The new gallery space in Mantras upstairs space is a win for the Carlton community. For years, Mantra has been a peaceful pit stop for locals. Theyve become known for their beautiful vegan food and respected for their tenets of calm, community and consciousness, inspired by the Hare Krishna beliefs of Mantras owner.
But as manager Jen puts it, Theres nothing like Mantra in this area or even in Melbourne because most places that are Hare Krishna are VERY Hare Krishna. But here, its not trying to do that.
Its true. While the most accessible aspects of Hare Krishna shine through, Mantra Lounge feels incredibly open and inclusive. The resulting atmosphere is so warm and inviting that we wanted to stick around all day.
The recently-converted upstairs space is going to allow Mantra to interact with the community in new and exciting ways. One of its most important purposes will be a place for local artists to showcase their work. When we visited, the walls of the upstairs lounge were decked with a brilliant collection of pieces, an exhibition that was launched with an open-invite party the week before.
This space is a long-time dream, finally realised. Mantra Lounge owners, manager Jen and other team members have always seen the potential of a place like Mantra. Jen says, Its been really good to settle into who we are and what were trying to accomplish; weve been getting lots of really good feedback from the community.
And from what Jen tells us, even when the community isnt offering that feedback with words, theyre showing it with actions. Since opening the upstairs space, shes seen people come in at lunchtime and stay so long they then order dinner hours later.
People are seeing it as more than just a caf and I think thats what people want. Especially in Melbourne, there are a bazillion places to eat. Its a big city, but it feels like a very people-focused place; its about community. So thats really want we wanted to bring in here, with this space make it more community-focused.
And that vision is unfolding in front of the Mantra team. On a recent busy day, the whole upstairs lounge was full of people. When Jen would pop upstairs, shed see people that didnt know each other sitting together and chatting. One person had slipped their shoes off and looked so relaxed with their feet tucked under them in socks.
Scenes like this are so meaningful for Jen and the team because theyve always wanted Mantra to be that sort of place. We asked Jen how she hopes people feel when they come to Mantra and she answers, I guess just happy would be what I would want. Relaxed.
While the cosy seating set-up and exhibitions are the backbone of the new space, theres plenty more on the cards. The Mantra team stacks the tables and chairs to host regular meditation sessions and there are intimate yoga classes coming up, too. They want to diversify the space as much as possible, experimenting with every bit of its potential.
The re-envisioned upstairs lounge has also helped them expand on some of their long-standing events. For example, the space has helped them build on the pay what you can dinners they do from 7-8pm every night. Its become a popular event and its an initiative thats important to everyone at Mantra Lounge.
Jen is clearly very proud of the event, explaining, The people that can afford it always give money and that feels nice. These dinners reduce waste, support people and make good food accessible. Developing these dinners even further has been a beautiful thing for the Mantra team to see.
The chaos of the city is somehow kept from crossing the threshold of this converted Carlton terrace. Community has always thrived in Mantra Lounge and the upstairs gallery is already giving the neighbourhood more opportunities to grow together and support each other.
167 Grattan St, Carlton VIC 3053 |(03) 9036 2996
OPEN Mon – Fri 10am – 8pm | Sat – SunCLOSED