Shuk is bringing Israeli flavours to Australian shores - but if you know anything about Israeli food, you’ll know that it’s been an amalgamation of flavours and tastes all along.
The idea was born from too much surfing, or so says Erez Beker. He’s one of three owners of North Bondi cafe Shuk, a breezy new outfit that’s taken over the corner milk bar on Mitchell St. The Bondi local says he spent too many hours surfing and talking about food with fellow owners Yoni Kalfus and Ariel Hefer, leading them to take the plunge and open up the type of place they wished Bondi had.
That type of place is a big, breezy, throw-the-doors-open-and-welcome-you-in type of place, with seats spilling out onto wide streets and walls heaving with freshly baked goods. ‘Shuk’ is the Hebrew term for marketplace and that’s exactly how they’ve approached it. It’s a cafe, bakery, deli and – as soon as the liquor license comes through – a bar.
Your options here are many: swing by for coffee and a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, stay and linger over a Shuk platter (cured meats, hard cheeses, olives and house dips), indulge in a sweet treat from the baked goods section, or even grab a few ingredients to cook with at home.
How to do Shuk like a local.
The vibe: Chilled. Time seems to slow down here and that's perfectly okay.
Ideal for: Lazy brunches, or bringing a laptop to get some work done.
Try the... The Atlantic: smoked salmon and sweet potato latke with spinach, goats cheese and chives ($17).
By the way... Shuk By Night is on Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. They also have free Wi-Fi for up to two hours a day.
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“Food for me is about getting inspired,” says Erez, when we discuss the breads, lentils, fresh veg and cheese that occupy every available piece of wall space in artfully arranged compositions. “I want to be looking at the walls and saying, okay, I can put that together.”
If ‘putting food together’ is not your strong suit (guilty), then perhaps staying and eating in is more your speed. Breakfast and lunch is all yours day to day and Friday and Saturday nights you can get dinner, too.
Don’t worry if Israeli cuisine seems a little intimidating for first thing Sunday morning. “I find people in Sydney are not brave with ordering breakfast,” Erez laughs, explaining that the morning menu has Israeli hints, rather than the full-blown thing. Order the silky smooth 60/60 eggs (boiled in their shell at 60 degrees for 60 minutes) because let’s face it, you were never going to bother cooking them at home.
Come lunchtime, however and the menu expands into a smorgasbord of tantalising flavours. We’re tempted by the cold beetroot soup (borscht) with goat cheese mousse, salted caramel nuts and bagel crisps, but ultimately, we go for the shakshuka, a tomato based dish similar to a stew, served with poached eggs and freshly baked sourdough to mop up the sauce. It’s a little bit messy, but hey - Bondi Beach is a short walk away for a dip.
“Israel is a cauldron of culture,” says Erez, who came to Australia on a surfing trip in ‘92. “People from every corner of the globe immigrate to live there. There are flavours from Turkish and Arabic cuisines and a strong Mediterranean influence.” As you might expect from that kind of heritage, there’s plenty of figs, pistachios and eggplants on the menu, too.
Erez claims their pancakes are “the best in the world” and to be honest? You’d be hard pressed to find a better one in Sydney that doesn’t make your teeth rot just thinking about it. The Beghir pancake (made with cinnamon and almond meal), that comes served with a honey lemon glaze, halvah, berries, crushed pistachios and yoghurt, has everything you want in a sweet dessert, but with a fresh take that keeps you coming back for more. A word of warning: this is not a dainty dessert. Either plan your meal in advance or rope a friend in to share it with you.
Shuk might reference the marketplace, but it’s also a bit of a melting pot. It has all the makings of a Bondi institution – a beautiful space, quality food and it’s already attracting the locals – without turning into a tourist trap.
We’re calling it: this one’s here to stay.
Address: 2 Mitchell St, North Bondi
Opening Times: Monday to Thursday 6am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 6am-10pm, Sunday 7am-5pm