Eating Out with at Shuk in Bondi, with actor Ryan O'Kane

Shuk Cafe is Israeli by heart, Mediterranean on paper, Bondi by postcode and very Australian in its multicultural scope.
Shuk Cafe is Israeli by heart, Mediterranean on paper, Bondi by postcode and very Australian in its multicultural scope. Photo: James Brickwood.

Who

Ryan O'Kane, actor in Mary: The Making of a Princess; from Bondi

Where

Ryan O'Kane took up the waiter's recommendation of the fish burger and says it was a great call.
Ryan O'Kane took up the waiter's recommendation of the fish burger and says it was a great call.  Photo: Supplied

Shuk, North Bondi

Why

"My girlfriend recommended it – we usually go to Ruby's Diner but we went to this place and I remember I had just ordered the chicken sandwich and the waiter said, 'I know you want the chicken sandwich but I think you need the fish burger. Trust me, it's worth it.' 

Princess Mary is Australia's only royal and she's so loved, so there's a lot of pressure.

"I had to trust him, you can't turn down an invitation like that. And it was worth it; I've never looked back.

"The service is really good. I've been there four times now and each time the service has been great. Then there's the ability to sit out in the sun –  and the food is phenomenal by itself.

"It's close to the Bondi Markets – we like going to the food markets on Saturday morning. I'm a bit of a people-watcher, so I like being able to sit out in the sun and watch people walk by."

What

"I had one of the best banana smoothies I've ever had. I went back and asked for the fish burger again and they had sold out, so I finally tried the chicken sandwich. We were leaving and I went to pay and there was a counter of sweets, so we took a chance on a couple of rum balls. 

"They were fantastic. We went for a long walk afterwards and had them up on the cliffs."

Shuk serves breakfast all the way through to dinner and desserts.
Shuk serves breakfast all the way through to dinner and desserts. Photo: James Brickwood

About

"My thing is that I can cook and I do cook, but I'm very, very good at doing dishes. I love the result that is cooking, but I have a very limited repertoire –  I'm very good at bangers and mash, that's a signature dish of mine. 

"I'm good at the staples, meat and three veg, and I have attempted a lasagne twice to quite good reviews, but one was my mum, so it might have been generous. 

Breakfast is my thing. I think I'm really good at breakfast: smoked salmon, scrambled, eggs, maybe a bagel, chuck in a few chives.

"I've got a couple of films coming out: Alex and Eve is out on October 22 and also Ten's tele-feature Mary: The Making of a Princess – I play Prince Frederik​ and since I've told people about the role I've been told I look like him.

"Princess Mary is Australia's only royal and she's so loved, so there's a lot of pressure because a lot of Danish people are interested in how their prince is going to be portrayed.

"This is a celebration of their relationship, it's a lovely story. It's been an absolute pleasure and very special to work on.

"There aren't that many clips of him speaking English, but I think I may have watched his wedding speech 100 times now. And I'm about to start work on the Peter Brock miniseries."

SHUK
​2 Mitchell Street, North Bondi
7901 0549, www.shukbondi.com
Breakfast $5-21; lunch $9-$22; dinner $14-$34 . Dinner for two, $100 plus drinks.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS

Review

It looks like one heck of a juggling act: running a neighbourhood cafe-cum-restaurant these days can come with the added pandemonium of breakfasts, lunches, deli sales, all-day sandwiches, bakery duties, coffees, children's meals and everything in between … and Shuk is firing on all cylinders on all fronts.

The place is unstoppable. It's Israeli by heart, Mediterranean on paper, Bondi by postcode and very Australian in its multicultural scope. Really, it's nailing it. It makes me exhausted just thinking about how they manage it all.

We've included a glut of breakfast reviews lately, so Good Food on Sunday headed to Shuk not for its famous breakfast of eggs shakshuka – done the proper way – but for its dinner. Yes, the fish burger or the chicken sandwich mightn't be on the evening menu, but there is a whimsy and creativity and one heck of a dessert: a terracotta plant pot filled with "mud" and a big yellow bloom, its stalk as delightfully edible as the earthy, crispy-topped coconut ginger mousse, mandarin liquor jelly and creamy chocolatey top.

It's such an unexpected and good-natured flourish in this busy neighbourhood spot and, alongside a thimble of homemade mandarin liquor, is a big tick at the end of a meal of ticks. It takes a dedicated trio of Israelis to serve dawn take-away coffees with as much zeal as a clever and artful late-night dessert.

Before that, though, our halloumi with pear and hazelnuts and lots of bitter radicchio is caramelly and sharp and warm and cool. Is there anything better to start a meal with than the holy four-pack of fresh fruit, crisp leaves, toasted nuts and salty dairy?

Scallops and squid are given a feather-light touch of the grill and then served with a creamy salsa verde that's more on the pea-puree side of the fence. It works a treat, though I searched in vain for its accompanying bacon jam.

My bouillabaisse, too, isn't traditional – it's more of a thick, rich tomatoey stew; its fish fillet and fishy friends are spot-on: a big, feisty head of a giant prawn asking to be sucked and not left for dead.

Eye fillet (my man's back onto steak – I tried) is bloody and thick and comes with lots of decorative little nubs of pickled shallot, beans and greens. A bowl of soft little pieces of gnocchi with ricotta and mushrooms are given a fresh, if faint, run-in with fresh truffle. And who doesn't love the filigreed curl of a pea shoot for garnish?

Wines are on the dear side, starting with $50 for a bottle of tempranillo, and a snifter of home-made mandarin liquor is a fine way to put things to bed, once the flower patch dessert has been dispatched.

All along the way, we're in on the restaurant's chat, included in the staff banter, told about what's new, what's old, where things are and where things aren't.

It feels fun and dynamic and unshackled by tradition – a celebration of something we take for granted in Australia: newcomers with hungry, creative vision. And plant pots.