All Heart | Melbourne’s Cafes With A Conscience

By Ella Stening
16th Sep 2013

Aren't we lucky to live in a city that is blessed with a communal love of noshing down, where we have access to a literal smorgasbord of restaurants, cafes, bars, pop ups, markets and food trucks – in the streets of every suburb. The best thing about this abundance is that we have the luxury of our choices being dictated by our taste, rather than our wallets. If we want a nice meal we can go to a hotshot restaurant in the CBD, or if we need something cheap we can pop on down to the local chicken shop without batting an eyelid. 

However, this is not the case for over 20,000 Victorians who do not have a bed to sleep on at night. Nor is this the case for families in Syria who are plagued daily with the threat of war. This is not the case for the hundreds of people in North Africa who do not have access to water. Fine dining is a fiction that belongs in novels and poetry for the poverty stricken faces of the world.

Fortunately, there are people in Melbourne that have decided to do something about it. They have banded together with friends and business partners, and set about creating dining establishments that are accessible to everyone, or that donate profits to the people in the world who need it the most. 

It is these places in Melbourne that truly embody the spirit of our city. We bring you Melbourne's most charitable establishments – visit them, enjoy a drink and a meal, and know that you are giving a little something back. To the businesses we've listed, we salute you!


Uni mates Simon Griffiths and Zanna McComish had both spent time volunteering in Africa and witnessed first hand the poverty and the hardship that civilians experience every day. Taking the idea from the numerous street bars they fell in love with over there, they opened their take on street drinking with Shebeen – a 100% not-for-profit watering hole.

How does it work? Buy a beer, wine, cider or margarita and funds will be sent back to that drink's country of origin. The cocktails on the menu are inspired by the 11 countries they sponsor, the decor is inspired by the colours of Kenya, and the stripped back, wooden interior and laneway location is just like sitting on a sidestreet in Africa. 

Everything about Shebeen makes you feel good, from your tastebuds, to your stomach, to your soul. 

Shebeen | 36 Manchester Lane in Melbourne 

03 9650 6931

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Kinfolk is not your run of the mill brunch destination. Perched on a corner of Bourke Street opposite Southern Cross Station, this cute little cafe dishes out local produce and great coffee, with a twist. All the profits made are redistributed between four development projects that rotate – like capacity building initiatives in Rwanda, children's rights in Ghana, and more localised education projects for Indigenous youth associations of Melbourne.

As well as this, all of the staff are volunteers, so there truly is a sense of community when you sit down for a coffee and a bite to eat. The menu rotates daily as it is based on the volunteers' ideas and inspiration, so you can be sure to have a different dining experience each time you go. 

Kinfolk | 673 Bourke Street in Melbourne

0423 229 953

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The friendly crew from Kinfolk. Image Credit: Kinfolk Facebook.


Lentil as Anything began in 2000, after the founders saw that money was dictating the community. They opened a restaurant that had only a money-box at the counter and no fixed prices for food; the money in the box would run the restaurant. Money became their unifying force and trust began to leak into the community.

Over 13 years later, they're still dishing out some of the most incredible vegan dishes in town, inspired from all corners of the world. At the end of your meal, Lentil still invites you to pay what you feel the meal was worth. Lentil is one of Melbourne's most successful philanthropic restaurants – there are now three long-standing branches. As well as their honesty system, Lentil as Anything hire a combination of long-term unemployed and volunteers in their quest to give back to the communities in which they operate.

Lentil as Anything

1-3 St Heliers Street in Abbotsford | 03 9419 6444

41 Blessington Street in St Kilda | 0430 388 984

233 Barkly Street in Footscray | 0401 810 890

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For those of you who were wondering if your local restaurant had a conscience, you may want to check out the calendar at Scarf. Scarf is a social enterprise that borrows restaurants to run pop-up dinners. At the dinners, they offer training, mentoring and employment to young people who are facing barriers to work. In the past they've hosted dinners at Top Paddock, Epocha, Two Birds One Stone, and many other renowned Melbourne cafes, as well as employing a variety of mentors who have worked at the likes of Cumulus Inc. and Cutler & Co. Though they can't promise a perfect dining experience, as the staff are trainees, the nights are always filled with character – with big smiles and huge amounts of enthusiasm. 

Scarf has opened up huge gateways for young people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get the experience in the workforce. Participants have gained incredible insight, and gone on to secure jobs in Melbourne's thriving hospitality industry. This Spring, Scarf Dinners will be operating at Jorg in North Fitzroy, every Monday from September 16th until October 14th. Book now to ensure you don't miss out!

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The brainchild of Ben Whitaker, The Final Step is a quiet, unassuming cafe with a passion for promoting positive social change through hospitality. This local cafe not only offers brilliant coffee and delicious food, they also donate all profts towards the 'Food for Thought' program designed to feed children less fortunate in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

With the knowledge that a third of children under the age of 17 are living below the poverty line in Buenos Aires, Ben decided to also start the Social Opportunity Group (S.O.G) to link in with and further drive the Food for Thought program. Consisting of three team members based in Australia and Ben and program partner Valerie working from Argentina, S.O.G offers a range of online auctions and fundraising events to add to the profits of The Final Step. 

For more information on Ben, The Final Step and the upcoming Social Opportunity Group launch event, click here.

The Final Step | 1C Murphy Street in South Yarra

0414 503 248

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All of the places mentioned offer volunteering opportunities that can be explored on their websites. If this article has awoken the inner philanthropist in you, visit Volunteering Victoria for opportunities to give back in your neck of the woods.

Main Image Credit: Deposit a Gift.

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