Thursday, February 25, 2021

Iconic restaurant reaches out to community

Reading Time: 3 minutesPerth-based Annalakshmi, famous for its ‘pay as you feel’ philosophy, as well as for its classical concerts, struggles to survive

When I first came to Perth for a short business trip, I found myself drawn to Annalakshmi on the Swan, a vegetarian restaurant located on the shores of the beautiful Swan River. I felt immediately at home enjoying the buffet style, simple, wholesome South Indian food and the spacious, warm ambience. The views of the Swan River and South Perth foreshore, and the sight of the ferry shuttling passengers across, made for a wonderful addition to engage the senses. I also realised that the restaurant followed the principle of “pay as you feel”, an out-of-the-ordinary concept to say the least.
In the years to come, I became a Perth resident frequenting Annalakshmi many times with family and friends, enjoying the hospitality of the restaurant. Besides the food, we were drawn to the restaurant’s regular classical music and dance programs. These programs brought the rich classical dances and art forms of India to Perth audiences. The cost of enjoying wonderful food and fantastic cultural shows was just “pay as you feel”.
To understand the concept of “pay as you feel”, it is best to draw on their own words. I quote from their website:
Why ‘pay as you feel’?
Food is meant for sustenance of life and nobody is to be deprived. Annalakshmi is not a soup kitchen, or a place to feed socially deprived. Instead it is a place that supports the act of giving, from the heart. For example, a mother prepares and cooks a meal with love, selflessly for nourishment and well-being. At Annalakshmi, food is cooked with selfless love and positive energy. This food infused with love and positive energy, when consumed becomes a healing nectar and food for the soul.
Why music and dance?
Music and dance is the soul of our lives. Dining at Annalakshmi is a cultural experience and through the Temple of Fine Arts (our performing arts organisation), Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya (our educational organisation) and Laavanya Arts (our handicrafts and visual arts organisation, we wish to share Indian culture and the arts with you and the community.
More than 25 years ago, Annalakshmi on the Swan was founded with the guidance of his Holiness Swami Shantanand with the premise of “Serve, love, give selflessly”. It is run entirely by volunteers who cook the food, wash the dishes and run the restaurant efficiently.

The restaurant, however, is now facing an uphill battle for survival in Perth. The city of Perth is going through a transformational construction project called “Elizabeth Quay” which features the creation of an inlet and 1.5 km of waterfront and promenades. While the ambitious plan will no doubt revitalise Perth’s image, the heavy construction activity has affected the businesses in the area including Annalakshmi’s clientele numbers. According to the restaurant, customer numbers have declined by as much as 50 per cent over the past few years.
In the recent months, the restaurant has had widespread support among varied sections of the community and media highlighting its plight. The Liberators International brought their own unique style into play by conducting an impromptu dance party in the restaurant. The group has been known in the past for conducting dance parties in trains bringing laughter and smiles to Perth commuters. They used their talents to further Annalakshmi’s cause by bringing their show into the restaurant and then posting the video on Facebook. The video amassed more than 26,000 views according to reports on smh.com.au. The restaurant was also mentioned on the well-known Today Tonight show on TV where manager Arun Natarajan, while highlighting the restaurant’s plight, was adamant that Annalakshmi would rather close down than change its ‘pay as you feel’ policy.
Patrons have started a crowd funding campaign to save the restaurant from imminent closure. The restaurant has a target of collecting $50,000 to cover rentals and other costs. The campaign closes on the 13 July, 2015 and has so far collected $3099. Further details of the crowd funding campaign can be found at the following website: https://www.chuffed.org/project/annalakshmi
The iconic Annalakshmi’s closure would definitely be a great loss to Perth’s multicultural scene. One of the best ambassadors of India’s cultural, culinary and artistic riches would no longer serve up its delights on the shores of the Swan River. The hope remains though, that with the support of well-wishers and patrons, the restaurant will be able to tide over the current crisis and continue to serve as a glowing beacon of love, spirituality and culture in the heart of Perth city.

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