by Rebecca Cleaver
He calls it “the crazy vegetarian restaurant with no prices on its menus”, but Matt Pettit was always confident Sydneysiders would embrace the Lentil as Anything philosophy.
The restaurant’s “pay as you feel” system means customers pay whatever they want for their meal, whether it’s $2 or $200. In some cases, Matt says, it’s nothing. And that’s okay.
“Lentil is about generosity and giving and sharing. We don’t really focus on the money. It’s just naturally assumed that people will come in and pay what they can afford.
“Some people really can’t pay much and we’re just as happy for them to come in and grab a meal as someone who has hundred dollar notes sticking out their pocket.”
Matt is the NSW Manager of Lentil, and the man responsible for bringing the project here from Melbourne. He first approached Lentil’s founder, Shanaka Fernando, about opening a Sydney branch last year.
“Shanaka was worried that Sydney people may not take to Lentil in the way Melbourne people had. But I had no doubt it would work, especially in Newtown. It just has a vibrancy nowhere else in Sydney has.”
The gamble paid off: when Lentil first opened its doors on King St in May, an eager queue of over 100 people lined the footpath. And the hunger for what Lentil has to offer has only grown over time.
On any given night, the generous seating area is overflowing with an eclectic mix of customers. There’s students decked out in old band t-shirts, sun-kissed backpackers, local buskers and musicians, and older bohemian-types.
It’s the usual suspects as far as free food is concerned. But if Lentil’s donation box is anything to go by, most people are paying a fair price for their meal.
“The generosity of Sydney people is just fantastic. Money isn’t something we focus on; that’s why the donation box is there, to create anonymity. More…