Located in the impressive Abbotsford Convent, a former Catholic convent known for its architecture and surrounding gardens and lawns, Lentil As Anything has been operating out of the former nun's dining hall since 2005. Payment here is made via donation box and is based upon a policy of paying what you can afford and what you feel the meal is worth. This makes Lentils very popular with those who cannot otherwise afford to go out for a restaurant meal, as well as those who simply enjoy the atmosphere and the food. Lentils is open seven days and breakfast is served every day between the hours of 9am and 11.30am. During these hours, unlike the buffet style of lunch and dinner, there is table service supplied by a friendly volunteer.
As usual seats and tables are mismatched but comfortable, with plenty of options for sitting inside where it is warm and sheltered, or outside at the front of the restaurant where the pigeons weave in and out of empty tables and the friendly chatter from within the restaurant kitchen slips out through the partially open window.
The breakfast options, all vegetarian, are outlined on a laminated menu complete with facts about the restaurant on the back. Choices include a savoury filled crepe, pancakes, semolina corn cake stack, spiced beans with corn cakes, eggs and muesli. Most of the options are marked with a "vegan option available" footnote which means lots of potential breakfasts for a hungry vegan. Drinks are the usual and while the coffee here is drinkable, the chai lattes are delicious.
Lentil As Anything is not a place to come if you are in a hurry; after ordering, do expect to wait for some time. It is quicker on weekdays when tables are emptier, but on the weekends the delay can sometimes induce worries that your meal has been forgotten somewhere in the busy kitchen. To make up for these long waits on weekend mornings, dumplings are assembled and steamed on a table out the front. They disappear almost as quickly as they are ready, and for good reason - drizzled with chilli oil they are the perfect snack to take the edge of any immediate hunger.
On this particular morning, the food when it does arrive is nice but not spectacular. I chose pancakes and they come swimming in syrup with neon green maraschino cherries on top. But as delicious as they are, the breakfast is small and, without the aid of dumplings, I can't stop myself from thoughts of what I will eat when I arrive home. The spiced beans and semolina corn cakes I have ordered on previous visits are a slightly more satisfying serve but the spiced beans are only okay and the corn cakes are unable to make up for this.
As a place to get breakfast cheaply and with no worries about whether you will be able to eat anything, Lentil As Anything is a great place to visit for a breakfasting vegan. However, it certainly isn't the best vegan breakfast I have ever eaten, and I visit time and time again more for the atmosphere of the place than for anything else; unpretentious and comfortable it is a place where it is easy to linger, and where it is welcome and expected to do so.