An interview with Dean Sholl, traditionalist and founder of Empire Steak, on his mission to bring back the steak sandwich. 


"It's steak in a sandwich not a steak sandwich."

After 20 years in the industry, having been around since the early days of The Pound Café, Empire Steak founder and traditionalist Dean Sholl chats to BrandWorks about Polly Waffles and the importance of being on trend. And yet here we find him, ahead of the curve.

The Empire Steak menu, which includes the Anti-Steak (Panko crumb, polenta flour mushroom), spent decades in percolation and a solid seven months’ refinement in a dedicated test kitchen. Sholl’s innovative steak cooking technique took another four years to get right. The result? It’s seriously out of this world.

On the brand

BW.  Tell us about the birth of Empire Steak.

D. I had a real strong vision of what it needed to be – it had to be authentic. By virtue of really setting up our values and having a solid understanding of what our personality was, it allowed us to navigate and deflect what was on trend. We love what we do, and we know who we are. By ticking off our values, our choices became simple. Our values of authenticity and timelessness remain very inclusive. I think we can all feel when something is authentic – you get a sense for it, you can taste it immediately.


On the menu

BW. Well, we’re finding it delicious! What about doing something premium in a fast paced environment? Do you have secret cooking techniques…?

D. We have such a high quality product – our product is 100% grass fed and 100% free range. We use a premium cut as well – a porterhouse – so that’s already half the battle. And I’ve worked out a way to cook it that allows for complete consistency…

BW. Is it a secret?

D. (Laughs) I really don’t want to give it away, we spent a lot of time perfecting this! Suffice to say it’s the healthiest, most environmentally friendly way to do it. 

BW. And effective.

D. Exactly. Like, our longest wait time is 8 minutes.


On produce

BW. Do you use locally sourced produce?

D. From Coldstream, Yarra Valley. We look at all our suppliers as partners, and it’s been great. They get it and they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re just as excited as us to be behind it!


On the future

BW. What’s next for Empire Steak?

D. We’re looking at another store in the city and one in South Yarra.

BW. How’s the journey so far?

D. We’re really excited to launch something that is truly Australian, something that we can really be proud of. We’re finding that customers are really responding to us!


Empire Steak is located at 61 Little Collins St. Melbourne

Mon - Fri 11am - 8pm


More about Empire Steak here...

5 Outstanding Hotel Restaurants

As we enter the holiday season and end of year break, many of us look to get away for a little while to rest and recoup before the upcoming year. Whether it be travelling around locally, heading interstate or overseas we find ourselves making use of hotels and encountering the inevitability of hotel dining.

Gone are the times, however, where hotel dining meant a trio of dips in the lobby or a tough room service steak. Some of the best hotel restaurants on offer are working hard to shake off the old perception of what a hotel restaurant can be, with beautifully designed spaces and awesome cuisine. Here are some of our favourites, locally, interstate and overseas: 

Mezzanine Breakfast Bar

Alex Hotel, Perth

Image Courtesy of Alex Hotel

Image Courtesy of Alex Hotel

Northbridge’s boutique Alex Hotel boasts a number of fantastic communal spaces including a lounge, espresso bar, roof terrace and wine and dining room. However, it is their Mezzanine Breakfast Bar that is the real star. With pastel ceramics, modern wooden furniture, and floor to ceiling windows which flood the space with natural light; it’s a stunner. We love enjoying a hearty continental breakfast with fresh baked goodies to start our day here.  

Clyde Common

Ace Hotel, Portland

Image Courtesy of Avila/EPDX

Image Courtesy of Avila/EPDX

Located on the ground floor of Portland’s Ace Hotel, Clyde Common is a modern European style tavern, opened by Nate Tilden and Matt Piacentini in 2007. The Clyde Common features cuisine inspired by Europe, with hearty meat dishes such as duck, beef heart and venison. With refined wood furnishing, leather couches and warm lighting, the space is inviting and relaxed; but the real centrepiece is the award winning bar with fantastic cocktails and a specially curated wine list. A favourite with locals and visitors alike. 


The Prince, Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Taste of Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Taste of Melbourne

Located in St. Kilda, a little closer to home, The Prince Hotel’s Circa features a restaurant and bar that are an education in beautiful minimal design. The bar in particular features a naturally lit atrium with a botanical installation, bringing the outside, inside. Head chef Ashley Hicks has created a menu which is seasonally informed, with a focus on fresh local produce. Whether you need a sit down meal or just want a drink at the bar, Circa is a must visit. 

L.A. Chapter

Ace Hotel, Los Angeles

Image Courtesy of Bon Appétit

Image Courtesy of Bon Appétit

The second feature from Ace Hotel’s on our list comes from their Los Angeles location and the carefully cultivated brasserie that is L.A. Chapter. Partnering with Jud Mongell and Ken Addington, of Brooklyns Five Leaves and Nights and Weekends, the menu takes a mostly european angle with exotic twists, focussing on locally sourced vegetables and seafood. The design is an eclectic mix of colours and textures with chequered flooring, tiled and stone walls, suede couches and a sheet metal bar. 


Adina Hotel, Sydney

Image Courtesy of Mademoiselle In Sydney

Image Courtesy of Mademoiselle In Sydney

Bills second location opened in 1996 under the Adina Hotel in Surry Hills, and continues to be the benchmark of a great hotel dining space and cafe. Opened by chef and personality Bill Granger, the renowned breakfast menu draws both locals and visitors with their popular scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes. The design is light filled and lively with bright colours, wood furnishings and an open kitchen. From pick up coffee and juices on the go, to sit down brunches and business lunches, there’s something for everyone here. 


The 5 Most Underrated Burgers in Melbourne

Scroll through the notes on my phone and you’ll find a formidable list of over 50 burger joints, Melbourne and beyond, with a good ninety percent of these ticked off with a burger emoji. My obsession with burgers, and the burger culture of Melbourne, ignited shortly after I returned from the US, ready to see what we could offer up to rival the In-n-Outs and Shake Shacks of the world.

Suffice to say, Melbourne has the goods.

Over the past year and a half, with the help of Instagram and the countless ‘Melbourne’s Best Burgers’ lists (which I constantly feel the need to critique), I’d like to think I’ve gained the credentials to weed out some of the best spots to grab a burger in our fair city. Everyone knows of the big players that constantly deliver the goods -Easey’s, Grand Trailer Park, Dandenong Pavilion- but there are plenty of other places that aren't as well known. Here is my list of 5 underrated places that deserve more credit for their contribution to the great burger culture of Melbourne.


Wonky Trolley - Errol Street, North Melbourne

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

The 3051 (image courtesy of @wonkey_trolley Instagram)

Nestled inside an old Urban Burger chain, this joint deserves way more credit for their extremely consistent burgers. The 3051, repping the North Melbourne postcode, is always a winner, add pickles and jalapeños for that essential extra flavour. 


Burger Boy’s - Little Lonsdale Street, CBD

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

The Classic Burger (image courtesy of @burgerboysmelbourne Instagram)

Operating out of DejaVu Bar on Little Lonsdale, Burger Boy’s aren’t too widely known, but they should be. Their Classic burger is all you need, with their incredible patties you’ll never leave unsatisfied. Add a side of ridiculously crispy chips to top that off.


Lazerpig - Peel Street, Collingwood

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

The Lazerpig Cheeseburger (image courtesy of @giannicozzi Instagram)

Lazerpig is known for their amazing wood fired pizzas, and rightly so. But what you wouldn’t expect from this place is an absolutely banging cheeseburger. The Lazerpig Cheeseburger has all the simple ingredients, and with an extra patty and some bacon, with a side of hand cut fries you can’t go wrong for flavour. 


The Beer and Burger Bar - Swan Street, Richmond

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

The Beast (image courtesy of Lime and Tonic Blog)

If you want massive burgers, well-cooked, look no further than this joint. It gets a lot of local love but not near enough recognition in the top lists. The Beast is the pick of the bunch with double beef, cheese and bacon. If you’re feeling super hungry, these guys also do THE DON challenge which involves an insane 2kg+ burger with a massive side of chips.


Mr. Scruffs - Smith Street, Collingwood

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

The Beef Burger (image courtesy of Blame Magazine)

Despite not being a burger joint per se, Mr. Scruffs more than holds their own. The Beef Burger is perfectly balanced with all the best ingredients that should hold its own in any Top 10. They also do some crazy things with their Chewsday burger specials if you’re into something more exotic like jalapeño poppers, chilli, brisket and pulled pork.

Where To Explore This Weekend!

We love food. We know you do too. At Brandworks, we are always on the lookout for new exciting restaurant concepts and food spots that are popping up in Melbourne and interstate. We’ve compiled a list of neat places that we are excited about and think you should check out this long weekend and beyond.

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The American Burger is Dead... And Australia Killed It

The classic American burger is dead, simple as that. David Chang, the legendary restauranteur, television personality and owner of the Momofuku Restaurant Group, posted his 'Burger Manifesto' on the Lucky Peach website in July of this year. In this so-called manifesto, Chang claims that a burger should consist of nothing more than a white bun, beef patty, cheese and sometimes bacon. That's it.

Read More