Om vegetarian restaurants are the brainchild of Suraj and Meena, an idealistic couple who dreamed of creating an eating house accessible to anyone on a tight budget. They began with their first vegetarian 'all you can eat' venue on the first floor of the Gurkha Institute building at 28 Elizabeth Street, reached via an obscure passageway.
In May 2012, they expanded, opening premises in an arcade that forms an 'L' shape, linking Swanston and Collins Streets.
With a bain-marie the epicentre of operations, the two Oms charge an improbable $6.50 for a set menu of two vegetable curries (changed daily), naan bread, rice pulao cooked with peas, saffron and cumin, and pickles. For a little extra, subcontinental greatest hits are available, such as samosas, raita, lassi and sweets like gulab jamun (rose-water flavoured dumplings cooked in syrup).
Your meal is served on those big, segmented, metal platters which keep the components apart, and which you see nowhere else but Indian restaurants and the dining room in jail movies. I've always thought they'd make a fantastic racket, if someone washing up were to bang them together.
The food is fine for food this cheap. Each curry is distinctively spiced and put together with ingredients like chick peas, lentils and root vegetables. The service is adequate and the decor, well, irrelevant. That is, no one goes to Om to look at the walls.
. Meena and Suraj are in the business of feeding you as much curry and rice as you can consume. In this, Om shines. So it's exciting to announce the opening of a new Om in town.
It's at Flinders Street Station, no less, inside a gambling facility called 'Clocks @ Flinders'. It's so new, at the time of writing, it was not even on the Om website. So new, they're handing out little paper advertisements to passers-by right outside the door.
Now, you can grab a lassi, a curry or samosa while you wait for the 5:22 pm to Frankston (which never arrives before 5:50).
Or you can eat at the tables and chairs while the clangs and bells of the pokie machines recede into the background, and another Om bain-marie gently steams, giving off lovely curry aromas.
A TAB is housed in a room to one side, and real espresso coffee and tea are complimentary if you play the machines.
You don't need to be poor to enjoy Om vegetarian all-you-can-eat restaurants. Everyone's on a tight budget these days. And if you happen to lose a few dollars, coming to Om at Clocks @ Flinders will ensure you'll at least have a hot dinner or lunch.
Om Vegetarian continues to do Melbourne a service. It ticks all the boxes for convenience, taste, and value. What do they say about real estate? 'Location, location, location'. Flinders Street Station, in the heart of the city, just got a whole lot better.
Great to know there is one even closer to my work. It's a cheap and filling option for a quick lunch out of the office these days. The nearest cafeteria Indian hits your wallet back at least ten bucks a pop and is not any better than Om's. I love that they bring the extra naan around to the table.