's no waiting or mucked up orders, no food is wasted, you get to try everything (I'm incredibly indecisive), and the staff are freed up to make drinks.

    I also love that they do "themed" nights (or they do at Abbotsford) -- African is my favourite. I think it's awesome that they're not only teaching migrants and refugees hospitality, they're celebrating and sharing their traditional cuisines, too.

  4. Hi Ruth - you made some good points. I'm just a bit wary of the "sneeze factor" - if only the food could be behind the counter (yet visible), and you were to be served as much or as little of each thing as you wanted. I also would have liked more fresh salads, wraps etc, but then again we did go at about 5 p.m. and the dinner service probably hadn't really started - perhaps they put out different food when they anticipate turnover to be higher.

    Themed nights sound great! That's one thing I love about the "bain-marie" Vietnamese restaurants in Footscray, that you can see all these interesting dishes you may never otherwise choose off a menu.

  5. We had a few pretty damn fine meals a la carte at the convent in Collingwood; then a couple outright shockers buffet-style.

    I was impressed with how quickly our very own local branch became such a vibrant community hub. And a fine thing, too, it is that the joint is so obviously feeding people who would otherwise go without, and developing valuable skills for those working there.

    But ... and it's a big BUT:

    We haven't been back for a while.

    Our last couple of meals there were ... simply terrible, shocking.

    Part of me wants to love the place, and clap and cheer whenever it is mentioned.

    And part of me doesn't think there is any excuse for serving up such slop and rubbish, no matter the circumstances or the situation.

  6. I went here last week for the 2nd time. It has excellent food. I really like the buffet style so you eat based on your appetite and nothing goes to waste. I will be going back again and again. I might make it a regular fortnightly thing if I can. It is not a pretentious place. It is very multicultural and has an exotic feel about it. Everyone is made to feel at home.


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