Shop Small, Shop Local at Shuk Bondi
This bustling cafe is like an Israeli marketplace in North Bondi, writes Elizabeth Meryment.
There were several things that fell in Yoni Kalfus’s favour as he planned the opening his now-beloved Israeli cafe, Shuk. The first was that the corner store location on Mitchell Street, North Bondi he had been eyeing off suddenly became free. The second was that the world began catching on to the delicious but also healthy nature of Israeli cuisine.
This confluence of good fortune coupled with Kalfus’s ambition of making a friendly, customer-focused and just plain excellent local cafe has led to six years of successful trade and, early this year, the opening of new Shuks at Elizabeth Bay and Chatswood.
“I would say that 80 per cent of our customers, if not more, are locals,” Kalfus says. “We see the same familiar faces every day and the customers become like family. We have started to build the same thing in our new venues, too.”
Kalfus says it certainly helps that Israeli food dovetails nicely into the modern-day focus on health thanks to its reliance on legumes and vegetables.
“It would be easy to be vegan or vegetarian if you were Israeli,” he says. “It’s fresh food, it doesn’t have to be meat or carb heavy. It’s also a very family-orientated. People come together and they can order a bunch of dishes to share.”
Kalfus, who runs Shuk with business partners Ariel Hefner and Erez Beker, says Israeli food draws upon on the flavours of the Middle East, including neighbouring countries Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, for inspiration and then adds global elements into the mix.
“Like Australia, Israel is a very young county, it’s only 70 years old,” he says. “And the majority of the people in Israel come from foreign countries including France, Spain, Ethiopia, Yemen and others. It’s a big mix of cultures and a big mix of flavours. Our chef here is Argentinian of Italian descent and has worked a lot in Japanese restaurants.”
Shuk is now famed across Sydney for its fresh and punchy dishes including the Israeli breakfast of eggs, olives, labne, hummus, jam, avocado, tahini, granola and yoghut, or the teff pancakes with ricotta, sweet dukkah, maple syrup, berries and banana.
Kalfus says the Shuk way is to modernise the food of his parents’ generation by making it fresher and lighter. And it seems to be woking.
“Shuk means ‘marketplace’,” he says. “In Israel it’s a place where everyone comes together to eat the best food and get the freshest produce.” Much like at Shuk Bondi.
2 Mitchell St, North Bondi