Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 11, 2009: Empire Cafe Gallery

21/04/2013: Yesterday while travelling along Sydney Rd we noticed that Empire has closed.
15/09/2013: Empire has been replaced by Maddox.

Cindy and I had some chores to do around Sydney Road (okay, she was buying pants at Savers and I was aimlessly browsing the magnificent selection at Brunswick Bound), and when we were ready for lunch we had to choose between three places we'd yet to visit: Red Box, Brunswick Flour Mill and Empire Cafe Gallery. Cindy remembered Anikee raving about Empire, so we wandered into its stunningly decorated interior. We settled into the cozy little front room (there seemed to be plenty more space out the back) and perused the menu.

The women who run the place are insanely friendly, and the good folks at Aduki make it clear that they'll tweak the ingredients in any of their dishes to account for everyone's dietary requirements. We didn't need to tweak anything: the vegie burger (a homemade pattie made of red lentils, roasted garlic, chickpeas, red onion, carrot, carrot, mushrooms, capsicum, basil, bread-crumbs and flour, served up with grated carrot and beetroot, lettuce mix, alfalfa and tomato if you want it, $12) with wedges ($3) for me, and a fetta toastie (slow roasted pumpkin, fetta, toasted pinenuts and baby spinach, $11) for Cindy. While we were waiting for lunch to arrive I enjoyed a very fine coffee.

Then the burger came out:

... and it was huge. Look at it! Imagine anyone attempting to eat it in the traditional burger-eating manner! You'd need two mouths. I carefully deconstructed the tower and tucked in with my cutlery. The pattie was delicious - a great combination of textures and flavours - and the piles of fresh salad allowed me to enjoy the crispy golden wedges guilt-free. Amazingly I managed to get through it all (with some help on the wedges from Cindy) - which is a testament to the quality of the burger. You couldn't eat something that size if it was bland.

Cindy's meal was a more manageable size:

It was thick with fresh spinach, liberally sprinkled with toasty little pine-nuts and smeared with a sweet and salty combination of roasted pumpkin and fetta. The fetta was a little unevenly distributed, but that didn't slow Cindy down - she mowed her way through her toastie (while sneaking a decent share of my wedges), and smacked her lips happily at the end.

The staff were wonderful throughout, sharing wisecracks and banter with everyone who came in, while ensuring we had everything we needed. What more can you ask for: excellent coffee, heaps of vegie menu options, substantial and tasty meals, great staff and atmosphere up the wazoo. The only question is why we've never wandered in before.

If you're in the neighbourhood, do drop in and buy a coffee, a vegan sweet treat or some lunch - Empire has recently been hit by an absurdly high internet bill (thanks to their generous free wi-fi policy), and could use any tips you can spare. Keep an eye out for a ''kill the bill' benefit night at the Playspace around the corner.

Address: 295 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Ph: 9387 6696
Prices: $9-$12


  1. That is one amazing looking burger, and to think I am right near that place once or twice a week and have never gone in. Time to change that situation! Great post.

  2. Oh wow, that burger looks fantastic!