Feast of Merit

Rough diamond: Feast of Merit's industrial chic fitout.
Rough diamond: Feast of Merit's industrial chic fitout. Photo: Mal Fairclough

117 Swan Street Richmond, Victoria 3121

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Opening hours Mon 7:30am–3pm ; Tues-Thurs 7.30am-10.30pm; Fri, 7.30am-10.30pm; Sat, 8am-10.30pm; Sun, 8am-9.30pm
Features Licensed, Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Breakfast-brunch, Bar, Lunch specials, Family friendly
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Chef Ravi Presser
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9428 8480

Eating toasty-tasting fried cauliflower pieces with sundried sour cherries is a fantastic way to chip in funds to a work-readiness program that coaches vulnerable kids in Cambodia. Feast of Merit's vibrant, veg-based share plates benefit the local and global community. Owned by YGAP (Y-Generation Against Poverty), a not-for-profit organisation with a mission to alleviate poverty, any profit the restaurant makes goes to development projects, such as an economic empowerment program working out of Phnom Penh.

Feast of Merit's social responsibility adds another dimension to dining out. Imbuing a meal with a selfless social purpose adds zeal to the experience. It adds something extra, like that slightly mysterious "fifth flavour", umami, only more tangible. But even without the fuzzy factor, there are good reasons to visit.

Chef Ravi Presser (most recently at Fonda Mexican), has created a lively and original menu. It's built on sharing (what menu isn't?), and around punchy, multi-textured Middle Eastern-type salads and dishes that make heroes of vegetables.

Seasonal salads at Feast of Merit.
Seasonal salads at Feast of Merit. 

At dinner, dip into a few small plates, such as fleshy, smoky eggplant dip with a splash of sweet pomegranate molasses, served with soft strips of warm Turkish bread. Then, bigger plates of roasted parsnip on nutty freekeh tossed with torn mint; that roasted, then fried cauliflower with blackened onions on a creamy dollop of hung yoghurt; and a cold dish of broccoli with preserved lemon and lentils under finely grated salted ricotta. Protein options might include chermoula-barbecued wild barramundi - half or whole.

At lunch, choose one, two or three abundant salads, such as asparagus, green beans, peas, soybeans, fennel and verjuice; and roasted Dutch carrots, torn mint, pistachios, currants, freekeh, harissa and preserved lemon.

It's substantial, well-priced and healthy food with honest flavours. And it's boosted by a beaut drinks list that offers biodynamic wines, local boutique beers and a few cocktails, as well as juices, super-smoothies and Ayurvedic tonics - one of which, a complimentary warmed ginger, lemon and honey taster, is offered upon arrival to fire up the metabolism.

The beautiful space has that industrial appeal of unfinished-looking finishes. You know the look - polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls, distressed timber beams and window frames, and bare, hanging bulbs. It's made lush with cushions and plants. But all those hard surfaces throw sound around. On a scale of background to blasting, the music can be up at blaring - orders are misheard and messed up, but staff easily sort it out.

It's a friendly, festive kind of place, and it's all for a good cause. Dining here has many merits.

Do … Book two sittings at dinner - 6pm and 8pm

Don't … Forget your ear trumpet

Dish … Seasonal salads or try the fried cauliflower

Vibe … Jumping, civic-minded community hub